Written by Victoria; an honorary member of team tripility!
I am very excited, as this week as we are able to bring you Victoria’s experiences of gluten free eating, whilst on a whistle stop tour of Australia. Enjoy!
Having booked flights to Australia, it soon dawned on me that I would be traveling half way across the world and had yet to consider whether gluten free options would be available. As any coeliac no doubt has done when preparing for any holiday, I arrived at Sainsbury’s checkout with rice crispie squares, nakd bars, freefrom shortbread and probably enough food to feed a small army. As a result, my food consumed around 50% of my suitcase (and a good proportion of my hand luggage)! As it turned out, the food would also be travelling half way across the world and back with me. Gluten free in Australia is not a problem.; it seems to be a lifestyle. Gluten free food is available everywhere and it is amazing…
I flew with Emirates and having had previous experience of either an inedible gluten free meal, or no gluten free meal, I was prepared for the worst. However, the meals on board were fantastic. The gluten free bread rolls (produced in Australia) were some of the best I have tasted and the little raspberry muffins were simply divine. When I asked for a snack during the night, I was presented with a gluten free sandwich which was on edible bread! A very surprising start to the holiday as no food products within my hand luggage had been eaten.
I arrived in Melbourne at 6am and was met by my Auntie, who told me that she had been gluten free shopping and had “loads”. “Loads” was a slight understatement. The supermarkets in Australia which I visited (Coles and Aldi) both had huge gluten free aisles and gluten free freezer sections. The range of cereals was fantastic, a large selection of breads, hot cross buns, cakes and biscuits, my joy at the sheer choice was akin to visiting Disney Land. Furthermore, Coles stocked gluten free gnocchi (which I had never had before), ravioli (also never tasted) and gluten free puff pastry. It was a shame I could not have brought them back with me on the flight…
In Melbourne, most cafes seem to have at least one gluten free cake selection – I have never in my life eaten so much delicious cake. I soon learnt, after reciting the usual “are you sure it will be gluten free?” spiel, that it is a legal requirement that menus are marked gluten free in Australia and food is prepared in a safe environment. I soon discovered the best place to eat (cake and ‘real food’) in Melbourne was the Lanes. Whilst in the lanes with my cousins, I was introduced to Melbourne Spiders (coke with vanilla ice-cream floating on top) and iced coffees (cold coffee with either vanilla or espresso ice cream floating on top). Heaven! The Lanes in Melbourne are bustling, creative laneways with covert boutiques, famed restaurants, hole in the wall cafes and astonishing bars. It did not disappoint for the choice in gluten free. As I became more adventurous, I crossed the river onto the South Bank, which has many bars, restaurants and Melbourne’s impressive casino. Whilst meeting friends on there, we discovered a little restaurant named ‘Left Bank’ which did amazing gluten free pizza and an gorgeous trio of mini chocolate puddings. After being used to having to skip dessert, or opt for a crème brule, this was a real treat – the first of many!
Moving on from Melbourne, my journey took me along the Great Ocean Road, where I discovered what I can only describe as the best pizza in the world. After a long day of driving, feeling very hungry and losing hope that we would ever find food to eat again, my uncle stopped in Lorne where he found PizzaPizza. Obviously the thought of pizza was making me feel dubious, especially as it was made in a small shack, however, the menu stated gluten free and it was the best pizza ever. As we waited outside, many locals were obviously coming to collect their orders and lots of them were gluten free! When my pizza arrived, it was gorgeous and my uncle had to agree that it didn’t taste at all gluten free! Always a good sign! Next stop along the Great Ocean Road took us to Ocean Grove, where we had breakfast at The Dunes Cafe, which overlooks the beach. Once again, the menu had gluten free options and offered gluten free bread with the breakfast, I never usually eat bread as I don’t like the taste, but the bread was both light and fluffy! Yet another gluten free win.
My adventure then took me to Sydney, where some more gluten free firsts were to occur. I always wondered why my friends loved calamari, but as I had never tried it, I thought they were slightly mad. Novotel at Darling Harbour proved me wrong. Their calamari was gorgeous – so good I asked the waiter to triple check it was gluten free – they had used a polenta batter. I soon realised that calamari was, as my cousin put it, “gooood”! This was then followed by gluten free pizza (again) at Olivo in Darling Harbour, which offers views overlooking the harbour and a range of gluten free desserts. While In Sydney, I met a family friend who suggested we go for tapas. I explained that tapas might be a bit tricky for me; how wrong I was. He booked at table at Vue bar, which overlooks Bondi Beach, where I experience the most amazing seafood, all gluten free! Still the food in my suitcase remained untouched.
Brisbane was the final destination on a whistle stop tour of Australia, where the gluten free food continued to be a hit. Due to the Easter weekend, quite a lot of the restaurants were busy, however, I was lucky to get a table at CharCharChar where my gluten free options were explained to me by the waiter and I experienced an incredibly tasty meal. My friend also had the gluten free option and couldn’t believe it could taste so good. The following night, we dined in Brisbane city at Milano, which also offered an extensive gluten free menu including both pizza and pasta options. I settled for a risotto, requiring a break from pizza! In Brisbane, I stayed at the Pullman hotel which was a gluten free heaven. Breakfast was clearly labelled where the gluten free items where. There was both gluten free bread and cereal options available. Even the sausages at breakfast were gluten free. Being able to have a choice at breakfast, instead of asking every two minutes if an item is gluten free, was definitely a luxury I haven’t experienced in the UK.
Although gluten free in Australia is much better than in the UK (it is more widely available, there is plenty of choice and every cafe and restaurant understands the needs of a coeliac when it comes to cross contamination), there were some disappointments. The majority of Australian chocolate is not gluten free due to them using glucose syrup made from wheat, although gluten free chocolate is available. Additionally, cold rock ice creams (where you can design your own ice cream flavour) are not gluten free either, needless to say, the majority of other ice cream shops are gluten free and clearly labelled.
If you are coeliac, or prefer to follow a gluten free diet, then Australia definitely has it covered. Now I just need the UK to catch up…