The Norton Dog, Suffolk, UK

The Norton Dog is a traditional-looking pub in the tiny village of Norton in Suffolk, except it has a slightly less traditional sign outside.

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Yes, that’s right.  The Norton Dog offers a full gluten free menu at lunch and dinner. I chose a Norton Hog Roast – Old Spot Pork Belly, stuffing, apple sauce and crackling served with a gluten free bun and chips.  Oh my, it was good.  The pork belly literally melted in my mouth.  The apple sauce was tart and cut through the unctuousness of the pork.  I would eat it again right now, if I could.

20180410_212359In the name of research, I made room for dessert.  I chose a chocolate brownie served with cherries and ice cream.  It was rich and satisfying, although I sort of wished that I had shared this with my friend instead of ordering one each.  The chocolate was quite “heady”.

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The food was very good for a pub, but it was the little details that really showed the quality.  My friend ordered tea with dessert.  When the tea arrived, it was loose leafed and the milk came in a little churn.  A whimsical detail and the extra effort involved in using loose leaf tea took that from a regular drink to something a little special.

20180410_212453.jpgIn summary, I love where I live, but I wish I lived a little closer to The Norton Dog.  I wonder if they would consider adding a North Essex pub to their portfolio…

Six Bells, Boreham, Chelmsford

When a pub restaurant is absolutely heaving on a Wednesday evening, and every table is booked, then you know you are somewhere good.  I was here as part of a club meal with AllergyDad.  The organiser had chosen the Six Bells because they like the food there, but it was a good venue for me as the website proudly proclaims “gluten free and coeliac friendly kitchen”.  There is a complete gluten free menu; there are even gluten free beers behind the bar.

For starter, I ate Homemade Chicken & Liver Pate served with Fruit Chutney and gluten free toast.

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For main course, I chose Seabass with a tomato sauce served on stir fry vegetables and sauté potatoes.

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I was pretty full, but it’s not often that I actually have a choice of dessert.  I chose a chocolate brownie with a warm chocolate sauce.  In the interest of a full review, I did my best and polished off the lot!

20180112_120558There was nothing flashy on the menu, but everything was cooked with skill.  The novelty of having a choice on a menu is almost enough to keep me happy!  The only negative was the lack of vegetarian or vegan dishes on the gluten free menu.

Tempura prawns with onion rings in the distance.

The Brook Inn, Washbrook, Suffolk

Allergy Dad and I have decided that our best bet for some quality time is to go out to lunch together (date lunch rather than date night).  For our inaugural date lunch, we decided to head for The Brook Inn in the small village of Washbrook.  The Brook Inn is, to all intents and purposes, a fairly regular pub that serves food, just like you would find in any village or town, except for one thing: this pub is accredited by the Coeliac Society as a gluten-free caterer.

The Brook Inn exterior.

The Brook Inn street sign.The pub itself is fairly standard.  The interior was halfway between standard British pub (dark wood furniture, horse brasses, vinyl placemats), and Scandinavian modern (off white walls, light coloured soft furnishings).  I found this a bit confusing.  I would prefer that it jumped whole heartedly in one direction or the other.  I don’t mind which, well I would prefer Scandinavian modern actually,  but the combination made it seem like it was a bit unfinished.  However, the dining room was full for a Wednesday lunchtime with several bookings so the atmosphere was convivial.

The sheer novelty of being able to choose from many options on the menu was exciting.  Some items are gluten-containing, such as pies, some items can be either, such as burgers, and some items are gluten-free, such as fish and chips.  I decided to order the Tempura-battered prawns, as I thought this might present an interesting challenge to the chef.  These came with chips and a salad (because this is a British pub and everything must be served with chips or, at least, some form of potato!).  Allergy Dad and I ordered two side orders to share: some gluten-free onion rings, and some gluten-free garlic bread.

20151007_122912Allergy Dad really enjoyed the garlic bread.  There’s a piece missing from the photo because he couldn’t wait to try it.  He also enjoyed his meal.  I was impressed by the crisp, lightness of the tempura batter as I was sceptical that you could get that texture from gluten-free batter.  Unfortunately, I found the batter rather bland.  The meal portions were very generous so I grew tired of eating the batter.  In the end, I just released the prawns and left the batter.  This was probably not helped by the fact that the onion rings used the same batter so I had ended up ordering rather a samey meal.  The chips were thick and crispy, and the salad was good too.

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I was quite full, but, in order to write a complete review, I decided to selflessly try a dessert.  The entire dessert menu was gluten free.  I chose a baked white chocolate cheesecake.  This came with dark chocolate drops and sauce, and a plum compote.  It was good to eat some seasonal fruit, but I was not entirely convinced that the plum compote worked well with the white chocolate.  Maybe something like a ginger cheesecake would have worked better and brought in some earthier, Autumnal flavours.  Certainly, the cheesecake itself was excellent with a rich, crisp biscuit base that I would not have guessed was gluten free from the flavour and texture.  Unfortunately, I was very full so could not finish my generous wedge of cheesecake.

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The bill worked out as £20 ish per person for a main course, side order, dessert, and soft drinks.  We were happy to add a generous tip as the waitress had been helpful and polite without being overzealous.  It didn’t feel like we were being charged a premium for eating gluten free.  We will definitely return because the range of gluten free options was so good, but I think I will choose the lighter lunch options so I am not overwhelmed by the portion size, and less battered food.