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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It seems that sometimes life gets in the way of living.

When I began this blog I was really enthusiastic about it. I wanted to help other people with severe gluten intolerance and thought that if I could help one person find somewhere safe where they could dine out with family and friends without fear of becoming ill, then I had done a good job. Somewhere along the line life got busy and my blog paid the price.

I am happy to say that I am back and determined to stick with my blog. In light of that I must warn of a few changes to previous posts.

Firstly “The Chip Shop” is under new management. Trev and Tina (former owners) informed me that they would fully train the new owners in looking after their coeliac customers, however beyond that it would be up to the new owners as to whether or not they continued the safe practices. Trev and Tina have a new venture, which I will discuss in a blog entry soon and I have to say I have followed them. I haven’t been back to ‘The Chip Shop’ since Trev and Tina moved on and therefore I cannot confirm whether or not it is still safe for coeliacs. I intend to do some research into this but if there is anyone out there who is still a customer and knows whether or not the new owners have kept up with the safe gluten free practices I would love to know. In the meantime please DO NOT take my old post as confirmation that you can safely eat there.

Hell Pizza – sadly I have to report that the last time I ordered a pizza from the Symonds Street store (just a few weeks ago) I became very ill from it. As far as I could tell the pizza was gluten free so I assume one of their staff wasn’t careful about contamination issues. I intend to inform them and ask them to re-train their staff as this is not acceptable. I do have to say that I have had a number of their pizzas and normally they are safe but I do suggest you are careful if ordering from them and are explicit about your needs.

The Library Café is also under new management and again I haven’t been there since the changeover so I cannot say as to whether or not it is still safe for coeliacs so again please DO NOT take my early post as proof that you can eat there.  I will research this establishment again also.

On a brighter note I have some fantastic new places to tell you about and will do so very soon!

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/

Dining Establishments That Cater To Gluten Free Diners

Here is the first installment of a list of places that don’t offer a gf menu but can provide a gf dining experience in a number of areas around Auckland. The food is good at these places (even if there isn’t a huge amount of choice) and the kitchens understand coeliacs and the need for contamination free food preparation.

CIRCUS CIRCUS

Circus Circus Located in the gorgeous little village that is Mount Eden (and that I call home) Circus Circus is one of the most uniquely designed restaurants you will find. Complete with clowns hanging from the ceiling, circus memorabilia, lions big enough to sit on and – get this – circus sideshow sounds instead of music piped into the bathroom, just being there is entertaining. Circus Circus - entrance I can recommend Circus Circus as a place to go for a lovely dinner either with family or that special someone. The eye-fillet steak meal is gluten free and the steak comes with beans and a creamed potato stack that is fantastic on the lips even if it is not so kind to the hips. Most of the dishes aren’t specifically gluten free. The wait staff will however help you alter a meal to suit your needs or ask the kitchen if they need help and the kitchen staff do know what to do to keep everything safe for coeliacs. Admittedly you won’t have a lot of options to choose from but Circus Circus is still well worth a visit. I will say this: be very clear with the staff about your needs and if you have a sweet tooth and wish to try the orange cake or the almond biscuits make sure you specify the need for the tongs to be washed before being used to serve your food and be aware that the counter staff may have dipped into those food containers with contaminated tongs previously. I must also say that the day staff is not as ‘on to it’ as the evening staff and I wouldn’t risk going there for brunch but do still recommend the restaurant for an evening visit.  http://www.circuscircus.co.nz/

THE COTTAGE CAFÉ

I have to say The Cottage Café  at 76 Clyde Court, Browns Bay, has changed hands and sadly isn’t as good as it used to be.  Nonetheless if you are on the Shore and looking for gluten free food that is prepared and served in a coeliac safe way then this is the place to go. The café is a cross between an old fashioned coffee shop and a more modern café. Their counter cabinet has muffins and cakes as well as quiches and lasagna that are gluten free and most items on the menu can be prepared gluten free as well. The coffee is quite good and the food is very nice. There is an open, airy quality to the café, the atmosphere is relaxed and the staff is friendly. They also sell frozen gf pies which are good for stocking your freezer for those unexpected visitors your children may bring home over the holidays or the days you just don’t feel like cooking.

BOLERO

BoleroLocated in Albany on the side of the mall and very close to the movie theatre, Bolero is a very handy, coeliac friendly, Spanish style restaurant. I have only been there once and can say that although the décor is very nice I didn’t have a brilliant evening. The service was not up to standard, the management wasn’t very organised and the food was far from being the best I have had. In their defence, I will say that on the evening I was there, there was a very large children’s birthday party happening and they probably should have had more staff on. Nonetheless my steak was a bit overcooked, my meal was under-seasoned and some of my fellow diners weren’t too happy with their meals either. So why are they in my blog you may ask? Well, I must be honest the food wasn’t terrible, they are as I said in a handy location in an area that doesn’t have very many coeliac safe cafes/restaurants and their food preparation and service is impeccable when it comes to coeliac safe dining. As I said earlier they were very busy that evening so if I am over that way again I might consider giving them another go, after all at least I know I won’t get sick.  http://www.bolerorestaurant.com/

The Library Café

Winner of the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Metro Magazine best café in Onehunga award and housed in the beautiful and impeccably restored Carnegie Library building, The Library Café is a wonderful place to visit. The food is beautiful and the kitchen caters to every kind of food allergy or dietary requirement you could possibly think of. The staff is friendly and helpful and the building itself is delightful.

Built in 1912, The Carnegie Library is one of Auckland’s finest heritage buildings showcasing the stained glass, high embossed ceiling and chandelier features of its era. There are two indoor seating areas, one is standard café style and includes a children’s play area (There is also an outdoor children’s play area). The other however, is a lovely ‘reading lounge’ complete with shelves of books and games – a space in which I can easily imagine myself spending a lazy winter’s afternoon. There are also two choices of outdoor seating available, so they have really covered all possibilities and have found a way to keep all their customers comfortable and happy. Despite the grandness of the building the atmosphere is relaxed and casual, a feeling enhanced by the cheerfulness of the staff.

Please note the lounge was being set up for a function when I took this photo and is ususally less formal with cosy, comfy chairs.

When it comes to the food they really have everyone covered. Specialists in gluten free and allergy friendly food, they make delicious dishes that cover every intolerance or dietary need. Honestly, they cover more options than I ever even thought of. As well as the gluten free, dairy free, egg free, lactose free, vegetarian, vegan, diabetic friendly, pregnancy friendly, low calorie, low fat and child friendly options they also indicate on the menu if dishes contain sesame, soy and/or nuts.  Plus they pride themselves on providing organic food and the food preparation areas are carefully monitored so as to maintain a contamination free environment.  Not only do they do all of this but they do it at reasonable prices.  But wait… there’s more, they also do functions (including weddings, anniversary parties, birthdays, corporate meetings, Christmas functions etc) catering and high tea for that special occasion. Oh and for the record they are also licensed and a certified green business. Impressed? I am! 

Now down to the nitty gritty… the taste factor. I consider myself a serious foodie and the food here keeps me very happy. The vege stack is lovely, my husband likes the fish and chips, my Mother-in-law thoroughly enjoyed the gluten free sausage and mash recently and the gluten free french toast is to die for… literally, if I had to choose my last meal it would be that! They also have a cabinet well stocked with cakes, slices and all sorts of yummy choices. I recently had lunch there with a friend (who, for the record, doesn’t have any food allergies) and the conversation completely stopped while I devoured a gf peppermint slice and she devoured a gf caramel slice. The only sounds coming from our table for a wee while were happy mmmm sounds. The coffee is good too and I can honestly recommend The Library Café on all counts.

Empty spaces? Food this good sells fast!

I have one final point to make, if you are an Aucklander and have the opportunity to visit regularly then the loyalty programme is well worth joining. They offer a lot more than any loyalty programme I have come across before, including a free meal up to the value of $20 on your birthday and two free house wines or beers on your anniversary.

The owners claim The Library Café is “a novel experience nourishing body and soul” and I would have to agree.

The Library Cafe – 55 Princes Street Onehunga www.librarycafe.co.nz

I could only get a shot of the corner of the play area. The kids were having far too much fun to stop playing just so some random lady could take a photo!

The Mezze Bar

I have tried to write this post a number of times now and I have to confess I am finding it hard not to gush. The Mezze Bar at 9 Durham Street East in central Auckland is one of my favourite gluten free haunts. The food is a mixture of Spanish, Mediterranean, Moroccan and Greek fare. The décor is inviting and the atmosphere is relaxed and casual. If you happen on a quiet time the Mezze Bar can be quite romantic, but if a more vibrant energy is what you are after then just come on a Friday or Saturday night when the place is full and buzzing – just be aware that the place fills fast as it is a hot spot for gluten eaters and gluten free-ers alike, although they do reserve tables if you book ahead. The staff is friendly and helpful and the food is really good and varied.

Rather than having to pick out the gf options on the menu, if you ask they will give you a full gluten free menu complete with starter, tapas, salad and meal options. The Roasted Chicken, which is served on a spinach and red pepper risotto with a citrus dressing topped with parmesan, is a personal favourite.  I also enjoy indulging in tapas and mezze with which I can have small servings and try lots of different things – the lamb tapa is lovely as is the patatas bravas. I haven’t been there for brunch but I do know that they don’t do gf bread. I can tell you this – the coffee is good and being so aware of gf diners I am certain they would alter an existing brunch option or find a way to provide for you.

I am also delighted to say that not only is the Mezze Bar a bar (obviously) and therefore offers an appealing and varied list of alcoholic options including good wine, cocktails and even sangria they also… and this is the best bit… offer the best gf cakes I have ever eaten and not just the orange and almond cake that you find everywhere (although they do have one of these). The chocolate torte which is served with berries and cream is fantastic (personally I love it with the berries as they are perfect with the chocolate but leave off the cream). The orange cake is very nice and if you are lucky enough to be there on a day when they have the banana and chocolate cake (and get in before it disappears) you are in for a treat bordering on a little piece of heaven on Earth. Yes I am a chocoholic, however I would normally not desecrate chocolate by adding anything to it but this cake is the one thing that changes my mind. My husband (who doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth and isn’t gluten intolerant but does love banana) also loves this cake and wishes they made it more often.

Finally I can say this: the counter and kitchen staff is very aware of the needs of coeliacs and although I insist (because bad experiences in other places have made me paranoid) on reminding them every time I eat there that they must use clean or separate utensils etc I don’t really doubt that they know this. I must say too that they are really patient and never get annoyed by this, even though we are there often enough that we are now recognized by the regular staff.  I can assure you if you dine at The Mezze Bar you will not have food contamination issues, however the staff will be most accommodating of any questions you feel you need to ask. I can also assure you that you will have a great time. Maybe I’ll see you there.

The Mezze Bar – 9 Durham Street East http://mezzebar.co.nz