Sunday 25 January 2015

Selfridges, Beyond Bread Bakery and Cookies & Scream: A Gluten Free Day in London

I’ve had a list of gluten free places to visit in London for a while, and last weekend I persuaded my mum to come with me on a gluten free day trip to London to investigate. We set off bright and early and arrived in London just after 9am accompanied by a flurry of snow. Our first stop was Selfridges, the posh department store known for their gourmet food section. I’d heard tell that they now offered a range of gluten free cakes and pastries so it was with eager anticipation that we set off.

On arrival at Selfridges we spent a happy half an hour taking in their glorious chocolate and confectionary displays. Everything was so nicely presented and ranged from French macarons in beautiful pastel shades to individually wrapped bars and brightly coloured bonbons.

Next up was the cakes and pastry section. The smell as you entered the room was wonderful. Freshly baked bread and stunning displays of delicate French pastries and glossy fruit topped cakes. I could only look on enviously as my mum purchased some delicious looking bread to take home. I was eager to see what the gluten free offerings would be and asked an assistant to point me in their direction. I had high hopes after seeing the ‘normal’ displays.

So imagine my disappointment when I was shown the gluten free selection…

Well that about sums it up. Not much of a display at all! A few chocolate sandwich cakes, that looked a little haphazardly put together with no decoration or attention to detail given to them at all. There wasn’t even any icing on top! Underwhelmed (and undervalued) is an understatement!

The assistant could see I was disappointed and said they were going to get some more in later in the day, but that’s no good to me. It was mid morning on a Saturday – I expected more than this. I left cakeless.

They did have a small display of fresh gluten free pasta – which I was tempted by as I’ve never seen gluten free ravioli in my life, but as it was the first stop on our journey and they needed to be kept chilled, I decided not to buy any on this occasion.

I love this display of Heinz tomato soup though. What a genius idea. A perfect little cheer up gift for a loved one who’s feeling under the weather.

Next stop was Beyond Bread. A brand new, entirely gluten free bakery and café that only opened this month. The minute I heard about it and saw their baked treats I knew I had to visit.

It’s a lovely little bakery hidden down a side street not too far from Goodge tube stop. On entering you are greeted by the delicious aroma of freshly baked breads and cakes. The shop has a collection of little tables and chairs as well as a long counter displaying the freshly baked tarts, cookies, cakes and breads on offer.

We decided to stay for cake and coffee. We couldn’t decided what to get so decided to share half each of two cakes. I selected the chocolate muffin and my mum went for the orange & almond cake.

The chocolate muffin had a slightly misshapen appearance which hides an almost gooey chocolaty middle. It was still warm from the oven – yes that’s right, a chocolate muffin so freshly baked it was still warm, soft and melty inside. Wow.

The texture was part muffin, part brownie, part soft centered chocolate cake. It had a soft, slightly chewy outer edge with a moist rich middle that was ever so slightly squishy, not uncooked, more like a softly set chocolate brownie. We both agreed it was delicious and you’d never know it was gluten free.

The orange and almond cake was quite dense but had a delicious zingy orange flavour. It was studded with chunks or almonds which gave it a nice bite rather than being made with solely ground almonds. There was a zingy orange icing sugar glaze on top which finished it nicely. It was slightly crumbly, but not dry, more like a cross between cake and shortbread.

While we finished out tea I had a look at the other things on offer and was very impressed to see gluten free baguettes on offer. I’ve never seen a freshly baked gluten free baguette in my life. It had the proper slashes on it and even the little dimpled bottom markings where it had sat on its tray – just like regular baguettes. I was so impressed. I bought one to take home and it was delicious.

It had a proper chewy springy outer crust while the middle was light and airy. I had some for tea and then toasted the rest the next day and it was fabulous. I’d love to know how they made it. It even smelt like real bread. Gluten free breads can often smell strongly of vinegar or molasses, but this smelt wonderfully yeasty and bready. I can’t wait to go back to try some more of their offerings. I’ve even seen photos of gluten free Danish pastries – DANISH PASTRIES!!! I can safely say I’ll be returning as much as possible.

Next on our whirlwind tour of London was Camden Lock Market. I’d never been before and it is an amazing display of just how multicultural and exciting London can be. Walking through a brick built entrance from the main street you are suddenly immersed in a whole different world of little shops, street food traders, interlocking underground passageways and great swarms of people. (If you’re one of those people who don’t like crowds, this isn’t the place for you).

We spent a happy hour wandering around taking in the sights, sounds and smells. We even got a little lost down some of the alleyways and couldn’t find our way out again. It was so exciting. Some of the little shops displayed carved wooden antiques while others had swaths of brightly coloured shawls and shoes that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the souks or Morocco.

When we found our way out again and came across the street food market we decided to have lunch. There were at least 4 places offering gluten free options and if you have no dietary restrictions you would be spoilt for choice – everything from dim sum, stir fired noodles, gourmet toasted sandwiches, burgers, burritos, mediterranean salads, Turkish falafel, cupcakes and even a dedicated mac n cheese stall. The assortment of smells, and wafts of smoke was so exciting.

After wandering round each stall at least 3 times I finally decided on a hot salad box from a stall called Feed Me Primal. It was all Paleo and Gluten Free. I chose the vegetarian box which included a warm stir fry of cauliflower, beetroot and carrot with lemon and herbs that was topped with fresh spinach, cheese, spicy salsa, picked chilies and a little almond and coconut pancake wrap. It was all very tasty and lovely and fresh.

My mum went for a gourmet toasted sandwich from Toastits. This had sun dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spinach, avocado and basil sandwiched between 2 slices of toasted sourdough bread. She loved it and said the bread was particularly delicious. It was so big she couldn’t quite finish it. Despite the cold we sat outside on communal picnic benches, watching the hustle and bustle around us which made for a great atmosphere.

After lunch it was treat time again and we managed to find Cookies & Scream, a gluten and dairy free vegan bake shop. It was a tiny little shop front hidden in the market. There was a selection of 2 pies and 3 cookies when we visited.

We decided to share a chocolate chip cookie and a slice of Chico Pie which was a fat slice of peanut butter cookie dough, studded with chocolate chips and shaped into a pie.

The chocolate chip cookie was ok. It had a lovely strong vanilla aroma, but I found the texture to be a bit lacking. It was quite firm, neither chewy nor crispy. Perfectly nice, but nothing special.

The Chico Pie was much better. It really was a thick slab of peanut butter cookie dough, and was just as delicious as it sounds. Very rich, but not too sweet with a great natural peanut flavour. I loved the chunks of chocolate in it too. We were quite full after our lunch and so bought this home with us and enjoyed it the next day.

So all in all a wonderfully food filled gluten free day. The gold star goes to Beyond Bread for creating gluten free heaven with real innovation of the treats and breads they offer. I can’t wait to try some more of their baking.


The Caked Crusader said...

It's great such places exits - if you compare it to only 5 years ago when gluten free was viewed as a fad you realise just how far we've come

Johanna GGG said...

That baguette sounds amazing - and it looks the real mccoy! Love hearing about your day in London - you really fitted in a lot. Shame to hear that selfridges didn't have much on offer (I would have been worried the the pasta had squid ink in it - did you check by any chance because it looked so pretty?) and You make me wish I had spent more time at camden market - I don't remember it that favourably but maybe the crowds stopped me exploring as much as I should have (and it was many years ago so maybe there have been changes???)

Issi said...

So glad you had a good experience at Beyond Bread to make up for the disappointing one at Selfridges! Not as central, but you can also find the WAGfree cakes and pastries at Vozar's in Brixton Market, which is a fun place to visit in itself.


Obat Herbal Glaukoma said...

great post,,
so good , very like this cakes

Kelly Michelle said...

That is so disappointing of Selfridges as I've seen photos of the cakes on display and it looked incredible! Oh my goodness that baguette looks wonderful - will check it out next time Im in London x