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How to Have a London Lunch with Allergies

Home > London > Lists | Lunch | Gluten Free | Food and Wine
by Ellie Ross (subscribe)
Freelance travel writer and Policy Adviser for the UK government living in Brixton. View my blog for ethical and budget travel inspiration
Published March 11th 2013

If you have allergies then getting breakfast or lunch when out and about can be a pain in the behind. As a vegetarian coeliac allergic to casein (essentially all dairy) I have a particularly rubbish time traipsing around between Starbucks and Pret and back again to Eat, trying to locate some kind of nutritious tummy filler. Living and working in central London means that I don't have easy access to wonderful independent cafes: making the most of chain-lunchtime cafés is an art when you're practically allergic to water. Luckily, I've done it all for you so if you have an allergy and are about to visit Our Sceptered isle's capital, never fear:

Pret A Manger

I swear by Pret for their soups. Every so often there will be a vegan/gluten free offering which actually tastes fabulous. Currently, my eyes light up when Lentil, Spinach and Coconut is on sale and the Mexican Chocolate and Chilli pot is ok, if a little rich. Watch out though, Pret sometimes offer incredibly delicious sounding options and then whack some croutons or grated cheese into the soup pot rendering the dish inedible. The salads are often non-navigable, but the pot with slices of mango and lime is a doable pudding. Even better (and unhealthier) are the dark chocolate covered rice cakes. It's perfectly possible to put a meal together in Pret, but it depends on what day you turn up on. Check out the soup menu (kept updated) to find out whether or not you'll be able to eat in Pret this week:
Pret soup menu


Unless you want to survive on a diet of fruit, dark chocolate and black coffee, Starbucks is terrible for the allergy ridden. None of their cakes or pastries are ok, and apart from an overpriced pot of fresh fruit there is nothing that somebody with allergies could eat without collapsing. Obviously, it depends what store you're in, but on the whole, London Starbucks are not geared towards allergy sufferers.

Eat usually has a good selection of food, from dumplings in soup to a good selection of salads and sandwiches. However, aside from the occasional selection of hot food (the odd chilli), there isn't much available for the allergy sufferer/fussy eater. However, their honey chilli nuts and 'extras' such as sweet and salty popcorn and vast fruit selection make up for the lack of a main meal. Like Pret, it's possible to see Eat's forthcoming soup menu:
Eat's soup menu


If you can ignore the fishy musky smell emanating from its doors whenever you walk past, Abokado is an absolute gem for coeliacs or dairy sufferers. For one, most of the food here is clean-flavoured, fresh sushi. Their wraps or schwaps (?) are also pretty good, and for £1.39 aren't bad value for a snack/light lunch that'll fill the gap. Vegetarians can enjoy ginger and avocado flavour wraps, which are surrounded by sticky sushi rice and wrapped in nori or seaweed. The sushi is also good value andreally filling: like all sushi packs these days the avocado and vegetable filled maki rolls are served with fresh pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. They also squeeze fresh juices behind the counter. Lunchtime life-saver! Check out what's happening at abokado this week


Yes, the extra 's' is annoying and pretentious, but the juice and 'fit-food' is pretty tasty. The food all feels extremely healthy and there is a good variety. The salads are usually full of grains which can be an issue for Coeliacs, but the 'zero' noodle soups tick pretty much every box for soup fiends worldwide. Packed to the brim with rice noodles, chunks of tofu or prawns and slices of crunchy legumes, the broth also tastes good enough to drink afterwards. Like Eat and Pret, this fast growing chain has a fast changing fresh soup menu: the choices swing from conventional tomato to more far out ideas involving chillis and exotic spices. If all else fails, you can always get a super fresh vegetable smoothie. Crussh ethos and soup menu
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Why? Because people with allergies need a helping hand!
When: Lunchtime
Where: All over central London
Cost: £2-4
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