A snapshot of restaurants bringing innovation and excellence to allergen-free cuisines
In recent years, greater public awareness of allergies and intolerances has led to the rise in popularity of so-called “free-from” products. These foods are made without common allergens such as dairy, eggs or wheat, and have taken off at unprecedented rates, largely because “gluten-free” is no longer an unreasonable request.
Hosted by the Foods Matter team, the allergy resource site, the Free-From Eating Out Awards were created to encourage innovation and celebrate excellence in this rapidly flourishing industry. The taste and appearance of the food is, of course, taken into consideration; but judges also award gold, silver or bronze reports, depending on how well they can safely cater for people with allergies.
With nine categories and more than 90 mouth-watering nominees, here’s a look at the shortlist:
Established in 1979, this Cambridge cafe is named after the classic ballad ‘Over the Rainbow’. For the owners, that means a place without cruelty.
The cafe is totally vegetarian and vegan, and specialises in producing food that caters for intolerances and allergies.
They use sustainable, seasonal, local and largely organic ingredients; they also recycle everything possible. Leftovers are taken home, and even plate scrapings are recycled to the owner’s large flock of chickens.
The Rainbow has been runner-up in the 2014 Observer Food Awards and for Best Ethical Restaurant 2015, as well as a finalist in two categories at the 2015 Free-From Eating Out Awards.
“The service was top-notch throughout the entire meal. I was very impressed. They really understood every kind of allergy – and gluten-free. The food was amazing. The lasagne was honestly divine – and oh my – the mint chocolate cheesecake… Very good value – and nothing was too much effort.”
In creating his menu for Indigo, in Covent Garden, chef Dominic Teague bridges a deep respect for British tradition with gentle invention.
He’s committed to careful sourcing and his menu includes an array of foraged foods and forgotten flavours.
In a recent refurbishment of the Indigo, Teague cut both gluten and dairy completely from his lunch and dinner menus, without diners noticing any difference in the taste, texture
or appearance of the food.
Signature mains at Mommi are delicate and bursting with flavour, including organic Rhug Estate lamb rump with samphire, smoked aubergine and capers; and fillet of Brixham brill with Chantenay carrots, confit king oyster mushroom and red wine jus.
Desserts feature decadent Valrhona chocolate mousse and a seasonally-changing Pavlova.
“The food is fantastic – each dish sampled offered something special.”
Owner, Tanya, was diagnosed as coeliac while living in Singapore, which means everything she cooks must be gluten-free. However, when setting up Knife & Fork, in Deddington, she decided not to advertise the fact, for fear of putting potential diners off.
For Tanya, gluten-free cooking is a creative challenge. Rather than trying to replicate a “normal” diet, she takes inspiration from gluten-free dishes.
“So understanding and knowledgeable – nothing was too much trouble. The food was stunning. The flavours put together for the evening meal were outstanding – including the most amazing apricot marshmallow which was huge!”*
Drawing on the vibrancy of US foodie capital Miami, the eclecticism of LA’s Venice Beach, the upbeat rhythms of South America, and the refinement of Japan, MOMMI brings together in Clapham a melting pot of potent flavours into one unique destination restaurant.
Pin-sharp attention to detail has gone into creating a singular dining experience, from drinks to dinner and even to the dance floor – because the eatery is not only a restaurant; they also have DJs and live music. And they exhibit art – currently showing Ben Watts, brother of Hollywood A-lister Naomi Watts. The owners recently collaborated with artist R-O-N-E who created a mural for the restaurant.
“So impressed with their level of staff training and flexibility. They were extremely welcoming and already had a record of my needs (coeliac and nut allergic). All staff were aware and checked back several times. This is a seriously exciting place to eat – the high quality ingredients, the combinations of ingredients, textures and flavours – all were simply fantastic. Incredible food in a fabulous environment.”