Thursday, 26 August 2010

Pizza Express and GBK

Generally, a lot of people know what Pizza Express and the food is like (especially when the pizzas are on offer at Morrison's - or is that just us?), and some will know all about Gourmet Burger Kitchen. But on these visits with friends I was trying their gluten free things.

Wednesday, me and a friend visited Pizza Express in Manchester, not the one at the Triangle, the other one, whichever street it is, I never know till I find it. (Although it is next door to Grill on the Alley, which we need to try). We'd been there plenty of times before and knew what to expect. We were seated quickly upstairs, a drinks order taken, then another waitress tried to take another drinks order. I'd already looked up on the internet about their gluten free dishes, and their website has a rather detailed spreadsheet of all their dishes and which is allowed for people on various diets. Basically, my choice of food was already made. I thought it would be simpler just to remember the options rather than try to ask the already confused staff about what was available.
I ordered the Mozzerella and Tomato Salad, followed by the Pollo salad (with no croutons or dough sticks). My friend had the rather exciting looking Bruschetta con Funghi and then the Pollo ad Astra pizza on the thin base.
I will, at this point, point out that we had one of those two courses for £10 vouchers, and if feeling the need we could go for a dessert between us, which would probably be ice cream, with no wafer straw.

The food arrived. Mine was exactly as expected. Mozzeralla and Tomato. With some pesto and one basil leaf. My friend's was far more exciting. (no picture, as really I'm jealous)

Tomato and Mozzerella Salad

The Salad was OK. Not particularly flouvoursome tomato, but the cheese was nice and the pesto was tasty.

Pollo Salad

The main courses arrived. I can say mine looked rather dissappointing, next to the massive pizza. I was considering not posting a photo of the humongous pizza, just because while we were there, all I craved was that crispy base, rich tomato sauce and exciting toppings. But I will post it in all its glory.

Mmmm. Pollo ad Astra

My Salad was OK. Not so much of anything really. Not even a whole tomato, maybe the other half of the one I had for starter, few bits of pepper, and some lettuce. There was quite a bit of chicken - I had expected less, and quite a bit of lovely creamy (not the crumbly type) goats cheese - again I had expected less of it. I'm afraid to say it did reinforce my opinion that salads for a main course are not worth the money when they are comparable in price to everything else on the menu (apart from maybe at Kro2 where I remember the Ceasar Salad being huge). Is that just me? I could, after all, make this at home with hardly any trouble. But yes, we were not actually paying full price, so I could kind of live with that.

We decided to not go for a dessert, as my friend couldn't even finish half of the pizza, which even the plate failed to contain - it became her lunch the next day.

My verdict is that at least they have gluten free options, but I would not choose there to eat over other places now my diet is restricted. The next step could be to follow Carluccio's maybe and do standard pizzas on gluten free bases. Let's just hope.

Tonight, (what, two nights eating out in a row?) was a trip to GBKwith another friend, and another voucher. We'd previously eaten there and said I was avoiding wheat, and they very impressively arranged the burger and filling, minus the bun, on a plate, but this time it was gluten-free I was looking for. The GBK website isn't that helpful really, but does say to speak to the staff and they will explain what is safe and what isn't. Perhaps they do this so that they can change recipes and not have to change the website - but surely its not that hard is it? The website does say (and so did the wairtress) that the chips are not suitable to coeliacs as they are cooked in the same fryer as breaded items. Since I don't know the extent of my inability to eat gluten, we did order a side of the fries between us.
The watiress told us the various sauces and dips that I couldn't have, and said that all the chicken is breaded. Perhaps the best dip, the Smoked Chilli Mayo is no-go. Disaster! We settled for the very strong garlic mayo to go with the chips. I decided on the Chilli burger, and my friend had the Barbeque burger (because she can!).

Chilli Burger

The burger was lovely, cooked to medium (apparently), and the chilli sauce had just the right amount of kick not to be overpowering. Regarding the chips, so far so good, that level of possible cross-contamination doesn't seem to have an effect, might do later though....But to be fair, surely in my own kitchen there are dangers of worse cross-contamination which haven't yet become apparent to me. Maybe GBK covering themselves so not to harm those who are extremely sensitive.

My verdict is, unlike Pizza Express, the actual essence of GBK is not taken away with the gluten, plus without the bread it seems you don't leave the place stuffed and unable to move if you finish your plate (either that, or I can just eat more than I could). I would choose GBK again - the Blue Cheese Burger is gluten free!

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