Going Gluten-Free

Words by  Amber Mathew
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For as many as 1 out of every 100 New Zealanders, picking a restaurant where there is something suitable on the menu for them can almost feel like a chore due to having coeliac disease. 

Gluten causes digestive mayhem for those who have coeliac, whic is found in wheat, barley, and rye. However, it’s not just bread, pasta, and beer that need to avoided, as gluten is commonly used as a thickener or binding agent. 

People with auto-immune conditions are often advised to go gluten-free as well, and there are over 100 auto-immune conditions affecting an estimated 20%  of the US population according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. It is likely a similar percentage of people in New Zealand are affected.

On a quest to find places where people were creating spectacular gluten-free dishes, I was blown away by the range of options I found at several places. Here are my recommendations for an epic gluten-free dining experience here in Taranaki:

Breakfast: Festoon, Oakura

One thing that impressed me right away about Festoon was that nearly every single item on the menu had a gluten-free option. When I sat down with owner Mark Farley and asked him about this, he told me how his own battle with Crohn’s disease was the inspiration behind having a menu that was as inclusive as possible. He had felt many times he’d been limited in choices when eating out due to his condition, and wanted to make sure that wasn’t the case when people came to eat at Festoon. This consideration is obvious as you look at their menu full of various vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free dishes. 

One of their breakfast favourites is the salmon eggs benedict. Fresh pan-fried salmon with a beautiful crispy skin, which is sourced locally from Egmont Seafood, is served over perfectly poached eggs with a creamy hollandaise sauce, all atop their gluten-free toast and finished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Another popular choice is the avocado toast with mouth-watering streaky bacon. And while you’re at it, you might as well treat yourself to a little something sweet to go with the savoury. I loved their Spanish latte!

Lunch: Arborio, New Plymouth CBD

Whether you’re a visitor or local, you’re sure to find yourself in the Puki Ariki Museum from time to time, which is where you’ll also find Arborio Restaurant. This is the place to go for incredible views, exceptional service, and a menu full of dishes that you’ll be talking about for days! A great lunch spot for any and everybody – families, groups, the busy bee on their lunch hour, and if you’re coeliac, they’ve got you covered. Their fish & chips can be made gluten-free, as well as their entire pizza range.

The Romano pizza was in a league of its own with a spicy kick, absolutely covered in veggies, and both mozzarella and feta cheeses. And the gluten-free crust? Pure magic! It was thin, yet fluffy and had perfectly crisp edges. If you’re in the mood for something cosy and filling, have a bowl of their chicken, bacon & leek risotto. This buttery and cheesy dish is a flavour powerhouse with lots of different textures. Feeling adventurous? Try the Vietnamese poached chicken salad. It’s a light and bright noodle salad with a splash of citrus, sweet and salty fish sauce, topped off with a bit of carrot, cabbage, and fried shallot.

Dinner: Polpetta, New Plymouth

For a delicious affair at dinnertime, I’d certainly recommend checking out Polpetta. They have an extensive number of gluten-free choices, lots of fun cocktails, and an inviting atmosphere. All of the mains are choices of meat or vegetarian/vegan balls dressed in one of their six incredible sauces, then served with spaghetti, rice, veggies, or whatever main plate you’d like. Their lamb meatballs were beautifully spiced with mint and cardamom and paired nicely with the stroganoff sauce and mashed potatoes. I also really enjoyed the chicken meatballs with roasted vegetables. And the grand finale was a creamy, frothy mint chocolate cocktail – the After 8. It was a decadent dessert in a glass. For those of you who prefer not to drink your dessert, the ice cream cookies sandwiches are just as yummy and are perfect for sharing…or not.

As you can see, gluten-free doesn’t mean missing out on exciting meals with incredible flavour. Treat yourself to a delicious dish at one of these places or set out on an edible adventure and see what other gluten-free goodies you can find that are Tasty in Taranaki! Follow @tastyintaranaki to explore more tasty things grown, produced, and cooked in our little slice of paradise.

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