The studio tours have been in Leavesden a long time now, the tour is forever changing so it is great to go and check out all the added things once in a while. When I last went there was just a smallish cafe in the lobby which didn't offer much gluten free food at all, since that visit though a lot of work has been done in the lobby and it has all completely changed.
When you walk in you are greeted with the Ukranian Ironbelly dragon from The Deathly Hallows hanging from the ceiling, a rather impressive sight! Direct across you have the shop, I LOVE how they have redesigned this, they have split all the merchandise into areas which look like different shops, so you have a Quidditch shop, "Honeydukes", wand shop etc, looking like a Diagon Alley type layout. Honeydukes does have some gluten free wares including Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, I didn't check everything so you will have to check the boxes as some do carry may contain warnings for gluten but they have the likes of Fudge Flies, Sugar Quills and Chocolate Frogs on offer too. Not cheap but what is on this tour!
As I mentioned all the lobby has been changed, as you walk under the Ironbelly dragon you will see a rather impressive chocolate frog box, unfortunately nothing on there is gluten free, loads of cakes and chocolate covered things but nothing for us Coeliacs on there, however turn right at the chocolate frogs and you'll see a proper cafe/restaurant called The Food Hall, now this one we can eat at.
There is a menu on entry to the cafe, online and also printed ones on the tills. Items which can be made gluten free are marked on the menu, not a huge choice but more than some places offer. Both normal and vegan burgers can be gluten free, steak sandwich, salads and soups.
We walked past the cake stands first and asked about gluten free, the girl got a poster off the wall and it was labelled with the food which could be gluten free, what the kitchen needed to do to make it gluten free (e.g miss off mustard, change bun) and also what the staff needed to do in terms of cross contamination prep, change gloves etc. It was nice to see that this level of detail was up on the walls for the staff to take notice off. On the paper it also stated there was two gluten free cakes, Victoria sponge and carrot cake.
From there you had to go to the till to order, still undecided we said to the guy who was taking our order we were the "awkward ones as we were gluten free" so let my other half order first, after that he went and got another copy of the sheet we had seen from the kitchen so we could have another look what we could have. It said nothing about chips and the menu stated the burgers and steak sandwiches came with chips so I asked if they were gluten free, "yes, we have a separate chip fryer" came the response back, result, since I didn't ask if they were cooked separate. Great knowledge on their part.
I decided to order the vegan beetroot burger and my Mum choice the steak sandwiches and we decided to split the two meals so we could both try each dish. The chap taking our order asked if it was "allergy or choice", I stated it was Coeliac not at allergy, "no problem", he smiled, he had obviously heard that response before "just so we can make the kitchen aware it isn't by choice, it is wrote on our till to ask, all my staff will ask and write it in the system", he showed me the big red label across the bottom of the till to ask about allergies.
The burger was very tasty and the chips were delicious, proper chunky chips, the steak sandwich was even better the steak was super juicy and succulent and the gravy was really rich and meaty. We thought the prices were a little high, £11 for the burger, £12 for the steak sandwich but the portions were really good, so in this cafe I can probably justify the cost, still a tad high but on par with a pub price rather than a cafe.
After our lunch we didn't have room for cake, we decided we'd go back later maybe, so we went and waited for our time slot into the tour, 20 mins down the queue, past the "under the stairs" and into the cinema. I love this bit, where you sit and watch a few mins about the tour and then the projection lifts up, it always gives me goosebumps! I will say no more if you haven't been, I don't want to ruin the surprise.
Having walked through the likes of the potions classroom, the Weasleys kitchen, Aragogs lair and so many other fascinating sets, we got to the backlot, the split between the two buildings where the tour is and where you will find the Hogwarts bridge, the Knight Bus and another cafe.
At the backlot cafe you can get a gluten free hotdog, again, they are really good in the kitchen, the hotdog comes with fries and is in a burger bun rather than a proper hotdog bun but good all the same, £8 for a hotdog and chips, steep but not the steepest I've know. They do have gluten free brownie too, however be weary, they were right next to proper cookies, no separation, cross contamination nightmare unlike with the cakes in the other cafe.
I chose to have the butterbeer ice cream which to is gluten free, waffle cone was out the window so no choice but to pay £7 for it in a sundae dish. Not worth the price, standard whippy ice cream with a strong vanilla tasting swirl on the outside. Basically go the beach and get a standard whippy in the tub, you could get at least 3 for the same price.
So on from there we went through 4 Privet Drive and into the next stage, walking to all the animation, modelling, makeup etc. If you love all the movie making things you will love all the behind the scenes in here. From there you head to the newer bit I hadn't seen before, Gringotts, this part won the day for me, the set of Gringotts is absolutely spectacular and walking through the destroyed Gringotts bit with a projection of the Ironbelly and all the special effects which looks super realistic was just amazing.
After the end of the tour we did decide to go back to the hub restaurant and try some cake, having bought a Niffler in the shop he had to pose with my gorgeous cake, carefully handled by the kitchen. I had Victoria sponge while my Mum had carrot cake, both were delicious!
All in all we had a fab day, the tour is always impressive but being able to eat and enjoy the butterbeer treats that others were having was fab, I hate having to take packed lunches everywhere and it is nice to know we can go here and easily get a gluten free meal whether in the hub or while in the tour. An amazing day all round.