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Gluten-free high tea – yes, it is possible!

Fancy an afternoon out eating lovely cakes and savouries accompanied by exotic teas? This is no longer an impossibility for the gluten-intolerant.

Before I begin, I should state for the record that a high tea does not fall into the ‘healthy food’ criteria, and I am certainly not recommending this for an every week (or even every month!) event. However, every now and again, it is lovely to be able to have a treat, or a special event. For those of us who have issues with food intolerances, the idea of an elegant, tasty food event in which we can participate is soooo enticing. Here’s my experience.

Last year, I organised a high tea for a friend’s 40th birthday. We went somewhere which listed gluten-free high teas on their website – Prohibition (now called Nostalgia). When I booked, I mentioned that there was one person who was gluten-free. I called the day before to confirm. When we arrived at the restaurant, I mentioned it again and checked that they had noted it in the reservation, which they had. I was then sorely disappointed by the high tea that was brought out for me, because initially, it was not gluten-free and when they did bring out a gluten-free one, it was obvious that they had cobbled something together and hadn’t planned at all, despite my multiple notifications. If I had just rocked up and expected them to have something available, I wouldn’t have been upset, but I felt I had done everything I could to give them time to prepare. The non-gluten-free high teas were lovely by the way, as was the environment, the rest of the service and so on.

I wrote a poor review on my blog and sent it off to Prohibition. They replied with their apologies and said they would try and improve, and I heard nothing more for over six months. Out of the blue, just before Christmas, an email came from them, saying they’d done a lot of work on their gluten-free menu, they were making all their gluten-free food in-house, and would I like to come back and try again – their treat this time – for myself and a friend. They would welcome my feedback again.

I really appreciate that kind of customer service and willingness to change, and the fact that they kept my details and contacted me months later, so I headed off with my mum and teenage daughters on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon. The picture above is what was served to me and it looked a lot like the normal high tea. Contents: two kinds of scones (savoury and sweet), ciabatta with a selection of toppings and six different mini-dessert treats.

One of the girls made the ultimate sacrifice and tried some of the gluten-free variants, and her comment was that the gluten-free ciabatta was better than the one containing gluten! The scones were very good, especially the sultana ones. Yes, that is a lamington you can see, and again, there was very little difference in taste between this and the one containing gluten. The cakes selection was very heavily mousse-based, and I would have liked to see a little more variation there, which was my only criticism.

I cannot speak for Nostalgia’s cross-contamination policies in their kitchen, and this is certainly something you should check if you’re a coeliac disease sufferer. I can say that the four of us had a delightful afternoon out. The atmosphere and service were excellent, the quality of the food was exceptional (especially the scones of both kinds), and I really appreciated the effort that had gone into crafting an afternoon tea which looked and tasted like everyone else’s. It was a real treat for us all and we had a lovely time. Just a note that the high tea is quite large and Nostalgia have very cute ‘doggy’ bags to take away any leftovers. I feel at $34 per person, this represented good value for money. So thank you, Ed and the team at Nostalgia, for making my second visit as memorable as the first, but for much better reasons!

My girls have now committed themselves to making a ‘gluten-free high tea trail’ around Auckland for me so that I can compare and contrast. Of course, they tell me that it will be necessary for them to accompany me!

To help the girls with their high tea trail, I would love to hear about any good, bad or indifferent high tea experiences you’ve had. Weigh in below on the best (and worst) places you’ve had high tea.


For those wanting more information on coeliac disease, check out the NZ Coeliac Society website www.coeliac.org.nz.

This blog is the opinion and experiences of its author and should not be taken as medical or dietetic advice. Healthy Food Guide has not verified the content and cannot endorse any advice given. Healthy Food Guide recommends seeking professional health advice for specific complaints or symptoms.

Date modified: 22 February 2021
First published: Mar 2013


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