Last October the freefrom social media scene got very excited. Indigo, the restaurant at top Covent Garden Hotel One Aldwych, had announced that, when it had re-opened three months earlier after a major refurbishment of their kitchens, it had done so with an entirely gluten and dairy-free menu – but….. They not told anyone – and no one – neither their long established regular customers nor any new customers coming to try out the restaurant – had noticed!
As you might imagine, the free from world rushed to their phones to make a booking – and Indigo’s throughput shot up by 30%!
Cressida, Sue and Alex went to try it out during the FoodMatters Live show in November (Sue got super excited about it as you can see from her diary entry!) and then I took the whole kitchen team there for our post judging dinner in February. And yes, it was just as good – and as freefrom – as it was cracked up to be. But what interested me was not so much how they had managed to achieve this (we all know that once you put your mind to it creating totally gluten and dairy free food is not that difficult) but why. So I went to ask them…
You can watch Executive Chef Dominic Teague, whose brainchild this was, tell me himself below – but essentially it was was inspired by customer demand.
Dominic was so excited by his new kitchen that he wanted to exploit it to its full. They were asked so often for either gluten or dairy free food that the idea of creating nothing else was exactly the kind of challenge that he was looking for. So he did it!
However, he was very aware that Indigo had a significant number of regular non-freefrom customers who had been coming for years who might think this was a bit of an aberration on the part of their favourite restaurant! He was also aware that although he was perfectly confident in what they were doing, some of his staff were slightly nervous – so he decided to stay mum for three months and just see what the reaction was.
And the reaction could not have been better. Not one single diner in the whole three months found anything ‘weird’ about the food – quite the contrary. They got nothing but compliments.
When ‘normal’ diners were told, as they were when they paid their bills, that they had just eaten a gluten and dairy free meal, they were gobsmacked; meanwhile, genuinely gluten and dairy-free diners were over the moon. They could eat literally anything on the menu! Especially the fish and chips!!!!
We were so impressed with this story that we decided to go ahead with a project that we had been planning since last year – a extra FreeFrom Eating Out Award – a Pathfinder Award – for any one or any establishment that was really pushing the boundaries of freefrom and thinking outside that box. And we thought that for a top West End restaurant to go entirely gluten and dairy free was probably already up there. But to do so for three months and for not one single diner to realise that what they had eaten was entirely gluten and dairy free definitely deserved our award!
So to celebrate the opening of the 2016 FreeFrom Eating Out Award for entry today, we have announced that Indigo are the winners of our new Pathfinder Award which will be formally presented to them in November at Food Matters Live when the other presentations are made.
Meanwhile, we will be working with Dominic and Indigo over the summer to raise awareness of both freefrom and the awards. Dominic will be speaking at a number of events and will be doing a demonstration for us at Food Matters Live, if not before.
We will have two of his recipes on our recipe site in time for this coming weekend’s newsletter and you can watch a much longer video (below) which includes not only interviews with some of the Indigo staff who have been responsible for this project, but see Dominic putting together one of their signature dishes – and me tasting it!!!
If you want to try Indigo for yourself, you can book yourself a table through their website here.