Eating Out with Food Allergies at Leggero, Soho, London
I was delighted to be invited to the opening of Leggero in London http://www.leggero-london.com at 64 Old Compton Street, Soho, which is probably the only entirely gluten free Italian restaurant in the UK.
Ray and I had dined here before when the restaurant was La Polenteria. We were impressed that it was not only a 100% gluten free kitchen, but also that there were dairy free options on the menu as well. We also found the service excellent. The staff were able to answer Ray’s queries about the ingredients of certain dishes without having to ask the chef. A rare thing these days. As it was a 100% gluten free kitchen, I felt like a ‘normal’ diner not having to worry about whether there was gluten in the dishes.
Now the restaurant has been totally revamped with more tables and of course the new name, which means “light” in Italian. The kitchen is still 100% gluten free and it has broadened its menu to include more dairy free and vegan choices, some of which we were lucky enough to sample.
In his speech, Gabriele Vitali, founder and CEO said it wasn’t just about the food, but also about the lifestyle. “Our customers can freely choose from our menu without worrying about diet requirements, allergies and digestibility,” he said. “We have a gluten free kitchen focusing on Italian homemade recipes. Italy is full of gluten – pasta, pizza and so on. So it was a huge challenge of us to open a gluten free restaurant – it took months of research and development. I saw a gap in the market – there were no gluten free Italian restaurants and took a chance. I am now happy to say that it was the right decision – it’s a pleasure to make customers happy. For many gluten free people eating out is not easy. We realise being gluten free isn’t enough, we want to raise awareness for the other allergies. It’s not just about gluten free but also ‘free from’ so our menu shows what allergens are contained in every dish. It’s not just about the food, we want to create a community, an ‘oasis’ for people with allergies to enjoy their food.”
Listening to jazz, bossa nova and Italian music from the Marta Capponi Duo, we were treated to canape-style dishes from the menu.
The focaccia looked very appetising, so much so I had to remind myself it was not only gluten free, but also vegan. It contained artichokes, tomatoes and olives and it was delicious!
The lamb meatballs with mint and grilled butternut squash were gluten free and dairy free (contains celery nuts) were tender and yummy. This was one of Ray’s favourites. “Wonderful – I’ll definitely have this next time we come here.”
Next up was the courgette burger with mixed vegetable and home made hemp bread muffin, gluten free and vegan. Again I had to remind myself that this was gluten free because normally I can’t touch anything with a crispy coating, so this was a real treat!
One of my favourites was the handmade sorghum and hemp vegan Tagliatelle pasta served with baba ganoush (aubergine) and grilled courgettes. The texture and taste of the pasta was perfect and the flavour of the aubergine and courgettes really came through.
Another winner was the handmade sorghum large ravioli. I can’t remember the last time I tasted ravioli so this was rather special, especially as it was stuffed with prawns and asparagus topped with saffron cream, dairy free (contained egg and crustacean).
Normally when Ray and I dine out, we miss out the desserts because there’s rarely anything we can eat, but not at Leggero. I sampled the first tiramisu I’ve eaten in years (contains milk, egg, sulphites) while Ray enjoyed the dairy free Almond and Orange Cake served with caramelised orange (contains egg and nuts).
Needless to say we will be back!
Leggero, 64 Old Compton Street W10 4UQ 020 7434 3617