'Gluten-free dining' doesn't need to be a synonym for 'salad'. London's demand for gluten-free food has rocketed and now pizzas, lasagnas and pies all come suitable for coeliacs. Here is the comfort food — you know, the cheese-topped, piping hot or chocolate-stuffed sort — to warm the cockles of even a gluten-avoider's heart.
What restaurants mean by 'gluten-free' varies, with some pizza joints, for example, using gluten free flour but the same oven as their usual pizzas — so they aren't suitable for coeliacs. All of the places we've chosen, on top of turning out great food, should be happy to answer questions about their ingredients and cooking methods.
See our article on London's best gluten-free dining here for more advice and inspiration to keep your gluten-free eating experience safe, stress-free — and most importantly — delicious.
Gluten-free brownies at The Free From Bakehouse
Brownies, blondies, Black Forest or Red Velvet — the gluten-free decadence being sold at this bakery's Borough Market stall comes in a range of colours and flavours. There's an impressive number of great gluten-free desserts on offer in London, but a comfort food round-up wouldn't be complete without some chocolate in there.
Make The Free From Bakehouse's toasted nut brownie your gluten-free — and soft, chewy, rich — comfort food of choice and you'll never look back. And be aware that buying a sharing bag of them doesn't constitute an obligation to share them. Just saying.
Gluten-free pizza-topped butterbean stew at Sodo Pizza
Pizza-topped anything is always going to be a winner on comfort food lists, so it's extra exciting that Sodo offers this twist on the gluten-free pizza. They'll do their usual pizza toppings but rather than sitting them on a base, instead they swap it out for a butterbean stew baked in the oven.
A hot, rich, bean stew — already ticking a lot of comfort food boxes — topped with everything you'd usually get on the Jon Bon Chovy pizza (tomato, mozzarella, anchovies, capers and chilli) or one of their meatier nduja or ham-topped specials. Stew meets pizza, what a momentous thing.
Sodo Pizza has restaurants in Clapton, Bethnal Green, Hoxton and Walthamstow.
Gluten-free pasta at Sfoglia Bologna
A true neighbourhood Italian, this little eatery near Aldgate East takes great care with their homemade pasta offerings, says Londonist's Ruth Hargreaves. And the homemade factor doesn't just mean their fare is fresh and delicious — it also means it can be enjoyed gluten-free on request.
A glance at their pasta menu will set mouths a-drooling and hearts a-pounding, as every single (every single!) pasta can be made gluten-free in a separate kitchen. Creamy classic carbonara? Gluten-free. Hearty bolognese pasta? Gluten-free. Gorgonzola-stuffed tortellini with caramelised pears? It's only bloomin' well gluten-free. Round it off with a gluten-free chocolate souffle for desert and you've just found the perfect excuse to stuff your face with pasta every darn night of the week.
Sfoglia Bologna, 3 Middlesex Street, E1 7AA.
Gluten-free pie at Pieminister
A pie lives and dies on the quality of the pastry, which makes gluten-free pies a risky enterprise. Fortunately Pieminister is serving gluten-free versions of three of its best - the Moo pie, the Heidi and the Ranger.
The Ranger is a classic: chicken and ham with leeks, while the Heidi pie with goats cheese, sweet potato and spinach is a supremely veggie treat with ooze in all the right places. But it's the Moo — a steak and ale pie made with gluten-free craft ale — that just inches the competition. Why? The wholesome gravy turns the pastry from good into great.
Pieminister has branches in Clerkenwell, Borough Market and Gabriel's Wharf.
Gluten-free parmesan and cheddar doughnuts at Niche
It's difficult to pick a favourite at Niche — this EC1R restaurant is totally gluten-free and a pleasantly large number of dishes on the menu also count as comfort food. A lot of strong contenders for first place.
Will it be sausages and mash (and not just any old sausages, sausages with smoked pork, beef, paprika and treacle)? Buttermilk fried chicken? Beef short rib slow-cooked in beer? Tiramisu cheesecake? They're all worthy contenders, but the two-cheese simplicity of their parmesan and cheddar doughnuts is a winner for gluten-free diners. Heck, it's also a winner for anyone who likes doughnuts and cheese. Which is pretty much everyone, right?
Niche, 197-199 Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4 TJ.
Gluten-free fish and chips at Hobson's
Fish and chips has long been a stumbling block for coeliac diners on the hunt for comfort food, because that yummy, crispy batter? So often it's not gluten-free. But London chippies are cottoning onto the need to cater for all diets and there's a welcome rise in the number who offer gluten-free meals.
Over in Bayswater, Hobson's is showing us how it's done, says Londonist writer Ruth Hargreaves. Here, an entire gluten-free batter menu is the stuff of dreams and filled with tempting treats like deep-fried mars bar, onion rings, warm apple crumble and the obligatory fish and chips that probably brought you here in the first place.
Hobson's, 9 Porchester Road, W2 5DP.
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Gluten-free stuffed arancini at Leggero
Everything at this Italian restaurant in Soho is gluten-free, which is bloody marvellous. But for peak Italian comfort food, you've got to go for one of the stuffed delights. Yes it's hard to pass up the chance to gorge on homemade pastas, but when you get your teeth into the crepes stuffed with aubergine, tomato and mozzarella, or some crispy arancini packed full of meaty bolognese sauce, you won't be looking back.
But if pasta is a must, opt for a steaming plate of chestnut pappardelle with mushroom and truffle oil. Double cream can be added for extra indulgence, and it really hits that sweet spot where comfort food meets full-on decadence.
Leggero, 64 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UQ and also at Mercato Metropolitano, 42 Newington Causeway, SE1 6DR.
Gluten-free pizza at Zia Lucia
Keeping things stress-free and gluten-free, Zia Lucia has no less than four dough options available. There's the traditional, vegetable charcoal, wholemeal and — praise be — gluten-free. This means no pizza on the menu is out of bounds. No surprise, then, the restaurants already has a loyal following.
For the traditionalists there's the nduja — tomato, mozzarella, spicy sausage. For those wanting to mess with all laws of man and pizza, there's the Andrea Pirlo — mozzarella, gorgonzola, apple and truffle and olive sauce. For the intrepid.
Zia Lucia, 157 Holloway Road, N7 8LX and also in Hammersmith.
Gluten-free duck and waffle at Duck and Waffle
The cooking methods mean Duck & Waffle labels its waffle options as 'gluten-conscious' rather than gluten-free. Basically, everything's cooked in the same kitchen so they can't rule out gluten traces in their dishes. But their staff are incredibly helpful and if you're alright with that, the insanely decadent signature dish with confit leg of duck, fried duck egg and maple syrup is an option.
It's a comforting treat at any time of day, but this sky-high restaurant is open 24 hours a day and we're not sure that there's anything much more indulgent that whizzing up to the 40th floor to watch the sunrise over London with a gluten-free waffle in hand.
Duck and Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 44AY.