London isn’t short of a gluten-free option. But, as sufferers of coeliac disease will know, there aren’t all that many places where the tiresome burden of having to clarify the contamination risk doesn’t linger — threatening to sap short-lived joy out of any potential culinary embarkment. Walk-ins are awkward at best. And even the most accommodating places can leave you with a niggling doubt, if nothing else.
Thankfully, there are some excellent chains that are now ‘safe’, by coeliac standards — the Pizza Express’s and Pho’s of this world are a shining, accredited, beacon. But sometimes you’re in the market for a little place you’ve never been before, with an unfamiliar atmosphere and all the potential of an untapped menu. Here are a few such places where London’s gluten-averse can dine out, worry-free.
The Japanese-Peruvian ‘Nikkei’ menu at Mommi is entirely gluten-free and gives previously off-limits items — like tempura, sticky miso glazes, flatbreads and deep-fried croquetas — a new lease of life. Packed to the rafters with artsy ambience, the raw bar and grill offers those with a more than just a mild gluten sensitivity complete peace of mind, in the knowledge that nothing wheat-based has ever entered the Mommi kitchen. This vibrant little restaurant offers 40% off food on Monday evenings and has featured on the ‘Top 10 gluten-free…’ lists of Tatlers, Time Out and the Metro, among others.
Ardiciocca serves traditional Italian trattoria cuisine, made entirely gluten-free, from its humble premises in Fulham. Each item on the menu has been meticulously adapted with naturally gluten-free cereals and grains, to deliver the same texture and depth of flavour as any regular pasta or dough. Italian mainstays like arancini, pasta and gnocchi are all there, with sides of potato and mussel croquettes and mozzarella with fresh tomato. Setting it apart, however, is its real Italian pizzas. There’s a place, of course, for our beloved Pizza Express, but for those moments when you crave authentic crust without the worry of a shared oven, you’re looking for a place like this. Ardiciocca sources ingredients of the finest quality from the most reputable suppliers, making for a confident gluten-free dining experience.
This gluten-free bakery has expanded to three branches, from its first in Fitzrovia — now also supplying London’s Wholefoods outlets with ‘free from’ baked goods. Developed by a team of expert bakers, Beyond Bread sets about challenging preconceptions of gluten-free foods, with an eyewatering array of traditional breads — from pumpernickel to sourdough and brioche. And for those who’ve looked longingly at Danish pastries and croissants, only to have to leave their fingerprints behind on the bakery window, there are a plethora of sweet treats on offer. It’s not cheap. An almond croissant will set you back around £4. But it’s undeniable that creating gluten-free patisserie goods that stand up to the ‘real thing’ takes more in the way of ingredients and work. The menu comprises a list of breakfast and brunch options, as well as savouries, cakes and cookies.
Every dish at the H+H cafe is free from grains and, therefore, gluten. Refined sugars and hydrogenated fats are also off the menu and ingredients are sourced locally, wherever possible, from growers and producers who meet exacting standards of provenance. Hemsley + Hemsley is proud of its transparent ethics — so much so that its menu is preceded by a full supplier disclosure, letting diners know exactly where their food originated. The breakfast offering includes buckwheat granola and quinoa carrot toast. Lunch is clean salads and snacks, served up with fermented condiments and a cocktail, if you’re in the market. The best part, however, is that it doesn’t cost significantly more than a regular deli brunch — alcohol aside.
London’s original 100% gluten-free restaurant occupies the mid to upper echelons of dining — with rare breed short ribs, pan-seared cod and a smattering of pricier than average salad and vegan options. It has a dimly-lit ambience, set away from the bustle of Angel Islington, and the focus is modern British comfort food. It’s all of those things a coeliac misses: shortcrust pastry, fried chicken and even cheese doughnuts, executed with flair using fresh, seasonal, ingredients. There are vegetarian and vegan-friendly options too.
Apres started life as a little breakfast and lunch spot with a difference: a goal to make nourishing food exist outside of salad. Piloted by nutritional therapist Catherine and hospitality veteran Danny, Apres focuses on comfort food that’s actually good for you. There are cakes, burgers and shortcrust savoury tarts on the menu — all nutritionally balanced, organic and free-range. And the point is, of course, that every single dish is free from gluten. The venue now opens its doors for evening dinner — Monday to Friday — serving blinis and pate before a steak and blue cheese pie, or fragrant aubergine curry.