Before you get freaked out no, I’m not jumping on the gluten-free fad bandwagon that everybody else did last year (literally because its 2016 now what!!!) One of my best friends has Celiac’s disease and, when she came to visit over New Year’s, we went to all gluten-free restaurants*. With the exception of a pub on New Year’s Day because nowhere affordable was open.
*Dublin not included because (according to Katy) there are no dedicated gluten-free restaurants in Dublin? For shame.
Anyhow, in London there are–among countless amazing cafes, pubs, holes in the wall, and street vendors–quite a few delicious gluten-free restaurants. An added bonus? They’re AFFORDABLE. To be fair I’m pretty used to the conversion rate from dollars to pounds sterling since I have a UK account now and don’t have to multiply everything by 1.3 or thereabouts, but regardless. Even if you’re visiting from elsewhere, these restaurants are some of the best for your money I’ve come across in England’s capital. Also bear in mind the ranges I give are estimates, per person, based on what we bought. Generally a starter and entree, with a glass of wine every so often. So that could definitely vary. Without further ado I’ll touch on 4 great eateries; as always, if you want more detail feel free to ask below!
La Polenteria, 64 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UQ (£10-£20)
- What: a family-run restaurant serving genuine Italian fare, all made in-house, with polenta replacing the usual gluten-containing grains
- Where: Soho, between Oxford Street and Leicester Square Underground Stations
- Remind me what polenta is: polenta is, in essence, a dish of boiled cornmeal. Super versatile with a relatively neutral taste, it can be served as is or cooled and solidified into a loaf–or, you know, noodles if you’re awesome like this place is.
- Highlight: polenta gnocchi with truffle cheese (£9.50). I’m usually skeptical of gnocchi (I know, I know, one of the cardinal sins of life as a foodie) since it tends to be a bit heavy for my liking, but this gnocchi was amazing. Perfect portion, especially considering we shared a starter before, complemented by butter and sage served on top. The only reason I didn’t get it again when we returned a few nights later–yes, it was that good–was because I wanted more protein than polenta usually has. So I opted for the polenta bolognese instead which was also a delight and now I’m wondering if they deliver to Aberdeen…did I mention they make it ALL from scratch in-house?
2. Niche, 197-199 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TJ (£15-£25)
- What: a cosy, casual-dining restaurant dishing out classic British comfort food, without the gluten
- Where: Islington, about a 3 minute walk from Angel Underground Station
- Why “Niche”? As explained on their website, the restaurant’s “niche” is that all their fare is Celiac-friendly…but you’d never know otherwise! Burgers on buns, fresh bread served alongside steaming soups, even homemade cakes at tea time–deprivation is one thing not on the menu.
- Highlight: tough call, but I’m going to have to go with their cayenne chickpea soup. The soup of the day changes but is always served with warm bread, and the combination of hearty chickpeas and spicy cayenne hit the spot perfectly. This was another eatery we visited twice, partly for their fairly reasonable prices–a bit more than La Polenteria but for the generous portions and welcoming atmosphere I couldn’t complain–and partly because we saw so many dishes we wanted to try. I had a lovely sirloin the first night and amazing burger & chips later, but the soup won me over. Can’t beat chickpeas!
3. Artisan Gluten Free Bakery, 167 Upper Street, Islington N1 1US (£3.50-£14)
- What: a bakery and cafe with a knack for making delicious breads and other baked goods, without the gluten.
- Where: Also in Islington (well done to my old work grounds!), a five-minute walk in the opposite direction from Angel Underground Station.
- I’m confused, is it dedicated gluten-free or what? So from what we could tell, the owners of Artisan have two cafes: Artisan and Romeo’s (someone please correct me if I’m wrong!) The two are a stone’s throw away from each other and both serve gluten-free fare, but only Artisan is certified gluten-free. Romeo’s is more focused on sugar-free items (website here) and some of their food does have gluten, so there’s always a slight chance some glutens could mix in…a possible issue depending on how sensitive your intolerance is. Artisan, on the other hand, has always been gluten-free, so no worries about cross-contamination.
- Highlight: Katy might go with their brownie which was a delicious, sinfully-chocolately creation, but a full English breakfast wins my vote. I’m already a fan of the full English breakfast so I might be a bit biased, but Artisan’s spread was impressive and budget-friendly. I want to say the full breakfast and a cup of coffee was £12, but that does include a side of avocado since I can’t say no to a good few slices of that. Add in gluten-free bread that was perfectly chewy with a satisfyingly crispy crust and a great GF sausage and I was won over.
4. Beyond Bread Bakery, 2 Charlotte Place, London W1T 1SB (£3.50-£10)
- What: a bakery serving up coffees, teas, and local jams in a party for the palate–gluten not invited.
- Where: just north of Soho in the borough of Fitzrovia, a few minutes southwest of Goodge Street Underground Station and University College London’s campus.
- Beyond? What happened to normal bread? Oh this place has plenty of toasty housemade breads, don’t worry, but they do so much more than that. New to London as of 2015, this bakery offers a variety of loaves to take away–plus, toasties, sandwiches, quiches, cakes, and more. It is a bit snug so larger parties may need to accept sitting separately, but by the looks of it when the weather is nicer they have a small patio area for seating.
- Highlight: oh for goat’s sake…clever name aside (and their menu is full of them!) this sandwich was the bomb dot com. So good that I didn’t even get a picture of it before it was gone–that’s how much I recommend it. A baguette containing prosciutto, minted goat’s cheese, tomato chilli jam, and arugula–or rocket as it’s known here, which I personally prefer the sound of. Does eating rocket before you start your day mean you’re running on rocket fuel…? Asking the important questions here…
So if you’re gluten-free, worry not! London’s got plenty of places for you to satisfy any craving. Or, you know, grab a quick meal. As for Dublin…no GF places yet but plenty of lively pubs to make up for it! If you’ve got another London gem the gluten-free community should know about (or a hidden one in Dublin!) , let me know in the comments below!