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
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.
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.
If 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. I 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.
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.