We asked our followed on social media what the best chain restaurants were for gluten free, there was a great response to it and these are the results we got.
These days there are so many chain restaurants it's hard to know which one to go to, which one best caters for Coeliacs, which has the best food in general etc. Well we thought we would give you our two pence worth on the subject. If we're honest we focus more on independent outlets but when we have too there is always a chain or six we can go too that caters very well to gluten free diets.
So many people need a gluten free diet these days that the majority of chain restaurants have jumped straight on the band wagon and come up with fabulous gluten free menus, and most manage to get the job done very well and know what they are doing. Like everywhere, you will get one every so often that lets you don't, but don't let that put you off every branch.
This is our top 9 chain restaurants, there are way more than that offering gluten free, but when we asked the lovely Coeliacs of Facebook and Twitter which they preferred and these were the ones that got mentioned the most. Some of them we haven't even tried yet but we have heard plenty about them.
This one actually surprised me, the people of Facebook land mentioned Nandos the most when we asked what chain they thought best for gluten free. Ok, we go there a lot, but unlike a lot of other chains they have no specific gluten free menu so I was slightly taken aback that this was top choice.
So Nandos, basically as long as it's not got bread in it you are good, but that pretty much narrows you down to just chicken with sides or the salads, nothing different like a fancy pitta. And apart from their bottomless frozen yogurt or gelato there is no dessert options. The chips are in their own frier so they are usually good (although I did hear reports once that one branch in Scotland had different chips that weren't gluten free, so always check),plus spicy rice, coleslaw, corn, mash, side salad, sweet potato wedges, macho peas and a few others sides are all fine.
With Nando's it is simple to order, go to the till tell them you need gluten free (if you have been before all good just point out what you want and tell them you want it gluten free),if you haven't been before they will more than likely show you the allergy book and go through every element of what you want to make sure it is fine. They will mark on the till it is gluten free and tell the kitchen, some branches will scrape the grill before doing yours but most don't, to be honest it's not really necessary as nothing with gluten in goes on it, however by making them away you are Coeliac they prep your away from bread products too. (And if you want to go prepared there is a filter for Coeliacs on their online menu)
We have reviewed Nando's a few times in various places, take a read here - Nottingham
There are over 330 branches of Nandos in the UK
2. Pizza Express
I've not yet been Pizza Express so I don't know their procedures as well, however I do know a lot of people LOVE them and they are Coeliac UK accreditted too.
Not only do Pizza Express offer gluten free pizza they also do risottos for when you don't fancy pizza and also sorbets for dessert. They offer two gluten free bases and all their pizzas (according to the website) can be made gluten free, salads can also be made gluten free by removing dough sticks and croutons.
Pizza Express store all their gluten free ingredients separately and away from gluten containing to avoid cross contamination and use separate utensils and equipment. According to the website they also now use gluten free flour to toss ALL their pizza's so when the flour is flying when making normal pizza's you can be sure your's isn't going to be contaminated. A nice idea which I think places like Pizza Hut should take up too. If you do gluten free bases you should make sure they can remain gluten free!
There are over 400 Pizza Express' in the country.
3 TGI Friday's
With a full "gluten sensitive" menu, TGI is a popular choice, their menu also points out lactose free meals which is a useful addition for many Coeliacs. Their menu consists of burgers in a gluten and dairy free bun, pasta, steaks, chicken, plus a few dessert choices. The menu even has a few kids gluten free options, something so many restaurants just don't consider.
If you are Coeliac in TGI you usually have to be served by the manager so they can oversee and make sure you get a gluten free meal. The manager tends to go though the menu, take your order and make sure it is prepared in a suitable environment. The staff, from the many reports I have heard, are usually very knowledgeable too so even when the manager is busy you should be able to get someone who knows what they are on about.
There are around 100 branches of TGI in the UK
For whatever reason the Italians are fab with their gluten free, and this Italian restaurant is no different with plenty of choice from pasta, meat and fish dishes, risottos, salads and lots of dessert options (most of which are ice cream based, but there is also chocolate pudding!).
Carluccios is Coeliac UK accredited so we are sure they know what they are doing, and reports from Coeliacs also suggest they do. We've never been so I don't know how they work in terms of ordering but they staff are apparently well trained and friendly.
There are 45 Carluccios in the UK
From reports I have had with this one, I think it's dependent upon which branch you go to what you can have. Their Gluten Intolerance Choices Menu contains tacos, burgers, fajitas and a whole load of other things but I have heard from some that some products are done in the same oil as gluten items which would of course mean they are not gluten free anymore.
Their website states they try to prep in a separate area to avoid cross contamination but they do not have dedicated allergy free zones or fryers, so make sure you question thoroughly about what you are ordering in case it is fried with something containing gluten, we're heard a few people mention this particular problem with them but still they got chosen as the 5th best chain restaurant on social media.
There are 87 Chiquitos in the UK
Handmade Burger Co
6. Handmade Burger Company
We have been Handmade Burger Company, not that we have got round to reviewing them yet but we will, and can honestly say they are fabulous when it comes to gluten free, simply ask for a gluten free menu when you arrive and you are faced with a choice of so many different burgers, beef burgers, chicken, veggie, there is around 30 different burger options, plus sides and salads. They also do gluten free beer. And they are also accredited by Coeliac UK.
I like they way they do their burgers, it all comes dismantled, basically a build your own. The bun is wrapped to prevent cross contamination (or you can have it naked, without a bun, if you wish) and you can basically put it all together yourself, there are separate fryers for chips too, so you have no problems there either.
We found them very helpful, friendly and understanding when we went and wouldn't hesitate to go back.
You can read our review of Handmade Burger Company in Birmingham here
There are currently 25 Homemade Burger Company's in the UK.
7. Toby Carvery
The only place to get gluten free profiteroles (apart from Tesco). It might be a carvery but they have a gluten free menu too and I believe they can offer gluten free gravy too. A list online states what they have that is gluten free and their is actually a good amount already gluten free and they also have a full gluten free menu in the restaurant.
The staff will usually go through the menu with the allergy guide too so you know exactly what you can have, for a proper roast you can have basically same as normal but you have to ask for it without a yorkshire pudding as they don't do them gluten free and you can only have vegetable gravy as all the others contain gluten.
Most people who mentioned Toby Carvery pointed out the desserts are the best part with all kinds of choices; apple crumble, profiteroles, and of course ice cream.
There are currently over 150 Toby Carvery's in the UK
8. Bella Italia
We enjoyed Bella when we went, they don't have a gluten free menu par se, everything that is gluten free or can be made gluten free is marked on the menu, including pizza and pasta. Desserts are limited like many other places but what they do have is amazing.
Staff are usually happy to go through the menu with you, make sure they tell chef it is gluten free as there have been known to be cock ups with people getting the wrong pasta and only finding out when the waiter notices although I have only been told about that happening a couple of times. We found the staff very helpful, taking the time to come over and go through what I could and couldn't have. Even with dessert, nothing was marked gluten free but a staff member went through every item of a sundae to see what I couldn't have in it (turned out to be the wafer) in order to make it suitable and making sure to shout to the chef that it was gluten free.
You can read our review of Bella Italia in Blackpool here
There are currently over 75 Bella Italias in the UK.
Ed's Easy Diner
9. Ed's Easy Diner
We are surprised this isn't higher up the list. Ed's gluten free is AMAZING. With a full allergy menu containing burgers in gluten free buns, hot dogs in gluten free buns, salads, along with other options, we think these are one of the rulers of gluten free even if they are fairly new to the game.
Ask for a gluten free menu when you go, there is so much choice, if you are anything like me you will end up asking for the first thing that comes to your head when the server takes your order. When ordering point out it is from the gluten free menu, chips are fried separate and the staff are really good when it comes to CC, I know, I've sat and watched them. They are so good that at one point I had a Nutella milkshake and they opened a fresh jar or Nutella just for me, just incase there was a slight chance of CC from the other jar.
Order gluten free and everyone will be aware too, not only the server but whoever brings out the meal will know exactly what they are doing, they have even gone so far with me as making sure to push the none gluten free dish right across the table and saying "don't try any it's not gluten free, I'll get yours now". They are very clued up and always so friendly too.
We have reviewed two Ed's now - Gateshead
There are over 40 Ed's Easy Diners in the UK.
Whatever chain restaurant takes your fancy you can be sure that if it's one of these nine, they more than likely know what they are doing and you will get a fab meal!