|When your best friend calls to invite you to meet him and his partner in London, because they will be there on vacation to ring in the New Year, it's pretty tough (and foolish) to say no! So of course, for a variety of exciting reasons, I, the lucky recipient of that call, said...Yes! I've wanted to visit London again for over a decade and this trip was going to offer me the opportunity to not only see my best friend (who presently resides in Australia) and finally meet his lovely partner, but also stay with friends who are London natives and, therefore, see the city from a much more "local perspective," which is the way I always love to travel. My only slight hesitation was in thinking, "What would I eat safely in London, and is there a high-level of awareness around dining out gluten free?" You know the old clichés about dining in the UK...boiled potatoes, fried food and all bland.
Let's just say that I certainly didn't arrive in London with that mindset, as I had used this site (GlutenFreeTravelSite) to research some safe restaurants in London, but I did have some slight reservations about traveling and NOT getting gluten poisoned while overseas. Thankfully, due to the research of my amazing local friends who found (and stocked their fridges with) all kinds of GF products being sold in local markets, eating at "home" proved very easy. The real joy however, came in discovering just how many fantastic restaurants there are throughout London offering wonderful Gluten Free options AND many with GF-specific menus!
One of those really special and unique restaurants is the well-known Maggie Jones's...well known to Londoners, that is, not to us Californians! Tucked away just off Kensington Church Street in West London, stepping into Maggie Jones's is like stepping into the English countryside. It's casual, yet elegant décor evokes a farmhouse kitchen atmosphere with cozy tables, both upstairs and down, and huge wooden tables with candles dripping wax down the sides of old wine bottles which serve as candelabras.
From the minute I spoke with the energetic maître d' my fears of eating gluten free and safely were extinguished, as this young man was completely versed and aware of everything Gluten Free on their menu. He even explained which specials I could safely eat, which could be modified, and those that were not possible to prepare sans gluten. I was instantly at ease, allowing me to fully embrace such a memorable and delicious dining experience. Of course, the bottle of Rose that we were drinking was also helpful, making our upstairs cozy table and setting even more delightful. And what about the food, you may ask? I would have been satisfied simply sitting in Maggie Jones's sipping wine all afternoon, given its terrific energy, but I must admit that the food...the English food that is...was wonderful with its plentiful servings, farm-fresh options, and simplicity.
My lunch consisted of a starter plate of avocado on a fresh bed of lettuce topped with a deliciously light and flavorful crab salad. This was followed by my entrée of gorgeous poached salmon, peas and ham, and mashed potatoes. I was even brought a small bowl of hollandaise sauce for my salmon that was divine and completely gluten free. There were also a few dessert options available, but given how full I was, I reluctantly passed on the crème brûlée. Looking back, that's a choice I won't make again!
The other really smart and surprising thing about Maggie Jones's is how affordable it is; especially given it's location in Kensington.
And if you're still not convinced and looking for more reason to hop across the Pond to eat at this notable restaurant, here's a bit of history on Maggie Jones's according to Frommer's Guide:
"This whimsical and staunchly English restaurant established in 1963 is a long time favourite because of its good food and its association with Princess Margaret (a long ago frequent client after whom the restaurant was named)."
The next time you find yourself in London just remember that Maggie Jones's simply cannot be missed. It's truly now one of my favorite restaurants I've dined in and I'll definitely be going back.