Hong Kong: The Gluten Free Suitcase Guide

This year I took my very first trip to Asia to visit a friend in Hong Kong. A city full to the brim with amazing Dim Sum and other traditionally glutenous treats, I was sceptical about just how well I would eat when I was there. I had heard endless reports of just how hard it is to come across safe gluten free options and so took it upon myself to research every single place I would be eating. What happened? I ended finding some amazing places and never went hungry. From Dim Sum to Venezuelan Empanadas, from crepes to epic toasties – Hong Kong really does have it all! Check out my guide for a number of options within Hong Kong itself and a bonus addition for Macao, which is just an hour’s ferry ride away and well worth a trip.

Sweetpea Cafe

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Officially Hong Kong’s sole 100% spot, Sweetpea Cafe really found a gap in the market. This gorgeous little cafe is hidden away in the hilly streets of Hong Kong Central and has a menu with more options than you would think from the size of the place itself. Get ready to be wowed by the impressive cake counter as soon as you walk into the shop, which offers a selection of vegan and sugar free cakes too. The sandwiches here are all delicious, and individually made to order, including a selection of toasties. However be warned, Sweetpea Cafe works on a cash only basis and prices are high as, unsurprisingly, gluten free products are hard to source in Hong Kong. I thought this was a great shame however as I would have quite happily eaten breakfast here most days had it been more affordable. Definitely a must-visit, if for nothing more than a wonderful slice of cake and a latte with homemade nut mylk! Closed on Mondays.

Where?
4 Shin Hing Street
Hong Kong Central

Fresca

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Another Hong Kong Central find, Fresca offers up healthy breakfast and lunch options which you can either enjoy in-store or to go. Fresca is most known for its amazing salad bar, which boasts many gluten free options that can be mixed and matched for a decent sized lunch. The cafe also offers several gluten free sweet treats however, which are widely advertised. Their steamed muffins come in several flavours and are made using all natural ingredients. I opted for salted caramel, which paired nicely with a coffee. The gluten free crepes are undoubtedly the yummiest thing on the menu at Fresca however, and come stuffed with either banana and nutella or baked apples and summer berries. Closed on Mondays.

Brickhouse

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Everyone headed to Hong Kong must put one night aside to head to Brickhouse where nearly all tacos are gluten free! Even better, if you go on Monday or Tuesday, the restaurant has a great deal on tacos between 6pm and 8pm and always has a delicious taco of the month on offer. Several starters are also gluten free – just be sure to ask a member of staff for guidance on the menu. Brickhouse fills up pretty quickly most nights so get there early to avoid disappointment. We were lucky enough to sit at the bar in front of the chefs and so got to watch all our delicious food being prepared (which is basically my version of being in a toy shop). Don’t forget to wash your food down with several of the house margaritas – they’re fantastic! Closed on Sundays.

Where?
20 D’Aguilar Street
Hong Kong Central

Yardbird

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For the most delicious rice dishes you’ll try during your entire stay, head straight to Yardbird. This chicken-lovers paradise is located in the bustling Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong and pays great attention to dietary requirements. A number of rice dishes – including the unbeatable Chicken Rice – are gluten free and both incredibly filling and good value for money. While the fried chicken on offer at Yardbird is also gluten free, it is not coeliac safe due to cross contamination and the use of a shared fryer. While this was heartbreaking to learn at first, I quickly got over it when I received my main and a delicious steaming bowl of edamame beans. Top marks for both food and the general vibe at this Soho hotspot. Closed on Sundays.

Where?
154-158 Wing Lok Street
Sheung Wan
Hong Kong

Picada

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I did not expect to find so much amazing Latin American food in Hong Kong but I really hit the jackpot with Picada. Not only does this restaurant offer an amazing variety of meat and fish dishes as main courses, but an impressive starter selection too including (lo and behold) gluten free fried chicken AND gluten free empanadas. Of course we had to order both and we were by no means disappointed. It was hard to believe the fried chicken was gluten free and the empanadas were not only beautiful (pink, green and yellow) but each and every one delicious. Picada also has a delicious selection of cocktails and live music on the weekends – what’s not to like? Closed on Saturdays.

Where?
2F & 3F LKF 29 Building
29 Wyndham Street
Hong Kong Central

Madame Fu

I was told that gluten free dim sum was not a thing. Whoever told me this was oh so wrong. Madame Fu – a beautiful eatery tucked away in the brand new Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts – offers a fully gluten free menu to diners upon request which includes a selection of phenomenal dim sum. A little on the pricier side, this restaurant also has a selection of gluten free main dishes and desserts which are all almost too pretty to eat. I highly recommend a trip here for lunch one day when you’re wanting a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Where?
Shop 03-101A Blk
3 No.10 Hollywood Rd
Hong Kong Central

Mott 32

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Located in the Standard Chartered Bank Building, Mott 32 has two Michelin stars. The menu is mostly designed for sharing and offers up traditional Cantonese cuisine with a modern flair. Gluten free diners will receive an extensive gluten free menu upon request, which is almost identical to the regular menu with the exception of a handful of dishes. We ordered from the gluten free menu and shared everything, including lobster dim sum which was probably the most delicious thing I had during my entire stay in Hong Kong. While the meal was expensive it was totally worth it and an ideal spot for a special occasion or when you feel tempted to just treat yourself!

Where?
Standard Chartered Bank Building
4-4A Des Voeux Rd Central
Hong Kong Central

Pizza Express

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I was as surprised as you to see that not only does Pizza Express exist in Hong Kong, it offers gluten free bases too! With several branches across the city, rest assured you can give into those pizza cravings pretty easily whilst in Hong Kong. We opted for takeaway gluten free pizzas one evening as a no-fuss dinner and the bases were just as good as in the UK and the attention paid to dietary requirements also on a par. Check the company website for your closest branch.

Shopping

Filling up your suitcase with gluten free bread and other essentials before heading to Hong Kong is something I would highly recommend. However, a chain of supermarkets around the city – Market Place by Jason’s – has an impressive selection of sweet treats and snacks that you can top up with whilst you are there. I noticed a number of gluten free bread, cake and pancake mixes so ideal if you are staying in self-catered accommodation during your stay. Important to note there is no dedicated gluten free section in these stores so be prepared to scour the aisles like I did. Check the company website for your nearest branch.

Gluten Free at the Venetian in Macau

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During my time in Hong Kong, we took a day trip to Macau, via the Turbo Jet Ferry which took just under one hour. Known as Chinese Vegas, Macao is home to multiple famous hotels including the MGM Grand, The Parisian, Mandarin Oriental and more. We opted for a bottomless brunch at The Venetian where we sat for three hours plus indulging in The Portofino restaurant’s endless raw seafood, steak, cheese and salad bars as well as limitless mimosas, Bloody Marys and more. The gluten free options here were fantastic and I was given great guidance by staff on duty as to what was gluten free. I was brought my own basket of gluten free bread but I advise stating your dietary requirements when you book to ensure they have bread for you. Check the hotel website for current prices and table availability.

Barcelona: The Gluten Free Suitcase Guide

My memories from Barcelona when I was little are filled with bread, croquettes and other gluten-filled Spanish delicacies. When I took my first trip to the Catalan capital as a member of the gluten free crowd therefore, I was worried. Turns out, there was no need to worry in the slightest. Barcelona has quickly become one of my favourite global spots for not only gluten free Spanish food, but gluten free pizzas, cakes and more. Everywhere you need to visit when in Barcelona is detailed in this trusty guide that is sure to leave you craving another trip purely for the food!

Gula Sana

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A new addition to the gluten free scene in Barcelona, this 100% gluten free eatery has more of a cafe vibe, as you have to walk past the long counter filled with sweet and savoury treats to get to the seating area. In the summer, seats are available outside and a perfect location to enjoy Gula Sana’s vast ice cream selection in a gluten free cone of course! Enjoy breakfast, brunch, lunch or an early dinner here and don’t forget to try the Red Velvet cake!

Where?
Carrer de la Diputació, 361
08009 Barcelona

Amiette

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If you want the best gluten free croissant of your life, go straight to Amiette – one of Barcelona’s 100% gluten free bakeries which has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to free from pastry and bread. You have a choice of plain croissants or those filled with ham and cheese or sweet fillings like chocolate and custard. I recommend going first thing in the morning when they are fresh out the oven. This bakery is purely a take-out destination, so why not grab some treats and take them to a local park? Or eat them in the street, outside the shop as I did because I couldn’t wait! Closed on Sundays.

Where?
Carrer de Calàbria, 65
08015 Barcelona

Patisseria Jansana Gluten Free

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A gluten free staple in Barcelona, this beautiful bakery in the Eixample neighborhood has been spoiling customers for years with their stunning sweets and savoury treats. The selection is neverending, and you will never come out with just one item – it truly is impossible. Grab a sandwich to go on fresh bread of your choice, with a number of fillings, which are made on the spot or eat in, with a coffee, and enjoy some of the more delicate savoury open faced sandwiches. The croissants here are also top notch, as are the donuts, cookies, macarons and eclairs.

Where?
Carrer de Balmes, 106
08008 Barcelona

Pasticelia

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Perfect spot for breakfast or brunch, Pasticelia is another 100% gluten free haven located in the Esquerra de L’Eixample neighorhood. Like Jansana, Pasticelia will prepare you a sandwich of your choice on fresh bread to take away or eat in. The chocolate croissants here and palmeras are not to be missed, and should preferably be enjoyed on one of the bakery’s comfy chairs with a cafe con leche. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Where?
Carrer de Paris, 165
08036 Barcelona

Celiadictos

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This 100% gluten free gem has been open for several years now, serving locals with unbeatable freshly baked gluten free bread and cakes. Customers can pick their loaves off of a trolley which showcases all varieties of bread that Celiadictos bake each day and is constantly topped up. The cakes here were some of the prettiest I’ve seen – including the merengue pie and apple tartlette. Be sure to grab an Ensaimada – a traditional Mallorcan pastry that resembles a sausage roll – they are absolutely incredible! Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Where?
Carrer de la Pobla de Lillet, 5
08028 Barcelona

Cal Marius 449

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Gluten free tapas are still a rarity in Barcelona so gluten free people will rejoice in knowing they can safely eat croquetas, empanadillas and more at the famous Cal Marius bar. The menu, which also prominently features pastrami on gluten free bagels or baguette, is 100% gluten free. Regular gluten bread can be ordered upon request if you are dining with a non gluten free diner. Be sure to check out Cal Marius’ impressive gluten free beer menu whilst you’re there to accompany your meal! Closed on Tuesdays.

Where?
Carrer de Mallorca, 449
08013 Barcelona

Copasetic

The perfect spot for brunch, Copasetic is a long-time favourite of mine, located in the Eixample neighbourhood. Take your pick from a numer of gluten free options on the menu from hamburgers to eggs florentine. I can never say no to a savoury crepe here however, which I usually order stuffed with ham and cheese, followed by a homemade gluten free cake – the selection of which changes daily. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Carrer de la Diputació, 55
08015 Barcelona

Conesa Entrepans

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Sometimes what you need in a city like Barcelona is a quick place to grab a bite. Conesa Entrepans is a regular sandwich shop which offers most of its sandwiches on gluten free baguette, which are toasted on their own separate grills to avoid cross contamination. A decent option for when you’re rushing around sightseeing – their ham and cheese baguettes are incredibly moreish! Closed on Sundays.

Where?
Carrer de la Llibreteria, 1
08002 Barcelona

Viena

This Spanish fast food restaurant has more than 10 branches around the city and a coeliac-safe menu upon request. The menu features a number of grilled sandwich options which are all prepared separately and can be accompanied by gluten free friendly french fries. Sometimes all you need is gluten free junk food! For your closest restaurant, check out the company website.

M2 Gluten Free

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This 100% gluten free restaurant is a great shout for brunch when you’re in Barcelona. M2 Gluten Free makes good use of local, fresh produce to create several delicious open faced sandwiches and egg dishes. There’s no worry about cross contamination here which makes eating a breeze, and there are even vegan options. If I were you, I’d opt for the open faced turkey sandwich with tomato and avocado on delicious gluten free toast.

Where?
Avinguda Diagonal, 505
08029 Barcelona

Il Piccolo Focone

If you want real Italian food whilst you’re in Barcelona, look no further than Il Piccolo Focone. This restaurant has a gluten free menu which includes the most incredible pizzas, pastas and desserts – all of which are prepared safely. I always start with the fried artichokes before tucking into a pizza. Finishing with the gluten free tiramisu is also advisable! Closed on Sundays.

Messie Sin Gluten

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This 100% gluten free pizzeria is a great lunch or light dinner option. The bases here are thin and crispy and come with a variety of toppings, which can be accompanied by one of the delicious salads on offer. I have never seen a larger gluten free beer selection, which includes a number of international beers as well as Spanish.

Where?
Carrer de Siracusa, 15
08012 Barcelona

McDonald’s

Yes, Barcelona is another city where you can enjoy gluten free McDonald’s! All McDonald’s in the city have carefully marked gluten free menus, which include almost all beef burgers and fries with the option of a gluten free bun. If you’d rather enjoy the city’s other gluten free options during your stay in Barcelona, you can enjoy a gluten free McDonald’s in the airport on your way out.

Restaurant En Ville

Another 100% gluten free tapas restaurant, but this time with a French twist. En Ville is a gorgeous space located near Las Ramblas and is ideal for dinner. All tapas are gluten free on a menu that proudly displays a gluten free bread option on its first page. While En Ville offers a number of delicious main dishes, I was not able to get past the tapas and even ordered a second round of the croquetas de jamon which were absolutely melt in the mouth. Save room for dessert – En Ville serves up a gluten free giant cream puff which comes with hot chocolate sauce to pour over. Closed on Sunday.

Out of China

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How long has it been since you ate dim sum? Well at Out of China your gluten free dreams can come true as free from options are available for most of the dim sum selection. It’s therefore hard not to go crazy with the dumpling selection but if possible save room for some soup or a main dish. You’ll also feel safe at Out of China – as soon as you say you are gluten free or coeliac, your very own gluten free soy sauce pot will be delivered to your table.

Where?
Carrer d’Aribau, 112
08036 Barcelona

Envalira

Everyone needs to eat paella when in Spain. Whilst far from Valencia – the home of paella – no frills eatery Envalira serves up the best Spanish rice in Barcelona, with a clearly marked allergen menu presented to all diners. Take your pick from a number of fresh and grilled starters, and be sure to follow those with traditional paella and arroz negro – black rice coloured with squid’s ink – an absolute delicacy. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Plaça del Sol, 13
08012 Barcelona

Gocce di Latte

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Your one stop shop for gelato whilst in Barcelona should be Gocce di Latte – an ice cream shop which has a 100% gluten and dairy free branch on the same street as its regular store. It’s a cross-contaminatin free zone and stays open late so is perfect for those late night sweet cravings. Cash-only.

Where?
Carrer d’Espaseria, 14
08003 Barcelona

Shopping

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Barcelona has a multitude of supermarkets which have a huge offering of gluten free products from cookies, breads and snacks to chilled pastas and frozen pizzas and tapas. The top chains for gluten free are Mercadona, Carrefour and Alcampo. Check out the company websites for your closest branches.

Toulouse: The Mini Gluten Free Suitcase Guide

Known for its cassoulet and confit de canard, Toulouse can be a food lover’s paradise. The city pulls in multitudes of tourists each year, especially during the summer months when the masses head to the wine region. It’s a beautiful city to walk around in, with lots of culture and a rich history. But how good is it for gluten free food you ask? Finding gluten-free friendly eateries can still be a challenge and so I’ve pulled together a mini guide to the provincial city, which will be perfect for anyone staying nearby and venturing in for the day or in Toulouse for a city-break over a weekend. Bon Appétit!

Lucas et Marie Sans Genes

A highly popular free from spot, Lucas and Marie Sans Genes is a 100% gluten free bakery, which also specialises in vegan products too. From beautiful pastries to homemade bread, you’ll be spoilt for choice here and will not have to worry about traces. The bakery prides itself on creating food that is free of up to 14 key allergens and is entirely organic. A lovely family run business created by mother Marie and her son Lucas, this place is a must-visit for coeliacs and vegans alike who will go absolutely crazy over the pastry selection – trust me! Closed on Sundays.

Where?
28 Rue des Polinaires
31000 Toulouse

Yard – La Burger Factory

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If you’re craving a proper hamburger while you’re in Toulouse, this is your one-stop shop. This fast food joint is incredibly gluten free friendly, and offers most burgers on a soft and squidgy sesame seed gluten free bun! I was assured that the regular fries and sweet potato fries are also safe, so just be sure to state your dietary requirements at the beginning so the staff make sure to take extra care of you. I opted for a classic cheese burger, which is entirely gluten free when the house Yard sauce is removed and it was absolutely delicious. Yard gets brownie points in my book for also offering a gluten free beer on the menu – the perfect accompaniment to your burger!

Where?
51 Rue du Taur
31000 Toulouse

Invita

Another organic hotspot, Invita is a great destination for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch while you’re in Toulouse. The menu, which is entirely vegetarian, has a great array of options from salads to gluten free pizzas (yes you read correctly!) to galettes. What’s great about Invita is their availability of a weekday meal deal, where you can get two courses for €16 or three for €20. As I hate missing out on dessert, I’d personally recommend you opt for three courses! If you fancy a pizza or vegetarian lasagne course, head to Invita on a Friday or Saturday when they are available. Vegan options are also aplenty!

Where?
18 Rue d’Aubuisson
31000 Toulouse

Pastel & Sarrasin

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Everytime I venture to France I crave crepes and galettes. Luckily for the gluten free community, more and more places are starting to offer a gluten free friendly alternative so that everyone can feel included. Pastel et Sarrasin is a must-visit during your time in Toulouse as they not only use the freshest of ingredients to top and fill their pancakes, but they offer a gluten free batter on the menu too. This expansive restaurant has lots of indoor seating and sets up tables outside on warmer days so you can watch the world going by while you feast. WARNING: As Pastel et Sarrasin deals with non gluten free flour in its kitchen as well, the company warns that traces in the preparation area are a possibility but they take as much care as is possible to avoid that by keeping the gluten free batter away from the rest and cleaning the pans before use.

Where?
75 Rue du Taur
31000 Toulouse

Silex & Fourchette

Are you both gluten and lactose free? Then Silex & Fourchette must be your first stop in the city. This is the first “paleo” restaurant I have seen in continental Europe, so imagine my excitement, especially as paleo food is all naturally gluten free! Silex & Fourchette serves lunch five days a week and has a monthly Sunday brunch for only €18, which includes a lot of food, so check the company website to see if brunch falls on your weekend! The most photographed and ordered item here is undoubtedly the paleo burger, which comes with sweet potato fries and is definitely worth a try! Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Where?
138 Grande Rue Saint-Michel
31400 Toulouse

Aux Douces Heures

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While not an obvious gluten free spot, Aux Douces Heures is the perfect place to stop for a coffee and a rest while you are whizzing around Toulouse. The regular menu at this French tea room is not gluten free, but the team at Aux Douces Heures make sure to always have at least two freshly baked gluten free sweet treats to accompany your coffee or tea for a pick-me-up. The cakes are kept separately from the rest of the restaurant’s offerings and are usually displayed in the window next to a welcoming gluten free sign. The chocolate tart makes a regular appearance and is deliciously rich. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
9bis Rue des Lois
31000 Toulouse

Shopping

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Supermarkets in France have come a long way in the past few years, and that includes smaller city branches. The two biggest supermarket chains in Toulouse are Carrefour and Monoprix, both of which have several stores across the city, so you are never too far from gluten free snacks or necessities. I was able to find gluten free bread, pasta and cookies in all shops I went into so check the company website for your nearest store and stock up!

Coori Free From

As my favourite gluten free brand Coori gets ready to open its new shop in Richmond, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you more about their story and how they came to be the household name that they are today. Many of you will know Coori from their 2013 pop-up in Selfridges Food Hall, which was the pioneer for gluten free space in the famous London department store and is now occupied by London bakery Beyond Bread. Coori closed its concession after several months, leaving customers eagerly anticipating its next move after almost ten years on the gluten free market in various shapes and forms. Others may remember Coori from the large scale Allergy and Free From Show which comes to London’s Olympia every year, where the team would prepare fresh stonebaked pizzas for the masses.

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I first came across Coori (which means heart in Sicilian dialect) when I moved to Tooting in south west London, several years ago. One day walking through my new local market I did a double take when I saw a small hand-written “100% gluten free” sign and realised that fresh pasta was being cooked and arancini being rolled, ready for the fryer. It was then that I met founder Julia, a gluten free scene veteran and cook, who was testing Tooting out as a pop-up space.

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Born and raised in Italy, Julia had always been exposed to good, simple cooking. However, when her sister was diagnosed with coeliac disease and Julia discovered she was gluten intolerant, her interest in food took a different turn and she leapt on what she saw as an opportunity to fill a huge gap in the market. “I wanted to take things back to the basics and start over with gluten free food,” Julia told me in an interview, as we sat enjoying a classic, and naturally gluten free Italian dessert: affogato. “Not only would creating good simple food for coeliacs make people happy, but it would help change perceptions of gluten free products, which for a long time were lacking in flavour and yet packed with additives and excessive amounts of sugar,” Julia said. This mindsight, as well as help and support from Coeliac UK, led Julia to open up a restaurant in 2008 – Bruschetta – in Kingston. The restaurant specialised in Italian classics like pasta and pizza, which back then were still a huge novelty.

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Julia commened that when she launched, she did not initially advertise the restaurant as gluten free, to test out her food on doubting customers. “I invited restaurant critics, journalists and bloggers to try my food without saying it was gluten free. After they ate it, I revealed that what they had just feasted on contained to no wheat, barley or rye and they couldn’t believe it,” she said. Julia continued to work on products and food that not only appealed to those unable to eat gluten, but to a wider audience who simply craved good food made from high quality ingredients. Julia soon became well-known in the gluten free community and after several years, switched her focus to manufacturing, which aided the launch of the company’s online business.

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Coori online began to ship pasta, flour mixes, sweet treats and more across the UK, quickly becoming a booming venture not only in London but in the north of the UK, where a staggeringly high percentage of coeliacs live. Julia still remains dedicated to working with a range of manufacturers, both in the UK and in her home country, to keep the company both localised and true to her own heritage. What makes Coori individual however, is that all recipes are created by Julia herself and then recreated by the manufacturer, as a means of keeping the business, which is headed up by Julia and her two close friends and business partners, “very much a family affair.”

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As business boomed, Coori was able to grow its customer base and venture into new fields, including the catering industry and department store scene. The pop-up at Selfridges was revolutionary. It drew in both gluten free customers desperate to try tantalising fresh pasta with a range of sauces or pizza slices fresh out of the oven, but also people without any particular dietary requirements. “The queues were always made up of a mixture of people, most of whom I quickly recognised as returning, happy customers,” Julia told me, adding that working in a customer facing environment is her real passion. “Seeing people come in on a daily basis and almost cry at the array of safe food they could choose from was really the highlight for me,” Julia said.

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However, after several happy months it was time for Coori to move on and focus on securing its own space again, now that it had so much backing and a fantastic reputation to boot. The new store, which will occupy an old local dairy dating back to 1980, will have a very similar offering to the Selfridges stall. Customers will be able to take their pick from an array of hot and cold snacks, meals and packaged food both prepared by Coori itself and by collaborating brands, including Italy’s Nutri-Free. Please join me in supporting this wonderful company, as it embarks on an exciting and utterly delicious new chapter.

Coori’s Richmond Cafe will open its doors to the public on June 2, 2018.

84 Hill Rise
Richmond
TW10 6UB

Photo Credits: Ilmi Perez-Stubbs