Welcome to our series on gluten-free eating and drinking in London, highlighting London’s best gluten-free restaurants, bars, pubs and food shops. It’s thought that 1 in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease. Given London has well over eight million inhabitants, a bit of basic maths suggests around 80,000 people in the city fall into this category. Add on all those people who have other gluten allergies and intolerances, and that’s a lot of demand for gluten-free food and drink — yet it’s not as prevalent as it should be.
Thankfully, it’s becoming increasingly easy to eat out gluten-free in London. Not only do most chains now have a gluten free menu, but the capital is home to many independents actively making their menu more gluten-free of their own accord. This article aims to show that not only can you eat out safely, but really well and in fantastic restaurants.
An awareness of the ingredients within the meals you order makes for a smooth gluten-free dining experience. Check salads for crouton garnish, sausages for rusk, ask about the presence of soy sauce in dressings and marinades, whether chips are cooked separately from other fried foods, and that your ice cream comes wafer-free.
In terms of cuisines, Indian food (particularly South Indian) which relies on rice instead of wheat offers naturally gluten free options. Authentic Mexican restaurants use pure corn tacos rather than wheat, and despite what you might expect, Italians are well briefed on gluten free — Italian children are routinely tested for coeliac disease, so the awareness is widespread.
For the best experience when eating out, book in advance if possible and inform the restaurant you are gluten-free as soon as possible. Be honest with the waiting staff, ask to speak with the chef is you aren’t confident in your waiter, and always ask questions if you are unsure.
The recommendations below are just a handful of places that welcome and feed gluten free diners. They are knowledgeable, aware of cross-contamination and don’t make you feel like a fussy eater.
Gluten-free fried chicken exists! Its fresh, free range hails from Yorkshire farms and the honey ginger wings in particular are truly finger lickin’ good. Accompaniments include chips cooked separately, punchy sauces (such as gochujang Nashville hot and buttermilk ranch), salads, padron peppers, slaws and giant ice cream sundaes. But let’s be honest, it’s the fried chicken you go for.
Bird, 42-44 Kingsland Road, E2 8DA
Feed Me Primal, roaming
The UK’s only paleo street food stall makes homemade, locally and ethically sourced gluten and grain-free lunches at markets around town. Street food markets can be among the hardest places to eat gluten-free, but here you can choose from meatballs of free-range pork, wild venison or lamb merguez served on herby cauli-rice, with colourful salads and unbelievably good gluten-free flatbreads. Hearty and healthy.
Feed Me Primal has regular stalls in Camden, Euston, Liverpool Street and Tottenham Court Road.
GB Pizza, Clerkenwell
This London branch of the Margate pizza restaurant makes gluten-free pizza bases, which the Telegraph’s Zoe Williams declared “outrageously edible”. Made off-site by gluten-free chef Annie, they handle cross-contamination with care, but do warn that they are a “wheaty” environment. Toppings feature top-notch ingredients in simple combinations: charcuterie from Brixton’s Cannon & Cannon, British mozzarella and Kentish vegetables. It all rounds off with flavour-packed gelato from Soho’s Gelupo.
GB Pizza, 50 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
Honest Burgers, various locations
Pioneers in gluten free burgers, these boys have been gluten-free friendly since opening in Brixton in 2011. Keeping loyal gluten-free customers in mind as the menu and locations have grown, now everything except the normal burger bun is gluten free, including onion rings, specials, and even their new breakfast menu. Gluten-free buns are toasted on dedicated toasters, and with meat sourced from the Ginger Pig, not only is it gluten-free but outstanding quality and great value too.
Honest Burgers has branches in Brixton, Camden, Clapham, Fitzrovia, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Portobello, Soho, Tooting.
Hummus Bros, various locations
An informal place to grab a quick, healthy bite to eat. By this spring it will be entirely gluten free (except the bread of course), even the tabouleh is to be reformulated with gluten-free quinoa. Try the authentic, thankfully flour-free, falafel with freshly made hummus, heaps of salad and a choice of either gluten-free bread, carrot sticks or corn chips. Their malabi, a Middle Eastern milk pudding or the gluten-free chocolate brownie complete their extensive range.
Hummus Bros has branches in Clerkenwell, Holborn, Soho and St Paul's.
The Truscott Arms, Maida Vale
The joy of eating at this award-winning Maida Vale gastropub is the sheer amount of gluten-free choice. With a number of coeliacs in the family, you are in safe hands. If they can make it gluten-free and it is as good or better than the normal version, it goes on the main menu. Pub grub in particular is so often off-limits, but the food here is a dream: sausages, burgers, fish and chips, gnocchi, sandwiches, and fat chips. Add to this posh bar snacks of popcorn, scotch eggs, pork crackling, a choice of desserts and three gluten-free beers, and you will feel exceptionally well catered for. Plus the fine dining evening menu is mostly gluten-free too. Also see our review of the evening menu at The Truscott Arms, not written from a gluten-free perspective.
The Truscott Arms, 55 Shirland Road, W9 2JD
Vinoteca, various locations
They don’t bat an eyelid at catering to gluten-free requests here — this author even had their wedding reception there. Inspired by continental wine shops that also serve food, the offering is simple, seasonal and carefully sourced, and therefore much of the menu is naturally gluten-free. Think grilled sardines, cured meats and marcona almonds, bavette with chorizo butter, and usually a few suitable gluten-free desserts.
Vinoteca has branches in Farringdon, King’s Cross, Marylebone and Soho.
Borough Market’s meaty Roast, especially for breakfast and brunch.
One-dish restaurant Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote in Marylebone for simple steak and frites with “secret recipe sauce”.
Bombay café-inspired Indian Dishoom where there is always a dedicated GF menu, there are branches in Covent Garden, Shoreditch and King’s Cross.
Seasonal cooking at Elliot’s Café in Borough Market.
Wild Honey in Mayfair or Arbutus in Soho for a fine-dining treat — both have coeliac head chefs so really know what they’re doing when it comes to gluten-free.
Written by Kim McGowan, a diagnosed coeliac and founder of Gluten Free Gathering, a company specialising in foodie events where everything is gluten-free.