“I’m not coming with you! They’ll serve gluten free bread, and all the coeliacs will talk about their diagnosis.” That was James’ refusal when I invited him to the Coeliac Society dinner, and he gave it with certainty. Luckily not everyone shares his aversion to these events. When I invited the Personality Profiler she said she was willing to take the risk on the gluten free bread. After all it should only a small part of the four course meal. She was also excited by the opportunity to meet new people. For me the main attraction was trying out a new restaurant, which was The Apprentice at Sydney Institute of TAFE. Also, like any coeliac, I was overjoyed at the prospect of being able to eat a meal out without having to ask questions about which dishes would be gluten free.
At The Apprentice the menu for each night is designed by the student who is acting as head chef for the evening. They make the menu and recipes and the other apprentices act as their team for the evening. Our four course dinner was entirely gluten free, and the range of dishes had the coeliacs at the table chattering in excitement. Since the dishes were distributed randomly around the table lots of us made deals for swapping depending on what we were served.
We started the meal with bread and butter, which is an unusual pleasure for a group of coeliacs. The gluten free bread was nothing special though, and it had the odd hole in it despite its density. The personality profiler called it “interesting” and another non-coeliac at our table shook her head and said “potato flour”. Gluten free bread isn’t something you’d eat if you weren’t on a special diet, but for a coeliac bread is a special treat.
A shot glass of pea soup with an accompanying smoked trout salad was a nicely presented appetiser. The pea soup was beautifully smooth and creamy, and it seemed easier to appreciate the texture of this soup than in the usual pea and ham combination. The smoked trout and avocado salad was lemony and delicious.
I was very excited to get the salt and pepper squid for entree, since this dish is rarely gluten free at a regular restaurant. The squid was served with chilli jam and a wedge of lime, but was not as tender as you would hope for.
The Personality Profiler’s entree was outstanding however, with perfectly soft gnocchi in a spicy chorizo sauce.
For the mains we came to an agreement for a swap. I was happy with anything but the pork belly, and the Personality Profiler was willing to try anything but the salmon. Murphy’s law prevailed and we both received the dish we didn’t want – lucky we’d arranged to swap! A quick taste test revealed that the pork was very moist and fatty, which is probably a good thing if you like pork belly.
The salmon was served with a cheesy mash and an orange sauce, which was not only orange flavoured, but an amazing orange colour aswell. The salmon had a crispy skin which was decorated with sweet pieces of fruit. The fruit and fish combination was lovely, and the cheesiness of the mash was offset by refreshing green choy sum.
After the main course our waiter swept the table with a golden ruler. Only one person at our table had experienced this before, and said that he’d seen the same cleaning job performed with a spoon. It made the ruler seem like a miracle of efficiency! The wait staff were being marked on their performance on the night, and we filled in feedback sheets for them at the end of the evening.
The gluten free dessert options were a particularly poignant pleasure to an audience of coeliacs. Finding a gluten free main of grilled meat or fish is a simple exercise compared to finding a gluten free dessert. Eyeing the list of desserts on this menu everyone was in raptures. We wouldn’t be eating half-hearted fruit salad or icecream tonight!
The Personality Profiler had a stroke of brilliance and suggested we go halves, so we could taste both desserts. The sticky date pudding was served with caramel sauce and Baileys icecream. The flavour of Baileys was strong and creamy, and the coffee and caramel combination was very nice.
The grapefruit and cardamon creme brulee had a magnificently crackable toffee top. Inside the citrus flavour contrasted pleasantly with the creamy custard. The pistachio biscuit served on the side was extremely crisp and light, as if it was made with eggwhite, and it’s lightness contrasted well with the rich custard.
For twenty seven dollars this four course meal was a steal. It was clear that professionalism and care had gone into every step from the menu to the plating. Happily The Apprentice Restaurant is open to the public and serves a similar fixed menu to the one we had at the Coeliac Society dinner.
This diverse menu would have impressed me ordinarily, but the fact that it was entirely gluten free made it truly special. It is a rare pleasure for a coeliac to eat with perfect peace of mind, and not having to choose the boring option was pure pleasure. James was right though – get any group of coeliacs together and the topic of their diagnosis does come up.
Ratings (out of 5 snorts)