March 21, 2012

If You're Gluten Free Come Into Havana's

One of my favourite venues for food and drinks in the city centre is Havanas Tapas bar on South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2. I love the music, the atmosphere, the layout (especially the 2-seater couch) and I really love that the menu states that everything is Gluten Free, EXCEPT the items marked with an asterisk (*). How great is that? Because believe me, no matter what your food allergy, intolerance or restricted food might be, you are probably very familiar with limited options and having to choose from one of two or three dishes (if your lucky!) off a long menu of tantalizing Food Allergy Laden specialities...

Now, as amazing as Havana’s is for Gluten Free options they are a bit less amazing for other food allergies. I do eat there regularly and have rarely had a problem but I would recommend being firm and treading carefully because, despite helpfulness, I’m not convinced that the staff is 100% knowledgable.

Example: I was asking about Dairy Free options but when we got to the topic of chorizo, my waiter after previously speaking to the chef about my Dairy Free options, confirmed that the chorizo was Dairy Free. However, I double checked by asking that there definitely was no ‘lactic acid or similar in the ingredients', to which I got a vague ‘No, why would there be? Lactose is just in milk and sugar’ I explained why something like lactic acid would be used and how it appears in many unsuspecting products such as Tayto’s crisps. My waiter genuinely seemed interested but also did not come back with a definitive answer ...SIGH... Her major avoids for Dairy was anything listing mushrooms, cheese (obviously) and the omlette (which she suspected to be Dairy Containing but also did not confirm afterwards). A further disappointment was her lack of including the Calamare which, if memory serves me correctly, is also Dairy Containing. I ended up eating my usual Seafood Paella which may not be as amazing as paella in Spain but does go down a treat with me, being a warm, hearty, comfort food bringing me back time and time again.

F. being an Egg Free Vegetarian was a bit more limited and likewise Vegans will have a
harder time and probably end up with the Fried Potatoes, Couscous Salad, Havana Mixed Salad, Mixed Olives & Roasted Almonds or the Selection of Dips (watch out for Egg Containing mayonnaise and/or aioli sauce and Cheese containing Pesto).

My final verdict on Havana’s Tapas bar and their Food Allergy Friendliness Status:
- If you are Gluten Free go today!
- If you have multiple problem foods or are anaphylactic to anything other than Gluten it might get a bit messy and I would probably err on the side of avoidance
- If you only have one food allergy/intolerance or restricted food then do go but be firm and relentless to ensure your safety.

Added, non-allergy related bonuses:
- free wi-fi
- fully licensed
- free language exchange (wednesdays 4-7)
- sometimes some salsa+ dancing on saturday nights
- FairTrade coffee

Havana’s Tapas Bar
Location: Georges St
Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 400 5990
Opening Times: mon - tues 11:00 - 22:30; wed 11:00 - 23:00; thurs 11:00 - 23:30; fri 11:00 - 00:30 Sunday 15:30 - 22:00

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