Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Madhatters Tea Shop- Launceston, Cornwall - gluten free

I ate at a cafe in Boscastle, The Spinning Wheel, which proudly announced gluten free foods, supplied by Mad Hatter's.

I ordered a cornish pasty.  I was pleased it was available, but when it came found it inedible.  The pastry had crumbled just in getting it to the plate, the filling was nasty, and the herb flavour of the pastry dominated everything.  Still, I was impressed it was available. As an incessant baker I was disappointed, but I am sure it is better than most of the gf foods available through stores.

However, what impressed me less was that I couldn't find out what was in the pasty.  I asked about the flour, as I am assiduous about avoiding baking levels of xanthum gum.  The waitress said they couldn't tell me what was in it - they asked but were refused.  I am sure this cannot be legal - as a part time baker of foods I have to supply clients with a full list of ingredients.  As it was, the waitress spoke to someone on the phone and they said there was no xanthum gum in the pastry.  The salad was bare as they did admit that the vinegar was malt, but I couldn't find out what the coleslaw was slathered in so I left that.

Trying to meet the needs of people with food intolerances is hard work.  Trying to protect recipes ( if they produce excellent food) makes sense.  However, you do need to list ingredients in quantity order as a producer, so why should this cafe not be told what was in the food they bought and advertised on a large board as being gluten free?

I went to the cafe in Launceston to talk to the staff - I was on holiday in the area for the day.  The shop was closed as it was Saturday afternoon.  I may email them and ask why the cafe they supply will not tell customers what is in the food - when I posted this I immediately got a note from a customer saying that they are very happy to talk about what was in their food at Mad Hatter's.

I am reminded of asking about the ingredients in a Butternut squash curry at a service station.  After a wait of at least five minutes the server came back and said the only allergen listed was shellfish.  Who would have thought the dish that looked like the only hot meal suitable for vegetarians in would have shellfish!

I have been in cafes before where the staff insisted that as the food was supplied centrally they did not know what was in each dish.  In those cases I left.  I do find this casual attitude to essential information in the food industry appalling.


  1. I went to the Mad Hatters tea shop earlier this year and blogged about it. My Cornish pasty looked quite different and hadn't crumbled at all (photo on blog post).

    I agree the herby taste was quite strong in the pasty but I liked it. I didn't taste like regular pastry but maybe I've got used to gluten free equivalents being a bit different. Or maybe I was just glad of a gluten free pasty after a long drive from London!

    I think you should email the Mad Hatters and find out why they think the cafe they supply are unwilling to disclose the ingredients in their products. Let's hope it's a misunderstanding somewhere along the line, I'm sure Mad Hatters would like to know this has happened though so they are able to respond or amend their communication to the outlets they supply.

  2. Thanks Mrs D - you are the second person to tell me I should email Mad Hatters so I will. I really don't want to be mean about Mad Hatters without getting in touch first - I will do this and put a note on the blog. I was immensely impresed with the look of the cafe itself.


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