Where To Eat When You’re Gluten-Free And Don’t Want To Play Another Round Of Dish Detective
This one goes out to all of our gluten-free readers out there. Our Wheat-Weary Warriors. Our Guar Gum Googlers. Our Fearless Free-From Friends. Okay, we’ll stop now, but seriously, eating gluten-free is hard. It requires regular rounds of inspecting dish ingredients Sherlock-style, sad bun-free burgers, and seemingly spending half your salary on hummus chips. That’s why we’ve made you this guide to everything from Saturday morning pancake spots to date-ready pasta restaurants that don’t just have plenty of gluten-free options, but gluten-free options that you’ll actually be excited to eat. Enjoy.
A little small print: some of these restaurants have entirely gluten-free kitchens and are approved for coeliac diners. But some of these restaurants might have minor cross-contamination going on. We’re sorry. You know the deal, check before you dine.
Gluten-Free Brunch Spots
As fun as spending your Saturday morning in the gluten-free aisle screaming “THREE BLOODY QUID FOR A SCOTCH PANCAKE” is, we have a feeling that brunch at Where The Pancakes Are will be better. Why? Because it’s a place entirely dedicated to the best of the beige foods, there’s some swell outdoor seating, and there’s gluten-free batter available. Get yourself a carafe of mimosa too. Why? Come on, it’s a carafe of mimosa.
First off, props to Granger & Co for having one of the most thorough allergen menus of all time. We salute this behaviour and more importantly, we salute how tasty the brunch options are. As well as your egg and avocado classics, it also serves things like almond milk chia seed pots, jasmine tea hot smoked salmon, and of course, gluten-free bread. Freshly squeezed OJ and Allpress coffee encouraged.
photo credit: Rob Greig
Farm Girl is one of those places where the menu reads sort of like a haiku entitled ‘Vitamins Are Our Friends’. We’re talking cacao nibs, toasted sesame, ginger, cardamom, candy beetroot, and something jolly called summer leaves cucumber. But amid all of the herbs and hibiscus, you’ll find everything from sour cherry pancakes to spicy shiitake tacos that are completely gluten-free. Follow up brunch with a very casual stroll around Portobello Market. You sophisticate you.
Gluten-Free Pasta Spots
Heroes come in many forms. Doctors. Teachers. Nurses. For you, cornstarch. And when you’re looking for a hero at a perilous time of crisis—getting a serious pasta craving on a Wednesday night—Pastaio has got your back. This bright and easy handmade pasta spot in Soho has a gluten-free penne that you can trade out with any of the other pastas, so it’s perfect whether you’re after a bolognese or a mussels, garlic, and ‘nduja moment.
Locanda Locatelli is one of those restaurants where you’re 99% convinced that everyone eating around you is either a reigning editor of a broadsheet, related to Helen Mirren, or is in fact, Helen Mirren. It’s expensive. It’s pretty la-di-da. And it just so happens to be home to the best gluten-free pasta in London. With pasta so good that you’ll inevitably ask your suited server if it is ‘definitely gluten-free’ at least twice, this is the kind of fine dining Italian you hit up for a birthday or any special occasion that deserves a £40 bottle of wine.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Bancone is a no-brainer. Seriously, this little handmade pasta bar works for dates, mates, birthdays, and miscellaneous occasions like ‘your flatmate who secretly eats your expensive yoghurts is leaving for six months and it’s time to celebrate’. One of our favourite places for a serious carbohydrate situation, you can swap out the regular pasta for a gluten-free alternative. Although it’s pretty busy here, you can always try the Covent Garden spot if the Soho restaurant is full.
Gluten-Free Pizza Spots
Gluten-free pizza falls into three categories: edible cardboard, cauliflower that has presumably been steamrolled into the shape of a pizza, and actually tasty. Theo’s is the latter. This Camberwell pizzeria not only has our hearts and lifelong commitment to its chilli sauce, but it makes the best chewy Neapolitan-style pizza in London. Heads up, there’s another spot in Elephant and Castle too.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
We would like to personally thank True Craft for saving our gluten-free flatmate from many a weep session with its pizzas. We’ve eaten them enough times to know that the free-from offerings are very nearly as good as the standard sourdough pizzas. Personally, we have a real soft spot for the balsamic pepper and mascarpone pizza, but the spicy ‘nduja offering or pepperoni-heavy ‘The Legend’ won’t let you down either.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
We’re not sure how Voodoo Ray’s manages to create such a good crust on a gluten-free pizza. Is it actual voodoo? We don’t know, and frankly, we do not care. Specialising in New York-style pizza—lovingly herein named ‘pies’—you can get everything from a pepperoni number to a veggie green sauce situation. All of the 10-inch gluten-free pies are available from its restaurants in Dalston, Peckham, and Shoreditch, or you can get them delivered direct to your door.
Gluten-Free Bakeries & Sweet Treat Spots
Presumably named after the Wilhelm scream you produce every time someone tells you it’s ‘two quid extra for the gluten-free alternative’, Cookies And Scream is an entirely vegan, gluten-free bakery in Islington. The look is strictly ‘50s vintage diner, the cookies are huge, and the brownies are borderline life-changing for anyone who’s experienced a dusty, dry wheat-free snack. Although you can just pop in and grab something to go, it’ll also work for a quick catch-up over a monster shake.
Sometimes we’ve theorised that the moisture in gluten-free bakes is meant to come from your own tears. Why are they so dry? Why must they crumble? Why aren’t all gluten-free bakes like the ones from Prestige Patisserie? This little Tottenham spot makes your classic aesthetically pleasing patisserie but it also has several gluten-free options including a triple chocolate brownie. There’s also a cute little outdoor set-up and big-smiles service.
Good name, right? Straight to the point. In case you haven’t already guessed, The Gluten Free Bakery specialises in loaves and baked goods that are totally gluten-free. Sort of like the Banksy of free-from bread, its loaves have popped up all over London, including at Eat 17, Panzer’s Deli, Daylesford Organic, Brickwood, and Greenspeares. Or if you’re looking to stay in, you can order everything from cinnamon bagels to big boxes of sourdough rolls online, directly from the south London bakery.
Gluten-Free Lunch Options
Now you might be thinking, you’re sending me somewhere with flour in its name? You cruel bastards. Sorry, but please stay with us. Flour and Flowers is a bakery that also sells flowers and yes, going for lunch here does feel like you’re in a rom-com meet-cute. As well as serving what we like to refer to as ‘serious sandwich situations’, you’ll also find gluten-free sweet treats on the menu. Just in case you’re having ‘one of those days’, it also serves wine and cocktails.
Three words. Gluten. Free. Buns. That’s right, not only is this little Clerkenwell spot a certified cutie, they serve everything from pork and caramelised apple burgers to slow cooked lamb shoulder curries that are free-from. And importantly, pretty tasty. A great option for anyone that enjoys lunch with a side of mighty fine foliage and dog-watching, this place is also an approved Coeliac UK venue.
Gluten-Free Date Night Spots
photo credit: Kathrin Werner
The human heart works in mysterious ways. Having a snuggle? Fabulous. Being so loved-up that you use the word snuggle? Also, fabulous. Not being able to eat noodles on your date night? Everything is terrible. Enter Lahpet, a cool and casual Burmese restaurant in Covent Garden, where the go-to glass noodles are gluten-free and importantly, covered in chilli jam. This place has a whole host of free-from options and although the coconut-packed curries are an easy win, it’s extra exciting that so many of the noodle dishes are gluten-free too. Be warned that the downstairs table is a big sharing situation with other diners, so opt for the upstairs tables when you’re making your booking if you want to set the mood for a little romance.
photo credit: Chicama
It’s hard to really show off your best, most loving self while simultaneously ranting about the unnecessary use of wheat in sausages. Go ahead and table that conversation for another evening and enjoy a cute but casual dinner at Chicama. This Peruvian spot in Chelsea has a great little outdoor terrace, plenty of seafood, and ceviche, but from our experience the best things here are the vegetable-heavy dishes. Don't skip the fried aubergine.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
The fact that Bubala’s tasting menu uses the initials ‘ngf’—not gluten free—rather than your classic menu that appears to have ‘G’ next to every single dish, should fill you with confidence about this little restaurant in Spitalfields. We named it one of our Best New Restaurants of 2019 and after one taste of the hummus or huge slabs of honey-covered halloumi, you’ll see why. The only thing on the £38 tasting menu that isn’t gluten-free is the laffa bread. Come evening, you can expect plenty of tealight candles and a cosy atmosphere.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
When you’re looking for dinner and a show but have absolutely zero incentive to venture anywhere near the West End or adult humans dressed as cats, go to Abeno. This lovely Japanese spot in Bloomsbury specialises in okonomiyaki and as soon as you walk in you’ll hear the sound of tasty things sizzling on each individual table’s hot plate. You can opt for the gluten-free dough for the full okonomiyaki experience, and it’s always a good shout if you’re after an activity that’ll mask any and all awkward silences. Perfect.
Big Group Situations With Gluten-Free Options
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
If Chuku’s was a person we’d let them be in charge of the AUX at all of our parties. A high accolade, we know. But as they say, a playlist is the window to a restaurant’s soul. Or something. The point is this place is loud, proud, and alongside vintage hip hop tunes, there are so many gluten-free options you might actually get the opportunity to be indecisive. Think yam brownies, plantain waffles, suya meatballs, and fluffy egusi that will fill that dumpling-shaped hole in your dietary life. Don’t snooze on the rum cocktails either. They’re just as fun as that feelgood playlist.
photo credit: Dishoom
Outside of David Attenborough documentaries and songs with the word ‘funk’ in the title, it’s hard to find unanimous crowd-pleasers. But Dishoom is one of them. This ever-popular mini chain of Indian restaurants has a great ‘everyone welcome’ philosophy that applies to everything from the laid-back atmosphere to the menu. As well as a huge gluten-free offering, there are also plenty of dairy-free and vegan options available. Basically, Dishoom caters to your whole group whether you’re there for a Bombay breakfast or late-night cocktails.
Planning your group meals around whatever popcorn multipacks are in the reduced aisle is no way to live. Not when you could be eating chicken pachamanca and flambé beef fillet at Soho’s Ceviche. It’s an excellent Peruvian restaurant that has plenty of sans-gluten options and big pisco sour potential. You’ll all be merrily tipsy and sharing cassava fries in no time. Don’t skip the signature ceviche peruano either.
Sure, you still don’t have the heart to tell your friends that the carrot cake they got you for your birthday was definitely not gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your catch-up nibbling a single lettuce leaf. Especially at Ceru, a bright, holiday-feel restaurant that specialises in modern Levantine dishes. We’re talking big lunch platters, citrus-spiced chicken wings, and honestly, every meal we’ve had at Ceru has left us very full, very happy, and wondering whether we should paint our living room yellow.