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Beyond Bread – Gluten-Free Gourmet Cafe:
By Deborah Tarrant
If you are a coeliac or have an intolerance to wheat/gluten you get used to having to check everything or saying ‘no thanks’ when you’re offered food you can’t eat. So, it was such a pleasure to try everything that was offered when I went to the pre-launch event of Beyond Bread’s venture into being an evening restaurant.
Beyond Bread is a completely gluten-free bakery and cafe. Based in Upper Street Islington they have an extensive menu of breads, pastries, cakes and brunch dishes. They also have another cafe in Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia. They are audited and approved by the Coeliac Society so you can be absolutely sure there are no risks of that pesky gluten cropping up anywhere. Even their drinks are completely gluten-free.
The restaurant is set in a lively part of North London very close to the beautiful Union Chapel which hosts many good gigs and concerts. It is modern with clean lines and uncluttered, a comfortably chic interior. There is a serving area at the front which leads into a mix of high bar areas with stalls and small wooden tables and seating. It also has a small outdoor space to the rear.
When my partner and I arrived, we were offered a drink from the selection of gluten-free beers and cocktails. Peter had a Peroni and I tried the vodka and elderflower cocktail. I later discovered that vodka has gluten in it so they had sourced and served a gluten-free version. Less about the booze though as we were told the evening was “all about the food”.
The first offering were cheesy breadsticks, plain and poppy seed versions. I am so conditioned to saying no to bread I hesitated when we were offered them. And then I remembered I could indulge myself. And then I was in food heaven, I had not expected them to be quite so good.
My first sensation was the lightness and crispness as I took my first bite, followed by a rich cheesy flavour and then the melt in the mouth finish. And before you think this is only because I’ve been deprived for so long Peter (who is not gluten-free) said they were the best breadsticks he’d ever tasted. High praise from a man with high food standards.
Next up was a selection of Artisan Flat Bread Pizzas.
Not your average round style cut into triangles but a rustic oval-shaped pizza cut into bit size pieces. Just as a good pizza should be…crispy edges, light base and loaded with mouthwatering fresh ingredients. The pizzas included one with black forest ham, tomato and oregano sauce, buffalo mozzarella, baby spinach, red and yellow tomatoes and another with lamb merguez, piquillo peppers, rucola leaf and basil oil.
As Peter is vegetarian I left him to sample the veggie one of smoked mozzarella, goats cheese, creamed butternut squash, minted courgetti, grilled artichokes. It looked amazing and tasted it too.
A large selection of Sliders (mini burgers) was the next delight.
I tried the pulled pork, summer slaw and cheddar melt first which was good. My favourite though was the chicken in chipotle sauce, guacamole and smoked chilli Fontana melt. The little buns were just the right amount of crispiness on top and not a hint of the normal doughiness that a lot of burger buns have. Peter tried the veggie option which was filled with yummy chargrilled veg, tahini dressing, Mont Enebro goats cheese melt and he raved about the bun too.
We finished the savouries with a mixed platter of meats, cheeses and dips accompanied with warm flat bread and a variety of crackers.
It’s also a test of a good restaurant if there is enough of a variety for veggies to eat, often a problem, especially with canapés. Pete wasn’t disappointed at all! All of the food was served on solid wood platters and presented to a high standard. I hope the food is served like this in the restaurant as it added to the experience and enforced the natural approach.
During the evening we chatted to Elena, the owner, who was so inspiring as she is determined to stay true to her vision for the best gluten free products. She is passionate about good healthy food and is not prepared to compromise her standards of the highest quality ingredients and creations. She and her team of top chefs are always challenging the status quo.
I shared my concern that a lot of shop gluten-free products have so many ingredients in them and include lots of chemicals and preservatives. I’ve always been acutely aware that in an attempt to remove something that doesn’t suit your body and be healthy you can put in more things that aren’t good for you from the substitutes, which really defeats the objective. So, I was pleased when the Beyond Bread managers told us this story. A supermarket gluten-free cake was shown to their chefs and asked how many ingredients they thought it contained. At their best guess, knowing what would normally be required, they got to 15 or so. In fact, there were 31 and they were shocked and believe this unnecessary. Beyond Bread’s aim is to have the least ingredients possible in their food which are produced in their own bakery in Chiswick. They constantly seek to perfect their products. As they use only essential ingredients the products are best eaten fresh. I can’t imagine they would hang around long anyway!
And after all those savouries it was time for the sweets, and again, it is a rare treat to have the choice of several desserts. On the counter, there was carrot cake, red velvet cake, chocolate cake, New York cheesecake and an orange and polenta cake. I opted for the NY cheesecake which was divine and possibly one of the best I’ve tasted. (NB, I haven’t always been gluten-free so have tried many a cake and dessert in the past!)
The base was light and crispy with a rich creamy thick yet light topping. I also naughtily shared a carrot cake which was also lovely, moist and tasty. To judge by other guests’ reactions the rest of the desserts must have been good too.
We had a lovely evening meeting the creators of this new restaurant and left both sated and impressed. It will be somewhere I am sure to return to. This new dining venture truly goes ‘Beyond Bread’ delivering a dazzling array of sweets and savouries that will impress discerning foodies whether gluten-free or not.
267 Upper Street London N1 2UQ
+44 (0) 2071 833 213
New opening times from June 1st:
Monday – Wednesday 8.30 – 5pm
Thursday and Friday 8.30 – 9pm (Last orders)
Saturday and Sunday 9am – 9pm (Last orders)