A gluten free guide to Milton Keynes, is something that I have been meaning to write for a long time. I write travel guides for all over the World, but have never written one for my home town. Now that I have been at home for seven weeks in lockdown it seems like a great time to change this!
I sometimes get asked advice on my Instagram for recommendations on where to eat in Milton Keynes. Those people generally are visiting the shopping centre or Xscape for the Snowdome, areas which tend to be pretty much all chain restaurants. Milton Keynes has five Nandos – yes five!! – and four Pizza Express to give you an idea just how easily you can come across a chain restaurant and why you can get the wrong idea about what living in Milton Keynes is like! Fortunately, I like both Nandos and Pizza Express, and both are great for those with coeliac. I wouldn’t mind trading a couple of them in though for some of the chains that we are missing (Honest Burgers, Cote Brasserie, Bills – I’m looking at you!) Therefore, anyone visiting Xscape or Centre MK should have no issue finding some gluten free options nearby, however travelling out of the city centre will lead you to some of the local independent restaurants that can also cater to give you something a little different.
I was trying to decide whether just to list my top few gluten free choices, or to do a more indepth guide. I couldn’t make up my mind so I have written a more indepth guide, but I have identified my top choices with a *. In most of my blog posts I use this to recognise 100% gluten free restaurants, but as far as I know there aren’t any in Milton Keynes so do make sure you check cooking processes in all of these restaurants should you use this guide as restaurants, menus, ingredients and staff do change. I am always as honest as I can be about cross contamination measures and issues in my guides as I know how frustrating it can be to travel to restaurants based on recommendations and to then find that they aren’t safe. I can’t completely prevent this in restaurants with mixed kitchens, but I can be as upfront as possible about my experience.
My guide is listed by cuisine, as I find people often decide where to eat based on the type of food they fancy so I really like gluten free guides that allow those with coeliac to also choose where to eat in this way and not just based on where is safe.
The seasonal afternoon teas at Woburn Coffee House are exceptional. Extremely popular and need to be booked in advance but they are worth it. I was extremely impressed by the amount of effort that had gone into replicating the normal afternoon tea and wouldn’t hesitate to visit again!
I worked for a spell at Milton Keynes shopping centre, and found it really hard for lunch on the go. I ended up with an M&S sandwich more than I’d like to admit as there seems little inbetween this and a restaurant meal. Debenhams cafe however does have a few options such as jacket potatoes, sandwiches and cakes. These are stored separately from normal cakes with separate colour coded tongs. Perhaps a little pricy for what it is, but it is nice to have a cafe option whilst out and about shopping.
I have eaten at this restaurant a few times over the years and they make a great Chinese, which is rare in the gluten free world. I have not had any issues here myself, but as I know someone who got glutened here it has put me off recommending it with total confidence, so do take care with your order.
My local Chinese in Emerson Valley also does gluten free options, their menu is well labelled for lots of the top allergens. I have eaten here successfully, but it does depend on who takes my order for how confident I have felt with their processes. I definitely feel more confident going in and ordering in person rather than other the phone. Note – this is a takeaway only.
Crepes and French Cuisine
My favourite for crepes is brunch at French Affaire. My partner is not so keen as he can’t understand why you would go for brunch which serves eggs benedict on a crepe rather than an English muffin, but I was completely sold and the restaurant is absolutely gorgeous so definitely one for a catch up with the girls. They confirmed to me that they use separate utensils and griddle for the gluten free crepes.
French Affaire also has an evening menu that I am yet to try, although they do not serve their crepes in the evening. The restaurant isn’t very big so booking is also advised. At least it is bigger than their sister restaurant Greek Affaire that I was gutted to learn that although they can make gluten free options they will not offer any kind of cross contamination guarantee due to the small size of the kitchen. Possibly one to try though if you can handle cross contamination.
Fish and Chips
On Sundays Fish n Chick’n does coeliac safe fish and chips, and the menu includes battered sausages and curry sauce. It is my local fish and chip shop and one of my absolute favourite places to eat in MK. This is 100% my takeaway of choice on a Sunday. It is also the fish and chip shop in Milton Keynes that I feel safest at as the chain are accredited by Coeliac UK.
Across the other side of Milton Keynes, Walnut Tree Fish and Chips serves up gluten free fish and chips daily. They do prefer it if you call ahead so that they can prepare your order for you but is the place to go if you desire fish and chips on any day other than a Sunday! They also have a variety of vegan options and try and cater for everyone.
Another fish and chip shop that can cater is Deep Blue and I used to go there occasionally before Fish n Chick’n made fish and chips much more accessible to me due to their location. However, if you are on the other side of Milton Keynes to me, or in Woburn Sands they serve gluten free options on a Sunday and Monday. They also have a couple of small tables, whereas all the other fish and chips shops are just takeaways which can be less convenient if you are visiting the town.
I have also read online reviews that suggest Napoli in New Bradwell does gluten free fish and chips. This isn’t an area that I visit but could be worth a try if you are in that area looking for a takeaway.
If anyone knows of any good Indian restaurants in Milton Keynes please let me know as we are desperate to find a good one!
A beautiful independent restaurant that serves up incredible Italian food. They have gluten free pasta and pizza options, although due to being coeliac I was advised that the pasta options are safer. The salmon dish I had was so good and I can’t wait to return. They also sell T.Sweetmap desserts – a pastry chef in Milton Keynes who makes the most exquisite desserts. A lot of her products are gluten free and Tracy does assure me that they are made in a clean kitchen before any other items, but honestly I do always worry if they are safe especially when Nonnas then store them in their delicatessen counter. I prefer buying them directly from Tracy at events or from Bogota Coffee Co when Tracy is working so that she can save me one without placing them near anything gluteney! Now if only Nonnas could start making some gluten free cannoli as I am always so jealous of these in the counter!
A wonderful independent Italian restaurant that I recently went to for the first time was The Greedy Italian. I had a fish basket to start, filled with breaded calamari, squid and prawns and cooked in a separate fryer so I was beyond excited to be able to share this with everyone else! My main was spaghetti ragu that was topped with meatballs, the portion was huge and meatballs add on really wasn’t necessary!
I have tried to only include restaurants that I have personally visited and can therefore review the measures that they take for cross contamination. However, with gluten free and vegan menus available online I thought they were worth a mention. La Collina has a shop as well as the restaurant selling fresh produce, along with products such as gluten free pasta, flour and beer so definitely a place I want to visit as soon as possible!
A fairly central restaurant located at The Hub is new restaurant De Roka which has some serious interior goals. We went just after it had opened and gluten free options weren’t marked on the menu but the staff told me to choose what I wanted and they would adapt it for me. They also said that a gluten free menu was coming soon, but the website currently doesn’t look like it has this information. We had halloumi and hummus to start followed by the mixed grill. All the meats are gluten free (but the shish kebabs are not dairy free as they are marinated in milk). The meal was amazing, and they knew to substitute my mixed vegetables with a side salad as the vegetables are cooked in soy sauce.
Most of the restaurants at The Hub have always been chains, although I am looking forward to trying some of the menu at The Blossom Room after lockdown – a beautiful bar that has opened and the interior has a ceiling full of flowers and is so pretty.
Another independent, family run restaurant that recently opened at The Hub, Oscars Restaurant and Bar, do have gluten free options. However, they told me that they couldn’t guarantee any kind of cross contamination controls. A bit frustrating since they have gluten free options and Aqua who were located in the building previously could cater but again another restaurant for the list if cross contamination is not an issue for you.
I was so excited to try pizza from the pizza van at Willen Lake, its something I never thought I would be able to do as a coeliac. However, in the case of this particular van the owners are coeliac and gluten intolerant so they understand the importance of cross contamination and use separate area and utensils for preparation.
The result was my amazing wood fired trio of meats gluten free pizza sat out by the lake! I would highly recommend this to anyone in the Milton Keynes area. (Note: do check their facebook page for opening times as a small business and we reserved our gluten free bases the night before to avoid disappointment).
If you are visiting Milton Keynes from the direction of the M1 you are likely to drive past Willen Lake so even though it’s out of town it could be a great casual option for you as you head home.
One of my favourite pubs in Milton Keynes has always been The Navigation Inn. However, on my last visit the staff weren’t very reassuring about their cross contamination measures and I didn’t really enjoy the meal as a result. I have decided to include them as they have emailed me since as I sent them my feedback confirming that they can cater and I have had plenty of good meals prior to that. A good reminder to always check for yourselves that you are happy and feel safe at a restaurant as menus and staff do change.
My local pub in Tattenhoe has always had an excellent gluten free menu that is worth a try. It is part of the McMullens chain and I have found the gluten free meals that are safe to be nothing special – good pub food, but sometimes that’s all you want! They do however have gluten free cheesecake on the dessert menu though which I can highly recommend and makes the visit worthwhile!
A pub that has separate gluten free fryers is always going to be a winner! I recently visited with friends for my birthday, opting for calamari to start and pork belly for the main meal. I would definitely recommend, such a great pub and I really enjoyed my meal here.
A family run tapas bar, this is a must visit in the Milton Keynes area. I absolutely loved the dishes here when I had a leisurely lunch catching up with friends and the staff were so helpful regarding cross contamination. I was very jealous of the croquettes, filo pastry dishes and churros that could be ordered by my friends (the dishes that you can’t eat always look so good!!) but most of the menu can be made gluten free so this restaurant is 100% one of my top recommendations in this guide for both food and service.
I have also been told that No 31 tapas bar in Woburn Sands can cater, but I haven’t tried them myself.
I have eaten at Thai Modern many times over the years and have never had any problems with their gluten free dishes, although on a couple of occasions it has been hard work getting my needs to be understood regarding cross contamination and that is the only reason I haven’t starred it as a top choice. The food is delicious though, gluten free options are marked and the restaurant is located fairly near the shopping centre so can be a good option for those less able to travel further out.
Pin Petch Thai in Newport Pagnell has amazing food, but their service on the night we visited was shocking. It was really really slow, and they were pretty abrupt to my questions about gluten free. We persevered as I had emailed the restaurant in advance to have the manager reply that they understand the need for strict gluten free preparation with separate areas used in the kitchen, and the email response from the manager showed a great understanding. The staff serving on the night did not, they were abrupt and basically said that they had served gluten free people before and they were not sick and didn’t confirm the cross contamination measures that the manager had stated in the email. As you know if you’re coeliac just because someone that is gluten free has eaten there before is not the reassurance that the restaurant may be hoping to achieve from the statement as that is no guarantee that the person either reported that they were sick, or that they get as ill from cross contamination. I ate here with a large group of friends and it was ok in the end, but I didn’t relax and enjoy the meal. They also forgot to cook 3/6 of our tables main meals so it wasn’t just a problem due to my gluten free requirements, their service on that particular night wasn’t great all round. The restaurant gets good reviews though so if you want to try it I would perhaps suggest a quieter night when the staff are not so stretched.
They do have a clear vegan menu though so anyone needing dairy free or vegan should find this menu a great help.
Granted that it is a chain, but Coeliac UK accredited Miller and Carter has some of the best food and service in Milton Keynes at both branches.
We visited The Olive Tree as it was rated number one restaurant in Milton Keynes and they said that they could easily cater for my gluten free needs. We found the restaurant to be utterly chaotic, with the table not ready on a Saturday night 45 minutes after our booking time, with lots of people all in the entrance complaining about the same issue. The management were blaming diners overstaying their allocated booking time, but when we looked at our booking they had only allocated us 45 minutes for a Saturday night and it is not a fast food restaurant and therefore clearly not enough time. Hopefully this issue has now been resolved as the food was good, and most importantly they have a gluten free sticky toffee pudding on the dessert menu!
There are several Turkish restaurants in Milton Keynes now so I will add in some new reviews when I get a chance to try some of them out!
*Cod and Waffle, Leighton Buzzard
For waffles, and fish and chips in a restaurant setting rather than takeaway head out to Cod and Waffle in Leighton Buzzard just outside Milton Keynes. The owner is coeliac so I have had many brunches/lunches there of fish and chips, battered halloumi burger and chips, battered tofu and chips, savoury and sweet waffles. We have also held gluten free meet ups there as its such a great place with plenty of options on the menu that includes dairyfree and vegan options. Definitely a must visit if you are in the area and have dietary requirements!
Beyond Milton Keynes
A traditional tearoom in the beautiful market town of Olney, I can recommend Teapots for afternoon tea that is homemade and excellent value. Booking in advance is required so that the gluten free option can all be made before anything else. They also cater for other dietary requirements.
*Bar Encore, Towcester
A fabulous bar offering a Spanish inspired menu of tapas, with so many gluten free options. If you are in or near Towcester for any reason I would highly recommend a break at Bar Encore. I absolutely can not wait to return!
A waffle and icecream parlour that does a really poor job of advertising online that they have gluten free options! They could cater amazingly well when I last visited the Aylesbury branch but as it has been a while, please let me know how you get on if you visit or have done so recently!
Milton Keynes Food Bloggers
For anyone based in or near Milton Keynes, then please do follow local blogger Sophie. She blogs about Milton Keynes and all the local independent restaurants and businesses. She is worth the follow to stay in touch with what is going on in the town, as well as new restaurant openings. Of course, I have to check them all out for gluten free options and cross contamination measures but she helps me discover so many more places more quickly from her posts.
Locally on instagram I also follow:
- @lifewithmylittleduck – Milton Keynes
- @Nonscentsatno10 – Leighton Buzzard
- @thegf_gf – Marston Moretaine
- @kt_glutenfree – Bedford
- @Nicolenavigates – Northampton (not gluten free)
- @cooking_it_vegan – Northampton (not gluten free)
- @ab.glutenfree – Northampton
- @Bittersweetlifeofacoeliac – Peterborough (also the city that I grew up in so feel free to get in touch for recommendations as I often eat out there)
- You can also follow my local hashtag #thesightseeingcoeliacmiltonkeynes for all my up to date reviews and finds.
I have guides to brunch, sweet treats and street food in Milton Keynes coming soon! If you have any gluten free recommendations for any type of meal or cuisine in Milton Keynes then please do comment below as I am always on the search for new places to try out!