Even a few years ago, dining out could be a nerve-wracking experience for customers with food allergies. Staff were often ill-informed about ingredients and food choices were limited.
Now, however, with around two per cent of the UK population suffering from a food allergy and about one in five of us reportedly having a food intolerance, more restaurants are waking up to the need to make sure meals are safe without compromising on taste.
One such is Raffaelle’s in Bearsden, which has a good choice of gluten free options and, as luck would have it, is just a stone’s throw from the home of a gluten intolerant friend.
"There has also been a change of sauce as the white wine and garlic had added flour. The chilli oil alternative seems to perk up the dish nicely"
Open for a year or so, Raffaelle’s is the family’s first venture into the restaurant business although they have had fast food shops in the area for about 30 years.
We arrive for our 7.30pm booking on a sunny Saturday evening and the place is already bursting at the seams. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, as you’d expect in an Italian restaurant, while the on-trend exposed beams and brickwork give the interior a sophisticated, urban edge.
We are taken upstairs to our table, where our other friend is already enjoying an Aperol Spritz aperitif (£6.45) and Zucchine Fritte (£3.95). Seasoned with salt and chilli flakes, the courgette strips are a welcome distraction while we have a look at the menu and wait for the perfectly chilled Pinot Grigio (£23.95) to arrive.
My friend is delighted to note that all of the pasta dishes are available gluten free for £1 extra. There is also a relatively good choice of other dishes, albeit with the odd modification of ingredients needed.
Indeed, the restaurant obviously values its gluten free diners. A special gluten free menu was available just a week or so before we dined when dishes included slow cooked pork belly served on an Italian peperonata and finished with chorizo and gluten free spaghetti served with a sweet tomato, basil and garlic sauce.
After a quick check by our friendly waiter with the kitchen regarding a couple of my friend’s choices, we order and settle back for a chat before the food is delivered. I have plumped for a half portion of pasta to kick off – the Rigatoni Al Ragu (£6.45). Purists might argue a ragu should be served with tagliatelle. However, for me the fat tubes of pasta are the perfect partners to this traditional Italian sauce. The beef, red wine, tomato and herbs are positively moreish, reduced down for hours to a thick gorgeousness.
One of my friends tucks into the Arancini Tricoloure (£5.95), three risotto balls. She scores it a two out of three as two of the balls pack a punch with flavours of roast red pepper pesto and green basil pesto. The third is with Parmesan and black pepper but she can’t detect much of either ingredient.
My other friend has the gluten free starter of Raffaelle’s Cocktail (£6.95). With prawns, smoked salmon and crab on a bed of iceberg lettuce and Marie Rose sauce, it’s perfectly nice but nothing to shout about.
So far, my simple starter is stealing the show, but the star of the night proves to be another tried and tested dish – good old steak and chips. Not mine, unfortunately, but my friend’s.
It’s maybe not the most innovative of dishes but it is executed to perfection. The Filetto Al Peppe (£20.95) is an 8oz Aberdeen Angus fillet and comes served with a peppercorn sauce in a little side jug.
According to my dining companion, the meat is succulent, made all the more delicious by the creamed peppercorns. Add to the mix her side order choice of double-cooked, hand-cut chips (£2.95) and I’ll admit I’m suffering main course envy.
It isn’t that my choice of the Fritto Misto (£14.95) isn’t perfectly edible, it’s more that, judging from the size of some of the seabass, prawns, calamari and whitebait, there’s been something of a rush for this popular dish. I seem to have been left with the slightly smaller chunks of seafood, albeit they taste good enough with the lemon and herb mayonnaise.
Meanwhile, my gluten free friend has a slight hiccup with her main course. She orders the gluten free Linguine Al Frutti Di Mare (£13.45). The gluten free linguine is not available so the dish comes with penne. All fine so far. However, there has also been a change of sauce as the white wine and garlic had added flour. The chilli oil alternative is a bit thin on the ground so the dish looks bland and slightly dry. The server, however, brings more chilli oil which seems to perk up the dish nicely.
Too full for desserts such as sweet Pizza Sticks (£5.25) or Crème Brulée (£5.95) we finish the meal with coffees.
While some of the dishes were slightly better than others, we agree we’ll definitely be back. In fact, we’re looking forward to the next gluten free week already.
151-155 Milngavie Road,
Tel: 0141-942 4242