A couple of months ago, I travelled from Wellington up to Rotorua and back, keeping track of how easy or difficult it was for me to eat gluten free and vegetarian at the places we stopped - Taupo on the way up, and Napier on the way back. Here are some notes I took along the way.
Marama Arcade (off Heuheu St.)
They had gluten free options for sandwiches and melts, and offered gluten free toast for the breakfast options.
I had: Scrambled eggs, tomato, and mushroom on gluten free toast.
Evaluation: The toast was good, but there was too much egg and not enough mushroom.
Note: Business was for sale March 2009.
Triple 1 Five
The menu contained a number of gluten free options, including vegetarian ones, and included a note that they would assist where possible regarding any other allergies.
“Funky roll” (Rice paper rolls filled with baked mushroom and thyme, served on roasted kumara and bok choy)
Lemon and passionfruit crème brulée
Evaluation: The entrée was exceptional. The main was fairly standard (in comparison to the entrée). The dessert again was exceptional - and I was unsure about anything but vanilla crème brulée!
Note: I was very surprised at how good the meal was for me - I usually wouldn't even consider looking at the menu of a stone grill restaurant. I must remember to be open to opportunities to be impressed!
The waitress had to check to make sure the malai kofta was gluten free (it was - but she thought it may have been battered). She also advised me that the poppadom was not gluten free - and even though I asked if she was sure, she didn't check. I thought poppadoms were pretty much always just made from chickpea flour (wikipedia also mentions lentil, black gram, and rice flour). Oh well, I went without, though I doubted I needed to (cross-contamination isn't a serious concern for me).
I had: malai kofta and a mango lassi.
The menu contained three vegetarian options - two were pasta. When I asked at the door about gluten free options, she lady told me confidently that all the items were gluten free. I challenged her about the pasta (figuring if it were gluten free pasta it would probably say so on the menu). She checked with the kitchen and lo and behold - regular wheat pasta. Regardless of this we sat down and I went about trying to determine if my other option - cheese steak on cajun rice with vegetables - was gluten free. I was most concerned about the BBQ sauce, but she said they made it themselves and used cornflour as the thickener. I asked her to check anyway, and she came back out with a bottle of Watties BBQ sauce and said actually they use that. I read the ingredients, noted the caramel colour, and said no thanks, just in case. While waiting for the meals we used the iPhone to check the manufactured food database, and saw that the sauce was listed as gluten free. When I found the waitress and told her I could have the sauce, she said “yeah, because caramel is just sugar!”, as if the artificial caramel colour were made of real caramel...
I had: Cheese steak on cajun rice with vegetables.
Evaluation: .... it was fantastic! Pity the service was so shockingly awful. Apart from waitresses who didn't even know the basics of what was in their food in general (pasta contains wheat, they use pre-made sauce...), let alone when it came to common allergens, yet spoke confidently as if she knew it was gluten free, we also witnessed many instances of the waiting staff being generally incompetent. Additionally, pouncing on people casually browsing the menu... it probably explained why the place was so empty. The food on the other hand, was amazing... well, my dish at least. Though - I realised afterwards with all the focus on the sauce, I guess I forgot to get 100% confirmation on every ingredient in the cajun rice. I didn't have any ill effects, but I would recommend checking on every single detail - I had absolutely no trust in that waitress.
They have a separate gluten free version of their menu (essentially the same as their regular menu but gluten free), which has a strong focus on breakfast. Also offered counter food. They had a sign up indicating that they specialise in accommodating people with special dietary requirements. The menu was very egg based and had very little that was vegetarian. Out of luck if you're vegan, though I assume they could have made something. They did have a brand of soy milk that was gluten free, as well as rice milk, and were happy to make all sorts of substitutions in my order.
Update: I took pictures of the menu with my cellphone!
Update: The Sign
I had: Eggs on hasbrowns, with baked beans, and mushrooms (as a replacement for bacon). Banana and soy milk smoothie (ice, soy milk, banana, and honey - without the special 'smoothie mix' which contained milk - and despite the server's concerns that the ice would curdle the soy milk).
Update: I had pictures of the meal on my cellphone!
Evaluation: Oh boy, this was a greasy sort of meal, definitely not a healthy sort of menu. On the plus side, the proportion of the eggs to beans to mushrooms was good. As a side note, though, I was suspicious of the baked beans. They looked a lot like I remember Watties baked beans (which use wheat flour - except for the lite ones). However - they had gluten free soy milk, I'm sure they checked the baked beans... ... ...