131 Marion St Leichhardt, NSW 2040
|Opening hours||Wed-Fri 6:30am-noon, Sat-Sun 8am-1pm (or until sold out)|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Gluten-free options, Family friendly, Breakfast-brunch, Cheap, Food shop, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||02 9564 0539|
You won't find a trace of wheat in the pastries at Sebastien Sans Gluten. Instead chef/owner Sebastien Syidalza is using rice flour – and a bank of memories – as the foundation for his gluten-free creations.
The pear and almond tart, for instance, will transport you back to his childhood in France. "My mum was a single mum with four kids," he says. "We didn't have much money."
His school friends would pool their coins together to buy one item from a suburban Paris bakery they could share: a pear almond tart, sweet with fruit pieces, almond cream and a good crust. They'd alternate bites until the tart was gone. Sebastien Sans Gluten's version is smaller, not big enough to pass among mates, which might be a plus, as you'd want each nutty, pear-fresh bite to yourself.
Syidalza's carrot cake, sweetened with a hit of orange and studded with walnuts, is a throwback to his chef days in London. "I discovered what carrot cake was in the UK, in my late 20s," he recalls.
His icing is applied with enthusiasm and generosity – like a bricklayer setting the foundation for a building meant to last centuries, instead of a standard cream cheese portion. "I cut my cake in six, they are really generous portions," he says of the carrot cake. "I understand for some people it can be really scary. But at the same time. I'm not telling you to eat the whole thing in one go."
The lavish filling is welcome and a reminder that this bakery may be gluten-free, but it's not a health shop. Accordingly, his lemon tart is topped with a giant, airy swirl of meringue, and flavoured with a lot of history. "I made that lemon cream 20 years ago and this followed me everywhere I went," he says.
Syidalza's career path has taken him around the world: resort kitchens in Egypt and the Alps, and the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, where pensioners were kept happy with servings of their favourite ice-cream with custard.
After relocating to Sydney with his Australian partner, he ended up at Waverley's Wholegreen Bakery, where each item is gluten-free. Here, he spent half a year perfecting a croissant without gluten's springiness. "In six months, I reckon I threw away 1000 croissants," Syidalza says.
Eventually he nailed it, and Sebastien Sans Gluten offers updated riffs on his recipe, from a pain au chocolat to a savoury croissant spiced with za'atar, packed with cheese, grilled eggplant and a fresh piping of hummus.
It's excellent, as is pretty much anything you'll try here. The pastries are so well made and butter-rich, they stand on their own. You'll be a fan, whether you're coeliac or enjoy classic gluten-crafted tarts, pies and croissants.
Thanks to his Wholegreen Bakery stint, Syidalza has amassed a strong following of wheat-avoiding diners, and Sebastien Sans Gluten has been popular since its March opening. People have queued from 6am. The store has sold out at 10am.
People have travelled from as far as the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley to stock up. Demand has, at times, been tricky to keep up with. "I was sleeping two hours a day sometimes," the chef says.
But when you try a sugar-sprinkled cinnamon scroll, fruit-rich plum tart or eggplant-filled beef pie here, you get it. You don't even need friends to share them with (or a pocketful of saved coins) to understand that Sebastien Sans Gluten is worth a bite.
Vibe A wonderful array of gluten-free fruit tarts, croissants, pies and quiches by an experienced French pastry chef in a casual bakery setting.
Insta-worthy dish The mega-sized carrot cake, filled with a slab of cream cheese and topped with more icing and walnuts.