Loch Fyne Seafood Restaurant, Henley upon Thames:
Loch Fyne is one of those small restaurant chains that always seem to offer great distinctive food in good surroundings. It’s a place you can take your friends or your family and have a great time. But what if they are gluten intolerant? Well now Loch Fyne offers a gluten free menu, so I went to my local Henley restaurant to see how it tastes.
Loch Fyne in Henley is situated in the town centre, overlooking the market square. On summer days you can sit at tables outside, or slip through the front doors into a large and airy restaurant at the back.
I arrived on a midweek lunchtime with my gluten intolerant friend and was warmly greeted as ever with a glass of champagne and a locally produced Heartsease Farm soft drink for my date.
Loch Fyne pride themselves on using the freshest locally sourced products, and you can be sure that the fish of the day changes daily depending on what the best catch at market is. Likewise, some of the vegetable side dishes changes to reflect the freshest crops harvested. With the delicate flavour of fish, this really does make a difference to the overall experience.
We were here to taste the gluten free options, and checking out the menu, you can see easily which dishes can be served gluten free. Unlike vegetarian food, gluten free meals simply required the gluten element of the dishes removed. So in most cases this would mean using gluten free flour to make the creams, bread and pastry, rather than actually removing the items completely. So I decided to try the gluten free options of what I would have normally ordered, and my date chose her dishes based on dietary need.
For starters my date chose the Chicken Liver Parfait with gluten free bread roll, and a side of gluten free chili butter. The bread roll was more yellow that the typical white of a regular roll, but was light and fluffy and in her words “exactly how she likes it to be”.
I chose the Loch Fyne Smokehouse Ashet, consisting of Bradan Rost, classic and Kinglas smoked salmon with a gluten free roll (instead of a lemon rye bread). All the flavours of the salmon were there as you would expect, and the gluten free roll, although not as full flavoured as regular bread (from a regular gluten eater), went fine with the dish.
I was told the chef was proud of how the kitchen had been set up to ensure the gluten free dishes are fully separated from the non-gluten free. He took it as a challenge to do properly and something to be proud of doing well, an emotion he clearly passed onto the other staff. Even something as small as the chili butter is prepared separately to ensure no gluten contamination from other dishes.
For the main my date chose the Loch Fyne Gluten Free Seafood Platter, again with a gluten free roll on the side. As ever the fish was perfect, a huge mound of different fish and shellfish, and the warm roll acting as a perfect way to soak up the juices.
I chose the Loch Fyne Scottish Salmon Fillet on a bed of samphire and spinach with a gluten free creamy lemon sauce.
The salmon was cooked perfectly, pink and flaky all the way through and still moist on the outside.
The gluten free sauce had all the flavour you would expect from a normal sauce, but was not as thick and looked a bit watery on the plate. This is because gluten acts and a binding agent in the flour used in the regular sauces, but I guess gluten intolerant diners would understand this anyway. My date dipped her roll in it and said “yummy” so I had to grab it back or it would have gone! Apart from that observation, the meal was exactly how I would have expected, and certainly not a distraction even for a regular diner like myself.
Wine can be matched to the dishes, or bought by the bottle, from a reasonably broad range of choice from around the world. It was good to see a good range of French white wines on the menu and I went for a bottle of Cuvee Amelie Chardonnay; at under £20 it’s a bargain, and a perfect match for fish and delicate sauces.
For dessert we went with two of the regular “all year round” desserts, both already being gluten free, even if diners didn’t know it.
The Traditional Scottish Cheeseboard is presented with three cheeses and matching sauce dips to go with each of them. All cheeses are made on Scottish farms and work well with the side plate of Scottish gluten free oatcakes that comes with it. You could have a gluten free bread roll with them as well if you wanted to, which I did as I wasn’t going to leave any of the honey and grape chutney behind.
The Crème Brûlée is always a favourite of mine, and it comes with a gluten free shortbread. Loch Fyne make it exactly how I like; dark crunchy sugar glaze on top of a smooth vanilla pod crème with the texture of warm butter. Perfect.
Overall, the Loch Fyne Gluten Free Menu isn’t that different from its regular menu in terms of taste or presentation. As a happy gluten eater, I could tell that the sauces were not as thick as normal, and that the bread didn’t have that full gluten taste, but it certainly wasn’t anything that detracted from the full meal. I certainly didn’t mind selecting the gluten free options so I could share with my partner. For people that are gluten intolerant then the Loch Fyne Gluten Free Menu really gives them the ability to eat out and enjoy the same food experience as regular diners, from the same menu.
20 Market Place
Henley on Thames
T: 01491 845780