One out of the box: Soju Girl cocktail at Soju Girl bar, Civic.
One out of the box: Soju Girl cocktail at Soju Girl bar, Civic. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Scherry Bloul

The gluten-free diet is proving to be quite a popular trend. Both Coles and Woolworths have entire aisles dedicated to gluten-free products and their own gluten-free brands. Many eateries nationwide offer gluten-free alternatives.

For people with coeliac disease this trend means they no longer have to ask the waiter to decipher the complex ingredients within meals. Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disorder that causes the body to react abnormally to a protein, gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. For people who suffer from the disease, it's not a fad or a trend. It is more than an intolerance. It can cause problems serious enough for hospitalisation and it can never be cured.

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease more than 15 years ago when there were few options for dining or eating out. The term "gluten-free" was almost unheard of at Canberra's cafes and restaurants. My mother was French. I came from a family that loved pastries, croissants, couscous and quiche lorraine. The adjustment to food without gluten was hard. 

Tempting treats from Sweet Bones Bakery in Lonsdale Street.
Tempting treats from Sweet Bones Bakery in Lonsdale Street. Photo: Jay Cronan

There was no such thing as gluten-free bread so Mum had to do a lot of research to find flour to bake loaves for me. She had to make the bread out of hard-to-find tapioca flour and the resulting loaf would resemble a crumbling mound once sliced.

Then came the outings to restaurants, trips to friends' houses and parties. Explaining that I was "gluten free" was easy – I couldn't eat anything with wheat. But invariably mistakes were made, trips to the doctor followed and embarrassments endured.

It's much easier now to tell people I'm gluten-free and I don't have to put up with crumbling tapioca bread sandwiches. Now, most restaurants and cafes offer gluten-free options and a friendly-to-read symbol "GF". Below is a list of my favourite places to eat and not worry about potential gluten attacks.

RESTAURANTS

ELK AND PEA

Elk and Pea has a elaborate choice of gluten-free options and are also willing to alter their dishes. The menu offers a variety of tasty dishes inspired by Mexico and the Caribbean. And three out of their four desserts are gluten-free, a rarity. The tacos are a must. Also, the gluten-free bread Elk and Pea offers looks and tastes deceptively like "normal" bread. 21 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, ph 6162 0222. elkandpea.com.au 

EIGHTY/TWENTY

A new favourite, Eighty/twenty has a range of fresh salads, mains and desserts, most of which are coeliac-friendly. The menu changes each week but on a recent trip it included roast pumpkin and chickpea salad, raw cacao and coffee smoothies and bliss balls. 1/18 Lonsdale St, Braddon, ph 6247 2866. eightytwentyfood.com.au 

SOJU GIRL

The Asian-inspired menu means there are lots of options for people with coeliac disease. A personal favourite is lightly-seared tuna on top of futomaki (a Japanese roll) and seaweed salad with a hint of wasabi mayonnaise which teases the palate. 41/43-45 Northbourne Avenue, ph 6257 5328.

OTHER FAVOURITES

Some other high-end favourites are Morks, C-Dine at the Kingston Foreshore. Artisan in Narrabundah, Courgette and Sage in Civic. All are practically without gluten in their menus and generally accommodate to allergies. 

CAFES

AS NATURE INTENDED

My absolute favourite place to eat. The cafe is nestled within an organic grocer. As you walk in the door, the very air you breathe feels healthy. The coeliac will find many things to eat here and the menu can be easily catered to your needs. I particularly love the apricot hazelnut meringue cake, which brings back memories of childhood. Belconnen Markets, Lathlain Street, Belconnen. Ph 6253 0444.

RICARDO'S CAFE

Ricardo's cafe can make anything nearly any dish gluten-free and also has a good choice of GF cakes and sweet things. A must try is the macarons. Jamison Plaza Bowman Street, Macquarie. Ph 6251 2666  ricardoscafe.com 

DEEKS BAKERY AND CAFE

A coeliac's idea of heaven. Everything is gluten-free: pies, pastries and a variety of cakes. Shop 4, Pearce Shops Hodgson Crescent, Pearce. Ph 6286 9444 or Dickson Place, Dickson. Ph 6247 8283

OTHER CAFES

Gus' in Civic, Urban Pantry and ONA in Manuka and Rainbow Dreams in Dickson offer good gluten-free sandwiches. 

FAST FOOD

THR1VE

An option that won't break the bank but is completely gluten-free. The menu, based on the paleo diet, is healthy and cooked to order. It is perfect for the health conscious Canberran. Shop EG06, Ground Level, Bunda Street, Canberra Centre. Ph 6247 5555. thr1ve.me 

GUZMAN Y GOMEZ

Another fast-food option is this Mexican food chain. Its menu is mostly gluten-free and where bread is used, such as in the burrito tortillas, you can opt for a burrito bowl instead. Belconnen Westfield and The Canberra Centre guzmanygomez.com 

SWEET THINGS

Dolce and Salato in Civic, Sweet Bones in Braddon and Paleo Perfection at the Kingston Foreshore offer a great variety of treats which are hard to resist.