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This time of year, there’s one topic of conversation on everyone’s lips: food. Be it discussions about where you’ll be having your work’s Christmas meal or what treats you’ll be stocking up on for the festivities, you can guarantee that for the next few weeks, the word ‘food’ will be one you’ll find yourself hearing a lot! And for most of you, that’s a good thing.

For some of you it isn’t.

Getting through Christmas as a coeliac was something I really struggled with when I was first diagnosed. I found that even if I could get some bits to eat, it was a cross contamination nightmare, and the idea of Christmas meals out put me in a constant state of anxiety. The thing about eating at Christmas time is that it’s a hugely social event – constant questions of ‘can you eat that?’ and ‘can you go here?’ can start to get a little overwhelming – and for anyone with a food intolerance or allergy (myself included) it’s often been far easier to opt out than ‘make a fuss’.

Not anymore!

The gluten free market is growing every day, and Chester is a great place to be gluten-free around the holiday period. I’ve pulled together a list of places that do gluten free options for Christmas meals, afternoon tea, and festive delights, so when someone asks you to go out for some Christmas treats this year, you’ll have plenty of options to suggest!

Places for your Christmas meal

Work colleagues talking about going for a fancy, three-course meal whilst wearing Christmas jumpers and telling terrible jokes? No longer do you have to miss out, or glare resentfully as everyone tucks into their delicious meals around you and you ‘enjoy’ your token salad or jacket potato. Most places in Chester these days offer gluten free options on their Christmas menus, but here are some of the best:

Ring O Bells, Village Rd, Christleton, Chester

A cosy pub that offers two-courses for £22 or three for £28, almost everything on the Christmas menu can be adapted to be made gluten-free. I recently went here for my work’s Christmas lunch and was served everything my colleagues had – the only alternate was the dessert, but they made me a fabulous crème brulee!

The Architect, 54 Nicholas Street, Chester

Whilst none of the starters on their menu are GF, you can have the two-course option for £22.95 and enjoy a delicious stilton, caramelised red onion and potato pie or Braised feather of beef bourguignon for your main and a traditional Christmas pudding with brandy sauce for dessert – yum!

The Alvanley Arms Inn, Cotebrook, Tarporley

With a great knowledge of coeliac disease and cross contamination, many of the options can be made gluten-free! For starters you have a choice of the pumpkin soup, smoked salmon roulade, or parfait (all with GF bread/toast!), then for mains follow it up with the extremely festive Roast Cheshire Turkey Breast (minus the stuffing and pigs in blankets), Slow Cooked Beef or Oven Baked Cod (minus breadcrumbs). If you have room for a pud, the sticky toffee pudding and the Christmas pudding are both gluten free, too!

Fancy something sweeter?

There are so many places in Chester to go for something sweet and gluten-free, but below are some of the ones offering Christmas-themed delights!

Marmalade, Chester

My go-to place for a cake, Marmalade is serving delicious, gluten-free Christmas cake this year, along with a number of warm drinks to chase away that winter chill!

Oddfellows, Chester

There’s nothing quite like an afternoon tea….and Oddfellows offer one of the best ‘festive’ afternoon teas around! I went a few years ago with work, and they were extremely accommodating – I could have GF versions of almost everything my colleagues had, including sandwiches, mini cakes and scones!

Hidden gems

Even if you’re not in the mood for a heavy meal or a full-on Christmas cake, there are plenty of hidden gems throughout Chester where you can get a tasty, gluten-free treat to make you feel festive during your Christmas shopping! Keep an eye out for an all gluten/dairy/egg free Macaroon stall (just follow the amazing coconut smell if you can’t see it amongst the crowds!), or, if you need something to keep you warm, there are a number of vendors selling mulled wine (naturally gluten free).

Of course this time of year most of the chain coffee shops are offering festive drinks and treats: you’ll be happy to know that Costa are selling Gluten Free Vegan Mince Tarts and Gluten Free Vegan Iced Fruit Slice. The Black Forest Hot Chocolate and the Caramelised Orange Hot Chocolate/Latte are also safe for those who can’t have gluten!

Sadly Starbucks’ Gingerbread Latte doesn’t seem to be gluten free, but fear not, for Pret A Manger have one on the menu that is free of any gluten containing ingredients – score!

These are just a handful of places you can go for some Christmas time treats; there are, I’m sure, many more in and around Chester to be discovered! Gluten free food is becoming more available every year, and even if a place doesn’t have a specific GF menu, they’ll often be able to adapt their meals to suit – so explore, ask questions, and enjoy all of the delicious, gluten free food Chester has to offer!

Merry Christmas!