Note: prices in this article were accurate when first published in 2015. Other information has been updated.
Sugar is big news these days. From the snootiest broadsheets to the unlikeliest of tabloids, every UK newspaper has featured headline-grabbing stories about the effects of sugar-laden foods on our health. In culinary terms, it’s currently public enemy number one.
So it’s no wonder more and more Londoners are cutting down on sugar, or quitting altogether. Top Walthamstow-based baking blogger Sarah Trivuncic of Maison Cupcake — once almost entirely associated with baked sweet treats — gave up sugar at the start of December. She explains: “I didn’t specifically plan to give up sugar; rather I wanted to improve my energy levels and cut back on white carbs and processed sugars to stabilise my eating patterns. As a consequence, I was eating more whole foods. Very quickly I noticed that the less I ate sweet things, the less twitchy I felt between meals craving snacks. I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up — hopefully long-term — but so far I’m not feeling deprived of anything.” She’s blogging less about cupcakes and more about kale and quinoa these days.
It’s not easy though. Kate Johns, the director of Nudge PR — a food and drink marketing company that founded Chocolate Week and the Chocolate Show, and has several ‘sweet’ clients on its books — dabbled in a sugar-free diet part-time for a while. She says: “I tried it at the beginning [of 2014]… and went sugar-free on weekdays for a couple of weeks. It did make a difference. I lost a bit of weight, but to get full benefits (better skin, energy, etc), I would have to cut it out entirely and I love cake too much!”
Technically-speaking, most foods can’t be sugar-free as such as they contain naturally occurring sugars; and the ones with refined carbohydrates convert into sugar. So, we’ve rounded up restaurants, bakeries, confectioners and ice cream parlours where you can enjoy foods containing no added refined sugars (but may contain other natural sweeteners instead).
It’s a culinary guide, not a medical one. We believe it’s the first of its kind in London. It demonstrates that you don’t have to miss out just because you’re cutting down on the sweet white stuff.
This guide includes:
- Sugar-free restaurants
- Sugar-free afternoon tea
- Sugar-free bakeries and cake deliveries
- Sugar-free chocolate shops
- Sugar-free confectioners
- Sugar-free ice creams and frozen yoghurts
- Sugar-free cookery classes
Located in Belgravia, this highly acclaimed, swish Modern Indian restaurant always has two sugar-free desserts on its menu: strawberry granita and poached pear. The sweetness derives from the fruits’ own natural sugar.
Although not mentioned on its menu or website, this one-Michelin star Modern Scandinavian restaurant near Marble Arch serves desserts that are low in sugar. “The chef likes using minimum quantities of sugar”, the restaurant confirms. Costing £10.50 each, the desserts include alphonso mango and passion fruit sorbet, Valrhona white chocolate mousse, raspberry granita, and Icelandic skyr (a yoghurt-like dairy product) served with strawberries, vanilla ice cream and rye breadcrumbs.
This legendary Regent Street venue, now a five-star hotel, serves a ‘healthy and vegetarian’ menu in its informal dining space, the Ten Room. All the desserts (£8-£12) are sugarless, and include lime leaf and coconut milk tapioca pudding, a selection of sorbets, ‘chocolate Royal’ pudding, marinated berries, and an exotic fruit plate.
Although this ground-breaking healthy fast food chain doesn’t serve sugar-free dishes, all the savoury and sweet items on the menu are annotated with a symbol indicating whether they’re low GL (glycaemic load is a measure of how much a food item raises your blood sugar level). There’s a large choice of low GL dishes from poached egg pots for breakfast to chorizo burgers for dinner.
RAW at La Suite West
We enthused about this lovely healthy-eating restaurant at La Suite West hotel in Bayswater back in 2014. Their new cranberry and orange cheesecake (£8) has a base made from dates and cashews and the filling is sweetened with maple syrup.
This gourmet raw food restaurant in Notting Hill has an imaginative menu of beautifully-presented dishes from around the world. Sugar-free desserts include fermented blueberry cheesecake (£5) sweetened with maple syrup and coconut sugar, and chocolate ganache tart (£4.50). Their smoothies too are only sweetened with maple syrup, coconut sugar, fresh fruits or dates.
Tucked away in a King’s Cross side street, this cosy though somewhat austere Japanese vegan restaurant is centred on a holistic philosophy of natural foods. It uses no refined sugars on its menu. Instead dishes are sweetened with dates, maple syrup, agave nectar or apple juice. Sugar-free desserts (£3-£4.50) include white sesame and kanten (agar seaweed) jelly, seasonal fruit kanten and a cake made from kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), jujubes and chestnuts, topped with tofu and vanilla cream.
222 Veggie Vegan
Helmed by acclaimed vegan chef Ben Asamani, this hugely popular restaurant has been around for over a decade. Most of the desserts, ranging from tofu cheesecake to tropical fruit salad, have no added sugar; and a few such as the nutty, fragrant, raw ‘spice island pie’ are sweetened with agave nectar. Staff will advise you at the time of ordering.
Very strongly centred on nutrition, Oxford Street’s buzzy ‘free from’ restaurant uses yacon (a Latin American tuber) and palm syrup instead of refined sugars in its dishes. Whether you pop in for raw crackers or ‘living lasagne’, this hyper-healthy restaurant caters for every type of diet.
The Retreat Café at Triyoga Soho
Devised by naturopath, chef and founder Kimberley Parsons, the food at Triyoga Soho’s Retreat Café is free from refined sugars. Items ranging from smoothies and gluten-free granola for breakfast, to sweet treats such as chocolate beetroot cake are sweetened with fresh fruit, naturally sweet vegetables, honey and agave nectar.
Wild Food Café
Ensconced within Covent Garden's Neal’s Yard, this bustling venue focuses on raw, vegan and wild foraged foods. Desserts (£3.50-£7.50) include raw chocolate and berry tart, fig and orange tart, raw chocolate and almond mousse, banana bread, and a regularly changing selection of raw cakes, oven-baked seasonal tarts, and raw chocolates (£1.50-£4). They’re sweetened with coconut sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, dates, dried figs or fresh fruit.
InterContinental Park Lane
The sparkling Wellington Lounge inside this glamorous Mayfair hotel has just launched a Guiltless Afternoon Tea, free from refined sugars. Costing £40, the menu includes a selection of vegetable-centric sandwiches, blueberry and yoghurt chiffon cake made from fresh blueberries and manuka honey, flourless chocolate and mint cake containing fresh spearmint mousse, 70% dark chocolate and agave nectar, and red velvet cake made from quinoa, agave nectar and soft cheese. The red velvet cake also contains a little panela, a jaggery-like unrefined whole cane sugar from Latin America made from sugarcane juice.
The Pantry at 108
Part of the contemporary Marylebone Hotel, the bright, modern Pantry at 108 serves a Healthy Afternoon Tea that’s gluten-free and low-sugar. For a reasonable £28, you can enjoy gluten-free sandwiches and superfood savouries, gluten-free scones with own-made preserves, and cakes in flavours such as coconut and date, pomegranate and banana, and blueberry and cocoa, all sweetened with honey.
This classically decorated 19th century hotel serves highly popular Tea Tox Healthy Afternoon Tea. It’s low-sugar rather than sugar-free, featuring the likes of lime and apple jelly, yoghurt-topped orange cake, and fruit skewers sweetened with either apple juice, xylitol or honey. It costs £41, or £51.50 with a glass of low-calorie champagne.
Fortnum & Mason
The sumptuous Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at this foodies’ favourite department store serves Diabetic Afternoon Tea for £40-£44. It features finger sandwiches, ‘diabetic scones’ and ‘diabetic desserts’ such as fresh fruit with ‘diabetic shortbread’ – but you don’t have to be diabetic to enjoy them!
Bakeries and cake deliveries
Suffused with vintage glamour and particularly in-demand for girlie celebrations, this acclaimed West Hampstead bakery and tea room specialises in ‘free from’ cakes and afternoon tea. It sells sugar-free scones (£1.25 each) and sugar-free apple and date cake (£1.75 per slice) in the bakery; plus there’s the option of ordering sugar-free banana bread in advance. Additionally, the scones and cake feature in their ‘sensitive afternoon tea number 3’, which is entirely sugar-free. Costing £21 per person for a minimum of two people, it includes finger sandwiches, banana, coconut and sultana bites, and fruit salad.
Established for over ten years, this much-loved bakery has branches in Primrose Hill and Covent Garden, and has spawned a number of cookbooks. Regularly available in-store on selected days of the week are quinoa and cocoa cupcakes, sweetened with agave nectar (£3.25 each). They can be ordered online, too, and require a minimum order of twelve. Available by advance order only is lemon and poppy seed bundt cake, sweetened with Natvia. The cost is £3.25 for mini cakes and £27.95 for a whole large one.
Rubys of London
This award-winning vegan patisserie has a weekend stall in Greenwich Market; and their wide selection of beautiful cakes can also be ordered online and delivered all around London. A large number of their products are available in sugar-free options, mostly sweetened with organic agave nectar (or another sweetener of your choice). Imaginative flavours include pomegranate and orange blossom cakes, pistachio and rose cupcakes made with cardamom sponge, spiced carrot, orange and coconut mini loaves with sultanas and walnuts, and large blocks of lavender and rose petal chocolate brownies. Prices vary according to size and quantity.
Owned by two young friends Shadi Geris and Suminder Sandhu, Mr Prempy’s sells raw cakes and chocolates that are free from gluten, dairy, eggs and refined sugars. And it’s the only business we know of which boasts that every single ingredient used is certified organic by the Soil Association. There are whole cakes in seven flavours such as orange and chocolate ganache, and lime and ginger cheesecake (£40); plus their versions of popular chocolate bars amusingly named Bouncy, Ma’s Bars and Snackers (£4 each). Most of the cakes are sweetened with organic pure maple syrup or dried fruit, and the Bouncy Bars with raw acacia honey. The business has a presence in Stoke Newington and Alexandra Palace farmers’ markets and the Chiswick food market; plus the cakes can be ordered online and delivered anywhere in London.
Peace of Cake
Specialising in luxury ‘free from’ cakes, this award-winning business delivers homemade baked goods all over London. Many of the cakes are available in sugar-free options, sweetened with xylitol, stevia or coconut sugar.
Based in Hampstead, ‘free from’ cook Angie South once ran a stall locally, but now operates the business from home. We’re told that delivery decisions are made on an order-by-order basis, or you can pick up directly from her. Choose from banana cake packed with fresh fruit, best-selling sugar-free banana bread, ‘super healthy’ carrot cake, lemon and caraway cake sweetened with maple syrup, sugar-free iced ginger bread sweetened with butternut squash, sugar-free ginger and peach corn muffins and much more. South says she uses a variety of sugar substitutes such as agave nectar, maple syrup, liquid fruit extract and carefully selected artificial sweeteners, depending on what the customer wants or needs, and what works best in a specific recipe.
Cake specialist Ruth Adekoya’s Chingford-based company allows you to order online, though you’ll have to pick up the baked goods yourself. A wide variety of cakes and cupcakes are available in flavours ranging from champagne to bubblegum, many of which are available in sugar-free options, sweetened with honey. Especially suited to celebrations and special occasions, the cakes are decorated with “home-made fresh cream”, and can be filled with no-sugar jam. Sugar-free cupcakes are priced from £3 each, and an 8-inch round sugar-free cake decorated with fresh cream starts from £40.
Artisan du Chocolat
This popular Kent-based chocolatier has shops in Chelsea and Notting Hill, and both sell three types of sugar-free chocolate bars, also available to order online. The unsweetened 100 % chocolate bar is intensely bitter and not for the faint-hearted; and the Angelic sugar-free dark bar and milk bar are sweetened with maltitol.
The chocolates in Chantal Coady’s boutiques in Chelsea, Belgravia and Marylebone are renowned for their distinctive blue and white packaging and extravagant flavour combinations. There’s a smooth low-sugar 56 % dark chocolate bar sweetened with maltitol that costs £4.50, and sugar-free caramelised almonds coated with dark chocolate and cocoa powder priced at £9.50. Their 99 % chocolate bar contains no added sugar, and other bars with high cocoa content such as these are also suitable for those cutting down on their sugar intake.
When Louise Nason opened her chocolate shop in Notting Hill nearly a decade ago, the idea of gourmet chocolate — which we now take for granted — was still relatively new to London. Melt sells a 90g sugar-free dark chocolate bar sweetened with maltitol, priced at £7.75. You can even see the chocolates being made daily in the shop’s own kitchen.
Hotel du Chocolat
This hugely popular chain, which has many shops around London, has a large range of chocolates for diabetics. Note that the chocolates are low-sugar with high cocoa and nut content, rather than no-sugar or made from sugar substitutes. All the ingredients are listed on the website; and prices range from £3.75 to £25.
Originating in Brighton, the chocolate brand renowned for introducing wacky flavours such as chilli and lime pickle to an unsuspecting Britain 15 years ago now has shops in Kingston and Spitalfields. Like a few other chocolatiers we spoke to, they advise those cutting down on sugar to buy high-cocoa 80% and 100% bars.
Hope & Greenwood
This delightful old-fashioned sweet shop sells two sugar-free sweets: cola bottles sweetened with maltitol syrup, and pineapple fizz containing isomalt and Sucralose. Both cost £2.50, and can be bought online, or in their Covent Garden shop.
Shayona Sweet Shop
Located by the Hindu temple, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden is a Gujarati vegetarian restaurant Shayona, an Indian grocer and a small shop selling Indian sweets (‘mithai’) and savouries. Like many other Indian mithai shops, this too sells a couple of sugar-free versions of traditional sweets, including khajoor pak (made from dates) and anjeer pak (from dried figs). Both are richly fudgy – and you won’t miss the sugar.
Ice cream and frozen yoghurts
This highly popular, acclaimed international chain, which has just opened a store in Covent Garden, sells a low-sugar yoghurt-based gelato with daily-changing flavours, available as a scoop or a sundae. Additionally, you can order any of the flavours, such as mango or lemon, in sugar-free versions (£15.99/ litre; minimum order 1 litre), sweetened with fructose. The brand is also currently working on a stevia-based range, which will launch shortly.
This acclaimed, award-winning Italian gelato chain has several branches in London. They sell a sugar-free banana sorbet, sweetened with isomalt.
This kids’ favourite high street chain offers a no added sugar pineapple and coconut ice cream featuring pineapple chunks, sweetened with naturally occurring sugars in the fruit and artificial sweeteners.
Whether you like to top your frozen yoghurt with pistachios or passion fruit, all Snog yoghurts are sweetened with agave syrup, and contain no refined sugars. The chain has several branches in London.
Additionally, you can buy a good selection of sugar substitutes and low-sugar foods in popular London-wide health food chains such as As Nature Intended, Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic and Holland & Barrett. Also look out for the annual Natural Food Show at ExCel (19-20 April) and the Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia (3-5 July) for ideas, inspiration, tips and trends in sugar-free eating.
Do you know of any other places in London where good quality sugar-free or low-sugars foods are available? Let us know in the comments below.