On Sunday, we were down in Bromsgrove visiting my partner’s mum for her 60th birthday. She had chosen the Wildmoor Oak, a local pub just outside their village of Catshill, for a Sunday lunch.
I’ve been to the Wildmoor Oak before, and knew they had some gluten free options, but eating out suddenly got a lot harder for me now I stopped eating meat. The Oak also does fantastic Caribbean food, so I was hoping that there would at least be something on there I could sample, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Tobago Medley, which is like a Caribbean bean stew with spices and cooked in coconut milk and served with rice and peas, was absolutely fantastic – they did it for me with gluten free bread instead of traditional hardo bread as well. The dish was perfectly seasoned, had a nice bite (and you can add Encona hot pepper sauce if you want to add some extra heat) and the rice and peas perfectly cooked. The only thing I would say is that it didn’t need the salad – particularly not plain, undressed lettuce leaves just stuck on the side of the plate. The Caribbean dishes speak for themselves.
As excellent as the dish was (and reasonably priced, too) it was the only dish on the menu that fitted a gluten free and vegetarian diet. There was a jerk halloumi option, but for some reason, the jerk dishes are not gluten free – I’m a little nonplussed by that, because I make jerk dishes at home myself, and the marinade recipes I use to make it from scratch use no gluten containing ingredients. I’ve also found plenty of gluten free jerk marinade and sauce options in the shops, so it is pretty easy to make or find gluten free jerk sauce. The other possibility is that the sauce contains barley malt vinegar – because this is made from barley, there is some confusion about whether coeliacs can eat it, but in fact, according to Coeliac UK, yes, we can – the fermentation process removes the gluten, making it safe to eat in the small quantities that we usually would do, such as putting vinegar on your fish and chips, or used in a condiment like sauce or pickles. A lot of restaurants don’t know this, as the information doesn’t really seem to have disseminated very well. Understandably, too, I’m sure a lot of restaurant owners would prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to coeliac guests, and there is also a legal requirement to state that the product contains barley, which can be confusing.
Overall though, I applaud the Wildmoor Oak for providing good, clear menu information, giving different types of options (Caribbean as well as normal pub fare) and having staff who were able to explain how a dish is adapted for a gluten-free diner. Keep up the good work!