London, Ontario, Canada holds a very dear place in my heart. I grew up going to London almost every summer to visit my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousin. It is a beautiful city about 3 hours west of Toronto and worth a visit. The city is full of beautiful parks and even has a Thames River running through the city, just like London, England.
When I connected with Harpreet Kaur, author at Celiac Desi, via Twitter, I was excited to learn about her adventures in one of my favorite Canadian cities. She kindly agreed to write a guest post about living and eating in London, Ontario. Please remember, these are Harpreet’s opinions and experiences so I cannot vouch for this information.
Gluten Free in London, Canada
by Harpreet Kaur
London, Ontario… Yes! There’s a city called London, in the south west of Ontario, Canada. For the past 3.5 years this has been my home. I came to Canada to pursue my PhD in Biochemical Engineering, in the fall of 2009. And as a student from India, The University of Western Ontario, now known as Western University was (and continues to be) one of the most beautiful campus I’ve ever stepped foot on. I could go on and on about how much I love the campus, however, what fascinates me the most is the hospitality services.
So, if I have to list my top 5 places to eat in London, Ontario, I’d have to start with Western University. Considering I spend 90% of my time here, it’s not a big surprise. The main food court resides in the University community centre but the campus eateries are dispersed throughout campus and almost every other building has a small cafe, where a pre-packed gluten free sandwich/salad/dessert can be purchased.
Now, even on campus, this is my absolutely favorite place:
Western Student Recreation Centre cafe
It seats about 50 people and has the most kind-hearted hospitality staff I’ve ever come across. Andrea, the supervisor, makes sure that she does all that she can to keep you ‘gluten free’ and healthy & fed. Her colleagues, Jim, Kaitlyn & Jeff are amazing too. At the Gym cafe (as I call it) you’ll get easy access to, gluten free salads, sandwiches & desserts. Now, the campus hospitality staffs in general, are trained in handling gluten free food. They use a parchment paper when heating your sandwich, make sure there’s no cross contamination at all times; even when making your gluten free salads. My favorite sandwich is toasted slice of buckwheat-chia bread with peanut butter and honey these days. But the other popular options are: turkey, chicken, egg and the good old grilled cheese sandwich. Salads vary from the traditional garden greens, to chick pea and tuna salad, thai noodle salad to artichoke salad. They also carry Chex Rice cereal (the small pack, that is good for one person’s breakfast). The dessert squares come from Organic Works Bakery at 222 Wellington Street south. This also happens to be my next most favorite place in Ontario, not just London.
You can’t go wrong with this bakery. The owners are friendly, soft spoken and knowledgeable. Their menu is tantalizing and appetizing, ambience rustic chic and very welcoming. I would strongly recommend this place to everyone and anyone who loves food, an afternoon off with friends & family & conversation over coffee & food, and/or is just looking for a place to relax. Their pizza and lasagne is the best gluten free one’s I have had so far; not taking into account my friend Anastasia’s homemade pizza of course.
Next on my list is:
Friendly Fare Cafes – Friendly fare for fussy folks
You see, like many of you out there, I had to wait 18 months before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. During this wait, I saw several doctors – cardiologist, endocrinologist, rheumatologist, general physician, liver specialist and many others. The only good that came out of seeing the rheumatologist was stumbling across this cafe, thanks to his last minute change of clinic location. What I love about this place is that you can customize your breakfast options, design your own omelette and have it served hot. Sure, Cora’s is another good option, but for budget conscious students like me, Friendly Fare does the trick. The ONLY downside to this place is the limited hours (weekdays 7:30am to 4pm, and Saturday 9am to 2pm.) Their menu can be accessed at their website: http://pplisforyou.wix.com/ffc#!
A sunny afternoon and a slight craving for good wine lead us to this little bistro, tucked within Covent Garden Market, in London. Covent Garden market has its own charm. Definitely a must visit for all and Waldo’s is the cherry on top. If you visit, do not miss their ‘tomato and goat cheese stack’. While not a completely gluten free restaurant, the staff is very well informed, considerate and patient. So take your time to explain and specify how you would like your food served.
Cafe Sentral & Sushi Galore
I’ve been debating over which of these two places are worth the 5th spot on my list, and I think it’s a tie. What Sushi Galore lacks in ambience and hospitality, Cafe Sentral more than makes up for. Of course, with respect to gluten free food, Cafe Sentral serves the best gluten free crepes and Sushi galore the best sushi. In fact, Sushi galore is even mentioned on ‘The Celiac Scene’.
Of course, these are the places I’m yet to try out…If you do, I’d love to hear from you:
Trichilo’s Ristorante for their gluten free pasta
Bertoldi’s for some gluten free Italian comfort food
Under the Volcano for Mexican gluten free food
Cafe One Restaurants for omelettes and pasta
About the author, Harpreet Kaur:
A pharmaceutical technologist by qualification, I am currently pursuing PhD in Biochemical Engineering at Western University, Canada. As a scientist, my research interest lies in development of novel, cost effective and highly efficient techniques for protein refolding and purification. I’m a dynamic person and enjoy exploring new avenues, in my personal & professional life.
My family means the world to me. I sincerely believe I am who I am today thanks to the patient guidance and humble upbringing of my parents. They gave me the most priceless assets anyone could hold – education & unconditional love.
After almost 18 months of misdiagnosis, battery of pathology lab tests, seeing specialists of almost every other organ in a human body; I was ‘relieved’ to learn I have Celiac Disease. A disease that although doesn’t have a cure, is easily managed by a serious, stringent change in eating habits, and general lifestyle. It took me more than a year to realize that going gluten free wasn’t enough. That I performed much better, lactose free and on a low carbohydrate (specifically rice & potatoes) diet. And so, since Jan 2012, I’m gluten free, lactose free and on a strict low carb diet*. This has resulted in me losing 27 lbs in a year and I’m finally in the healthy BMI range. My thyroid is in check, I’m not breathless anymore and I’ve regained almost all my stamina to survive a regular day in the lab without feeling like I’m gonna die.
I started writing on Celiac Desi in 2012 (update 10/24/13: http://celiacindia.tumblr.com), after realizing that there was very little information easily available for those in India, or of Indian origin. Most of the Indian food can be easily modified to suit gluten free needs, and in fact is rich in nutrition, since it is essentially vegetables, lentils, meat and spices. The staple diet of most Indians is a bowl of sautéed vegetables, with lentil soup and rice and/or Indian bread. Removing the Indian bread (roti, naan) from the diet, avoiding the use of hing (or asafoetida) when cooking, makes almost every meal gluten free. Indian bread can be substitute by Indian crepes which are made of fermented rice and lentils.
*Low carb diet: I eat not more than 2 cups of rice or 3 large potatoes in a week.