The Ancient Mariner

The Ancient Mariner 4

They’ve done it again! Trev and Tina, former owners of “The Chip Shop” have created a glorious new fish and chips haven in Mt Eden.  The Ancient Mariner at 157 Mt Eden Road is not only a delightful place to visit it is also the home of the best fish ‘n’ chips in town, possibly anywhere.

You couldn’t find friendlier or more community minded owner/operators than Trev and Tina, which means there is always a warm greeting and jovial atmosphere at The Ancient Mariner.

The décor is, in a word, fun. From the ocean going ships, hot chip stealing seagulls and the story of the “creation” of fish ‘n’ chips on the walls to the ocean sounds piped through the restaurant, it is a great place to be. Whether you are dining in (yes you can dine in) or just waiting for your takeaways, you’ll spend a pleasant time there and believe me, just walking through the door puts a smile on any kid’s face.

The Ancient Mariner

Now for the food… Oh the food. I’ll start with the business side of things. As always Trev and Tina are every bit as careful with preparing and cooking your gluten free goodies as you yourself would be. They keep everything separate and really do understand coeliacs and the dangers of food contamination, not just gluten free ingredients. This means coeliacs and those with gluten intolerance can feel completely safe eating there and I can personally assure you of this.

The menu for the gluten free among us is more varied than you get from most takeaway outlets and even many cafes or restaurants. There are tuna, prawn and salmon skewers (for those keen on watching their waistlines) as well as paua fritters, battered oysters (seasonal of course), scallops and mussels. On top of that there’s the usual and delightful snapper, terakihi and fish of the day, which you can have battered or grilled. The fish is always really fresh and top quality and the batter is deliciously light and crispy – seriously you’d never know it was gluten free. They also have hotdogs and Angus beef sausages. For the vegetarians, or again those who want a lighter or healthier option there are mushy peas, salads, corn fritters and kumara chips which sit on the menu alongside the potato fritters and hand-made, thick-cut potato chips. Plus if you have a sweet tooth there are pineapple fritters. What a list and what more could you want? For the record I can personally recommend the corn fritters, potato fritters, salads, kumara chips and those hand-made, thick-cut chips, not to mention that fabulous fish. Plus I intend to slowly work my way through a few other options as well. On top of all this they only charge a one-off gluten free surcharge of $1.50 to your entire order, no matter how big it is, very generous if you ask me.

The Ancient Mariner 2

Of course even with the healthier options, fish ‘n’ chips isn’t something you eat all the time, but I have to confess that when I realised it was gluten that was making me so ill and that I had to give it up for good, the thought of never having fish ‘n’ chips again was almost more than I could bear. Now that thought is banished and I am once more a happy camper. Go on, be honest I know you feel the same.

 

On top of all this, the children’s playground at the bottom of Mt Eden is literally a minutes’ walk away just across the road. A long play on the swings and things followed by fish ‘n’ chips in the park sounds like the perfect family Sunday afternoon to me. Plus there are plenty of other, quieter areas around the mountain for couples or groups of friends and even an area specifically allocated for dogs so it really is the perfect setting, whatever your situation, to sit in the afternoon sun or the dying light of the evening and enjoy your delicious fish, chips, fritters or whatever else has tempted your tastebuds.

http://www.theancientmariner.co.nz

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The Chip Shop Ltd

The Chip ShopI come from what I call a ‘road trip family’. We really get around the place and there are very few parts of New Zealand I haven’t seen. We’ve been known to go from Auckland to Rotorua and back in a day, although we prefer a weekend, and give us a long weekend and who’s to say where we’ll end up. I have to say I haven’t been everywhere in NZ, but not far off and as far as I know – and please comment and correct me if I’m wrong – The Chip Shop on Manukau Road, Royal Oak is the only one to do coeliac safe, gluten free fish ‘n’ chips. And I love them for it! I mean, wow, gluten free fish ‘n’ chips, what more could you want? Well, how about award winning gf fish ‘n’ chips that are prepared and deep fried in a coeliac safe, contamination free space, completely separate to all products containing gluten? Seriously, The Chip Shop delivers on all fronts.

For the record those awards include being named “Best Gluten Free Takeout in Auckland” in the Viva 2010 Takeout Awards and “Best Fish and Chips Takeout in Auckland” in the Viva 2011 Takeout Awards. Not something to be sniffed at.

To be fair, I would go there even if the fish ‘n’ chips weren’t the best as this is one of the things I missed the most over the five years I spent being coeliac and not knowing about The Chip Shop. Even though I hardly ever have this kind of food, the thought of never having it again was kinda depressing and it was such a delight to find this place, especially when you count the fact that these really are the best fish ‘n’ chips I have ever had.

Now if all of that wasn’t exciting enough for you, the good news doesn’t stop there. You see there are other gluten free delights on offer too. Although not everything on the menu is gluten free (the menu clearly states what is and isn’t) there are enough gluten free options to keep you trying new things for a very long time. There are paua fritters and battered mussels, a fish meal and a sausage meal, hot dogs on sticks, a smoked fish pie, burgers and sauces and so much more. As I said I don’t go there too often and I haven’t yet tried everything I want to, but I am dying to try the kumara chips and corn fritters as well as the grilled fresh snapper. There are even two dessert options, a pineapple fritter with cinnamon sugar and a whole battered banana with cinnamon sugar. Honestly, There are so many options you’d never even know you were coeliac at The Chip Shop.

Trevor and Tina are ready to serve you fantastic fish 'n' chips.On top of all that the owners are very friendly and the service is great. If you go on a Friday or Saturday night be prepared to wait a little for your food, just a half hour or so. This is only because they are so busy, a testament to the quality of the food. That is unless you order over the phone, then they have your lunch or dinner ready when you are. Yes, you read right, they do lunch as well.

The shop itself is small and doesn’t provide a dine-in option, but there is a comfy couch to sit on while you wait for your order. The food is always well wrapped to keep it warm while you make your way home or to Cornwall Park which is just up the road and the perfect spot for a picnic lunch or tea on one of Auckland’s perfect summer evenings (or picturesque autumn evenings, or crisp winter’s days or warm spring afternoons). Now I ask you, what could be easier or nicer than a coeliac safe, fish‘n’chips picnic in the park with the best fried goodies you’ll find anywhere? Just add great company and personally I reckon there’s nothing better.

http://www.thechipshop.co.nz/

Dining Establishments That Cater To Gluten Free Diners (part 2)

This is the second installment of my list of places that don’t offer a gluten free menu but provide some gluten free options that are prepared and served in a coeliac safe way. There may not be a lot of choice involved in dining at these establishments but at least it means there is more variety in the places (and areas around Auckland) us coeliacs can eat.

THE CAKE STALL

So inviting!

So inviting!

The Cake Stall at 754 Manukau Road, Royal Oak is the cutest little boutique bakery around. They create beautiful birthday and celebration cakes but also offer brunch and lunch items. Their coffee is good and although they only offer a few gluten free options they are really yummy and are safe for coeliacs.

Yum!

Yum!

The orange and almond cupcakes are moist and delicious with icing to die for and the chocolate and almond cupcake is a nice alternative to the usual orange. If you are looking for something savoury the salmon potato cakes are also very good. They offer a full size gf orange and almond cake and family sized gluten free slice as well.  The shop itself is so lovely with all sorts of cake stands, tins and decorations for sale. It really is worth a visit (especially at Christmas). During busy times (such as the Christmas rush), they do take on extra counter staff so be sure to ask for your waitress to wash the tongs before using them on gf items or to simply pick them up with a piece of the cake paper they use to line the take-away boxes. Whenever I’ve been in and made such a request a regular staff member has appeared to show the ‘newbie’ what to do and they are always careful and accommodating.

http://thecakestall.co.nz/

MINK CAFE

Mink CafeIf you feel like taking a stroll along Parnell Rise, and you should as it is beautiful, then Mink Café is the perfect stopping place. Mink can be found on the ground floor of the historic Exchange Hotel on the corner of Parnell Road and Heather Street and has a sunny aspect and outdoor seating with which to enjoy it. They cater for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, usually have a gf cake on offer, do good coffee and are licensed.  The bar offers, fine wines, beers, spirits, cocktails and even a good number of boutique New Zealand wines. Mink CafeI have only been there for brunch myself, but certainly enjoyed it enough to return and to take them up on the offer of a coffee card.  They offer gf toast or fruit bread and ask that you be very clear if you have any food allergies. I have found the staff to be careful and accommodating and the food is very nice. As I said I have only been for brunch and although the other menus do not state which dishes are gluten free, every menu comes with a request to inform the staff of your food allergies so I am certain they could help you find something suitable which I know will be safely prepared. Mink is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area.

http://www.minkcafe.co.nz/

The Autobahn Cafes

Autobahn Bombay HillsIf you are driving into or out of Auckland in either direction then you will come across an Autobahn Café. You will have to leave the motorway to visit of course, but not by much and it is worth the wee detour.  They are popular with both locals and travellers and provide plenty of parking and a petrol station at each café.

I haven’t been to the Papakura Autobahn for a really long time so I’m not sure how they cater to gluten free customers. I usually go to the Bombay Hills Autobahn Café when I am heading out of Auckland for a holiday or road trip so usually go there for breakfast, something I can recommend doing as the breakfast options – such as the Panini with your choice of topping – are very nice and the coffee is good too. We tend not to leave so early when we head north so visit the Dairy Flat Autobahn Café a bit later in the day and usually end up going there for lunch. In this case I usually order a pie as this is a treat. You don’t get a good gluten free pie all that often (and naturally I try not to eat pies too often) and these are good pies.

I have always been too wary to try one of the flourless cakes on offer, simply because they aren’t labelled gluten free  (so I can’t be sure they are prepared in a coeliac safe environment) and are in a self-service cabinet, which makes contamination too much of a possibility for me. If you ask, the staff will present you with a gluten free menu which lists a fair amount and variety of gluten free options, including a roast dinner (minus the gravy of course).  The menu clearly states which dishes are completely gluten free and which need altering, such as having sauces removed or swapped for a safe option, so there is no confusion as to what you can and can’t eat.

It is vital that you explain carefully to the staff the extent of your difficulties with gluten and exactly how you need your food prepared. For example, if you are coeliac rather than gluten intolerant and therefore require your bread or Panini to be toasted on a clean tray under the grill, rather than in the toaster that the (dare I say it) “normal” bread goes in, then you do need to make sure this is clearly understood. Happily, upon explaining such things, I have always found the counter staff at both cafes I have been to recently to be very careful, accommodating and concerned with double checking my needs and making sure this information is clearly transferred to the kitchen staff.

Autobahn Bombay HillsFood aside the atmosphere is relaxed and casual, the décor is simple but pleasant, the staff is friendly and I always enjoy my visit. In fact I have to say, if I am heading off on holiday when I stop in, I find myself walking in and somehow feeling like that is when my holiday begins. So, if you are a local or traveller, the autobahn cafes are worth a visit and if you are travelling then I wish you a happy and safe trip.

Lastly if you are a local and intend to visit reasonably often then you may want to check out the website for information on the Autobahn Loyalty Club.

http://www.autobahncafe.co.nz/

Coeliac or not? That is the question…

Actually what I am questioning is whether or not it is even viable to ask, am I coeliac or not? What I mean is this: five years ago I went overseas for the first time. Having dreamed of travelling for as much of my (till then) twenty-seven years as I can possibly remember, I jumped on a plane as excited as a seven year old on Christmas Eve, with my husband, destined for Sydney. It wasn’t a long trip but I have fantastic memories of the first few days exploring Darling Harbour, The Rocks, and the city centre and awful memories of spending the majority of the last two days in the bathroom.
Looking back on my life I’ve realized that I have always had difficulty digesting gluten but it wasn’t bad enough that I ever thought about it enough to work out exactly what part of my diet I was having trouble with and on holiday I was also unaware of what had made me so ill. I now know that my 2007 trip to Sydney was the first time I felt the full force of what it meant to be gluten intolerant.
Over the next few months I went through a pretty rough time, struggling with my digestive system and coming to the realization that I could no longer eat gluten… at all. I did have the blood test, however not having any gluten in my system meant nothing appeared in my results. The problem here of course was that any time I had gluten in my system I was too ill to go and have a blood test, in fact I was too ill to go too far from the bathroom. At this point I will say this, I am not “officially coeliac”, but I don’t doubt that I am. I have never had the biopsy to prove it, but I ask you this, why would I? Why have a doctor remove a piece of my intestine and test it only to tell me what I already know? That eating gluten will make me ill, of course I know that already. If I eat gluten, even a tiny amount, I get very sick quickly enough to know what has caused the problem and if I don’t eat gluten I don’t get sick, simple as that.
Eating a completely gluten free diet has been a long journey, interspersed with periods of getting bored with eating the same things simply because they were “safe”. Periods of trying to find new things to eat, of worrying whether or not food will be contaminated and a period of going through a lot of disgusting (yes disgusting) gluten free breads in an attempt to find a good one.
In the last five years there have been huge advancements in the availability and quality of gluten free foods in NZ and things are a lot better now than when I first became aware of my “problem”. I hate to imagine what it would have been like if those environmental triggers I’ve heard doctors speak of on T.V had awoken my intolerance and made me completely unable to digest gluten ten years earlier.
Five years on I have worked out exactly what I can and can’t eat (I found out the hard way that even iced tea can have gluten in it!), am building up a great collection of recipes, have learnt to substitute foods to replace nutrients I would otherwise not get enough of by eating a gluten free diet and no longer fear becoming ill. Well… not too much anyway. Yes, I have a handle on being gluten free but I assure you I am not going to spout on about my “pearls of wisdom” so to speak. This blog is not going to be filled with gluten free recipes, the internet is full of them already. Neither is my blog designed to be some kind of self help guide, teaching the ways of gluten free living, there’s enough of that already out there too and personally I think that’s a journey we all have to walk our own way. No, my blog is about the one thing I have found the hardest in all of this, and that is dining out gluten free.
As anyone with any intolerance will know, the easiest way to eat “safe” food is to make your own. However, having an intolerance should not stop you having a life. We all want to dine out on special occasions, catch up with friends over coffee and cake or drinks and nibbles, grab a burger from time to time and just not have to cook every night.
Over the last five years I’ve done the legwork and been the guinea pig and now I want to share what I’ve learnt. I want to share those precious treasures, those cafes and restaurants that truly are safe for coeliacs. In short my blog is going to be a guide to gluten free dining in Auckland. I hope you find it useful.