25 October 2023

Gluten Free Cafe & Shoppe is a 'safe space' for coeliacs

| Lucy Ridge
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Colourful plate of waffles with fruit, in the background a mural reading Gluten Free 4 U

The vegan buckwheat waffles are a treat! Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Coeliacs rejoice! There’s a 100 per cent gluten-free shop and cafe in Belconnen serving delicious meals.

Gluten Free Cafe & Shoppe is a collaboration between Canberra institution Eighty/Twenty and Australian bakery GlutenFree4U, which was established 10 years ago when founder Ryan Dias was struggling to find good quality options for his gluten-intolerant daughter.

Now, his business has stores all over Australia and a thriving customer base of very happy coeliacs who can buy their products confidently.

“For a long time people have been calling out for us to come to Canberra, and what we’re doing here is quite unique. Most of our stores are a bakehouse and shop, but in Canberra, we’re taking that further with the cafe,” Ryan told Region.

Half coconut bowl with colourful fruits scattered with seeds and nuts

The acai bowls are a staple at Eighty/Twenty cafes. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The cafe is run by Eighty/Twenty owner Aakash Shah, who also has family members with dietary requirements.

“I have close family members who are coeliac and gluten intolerant and they also have some other allergies, so it’s hard for us when we go out to eat.”

He explained that many gluten allergies can be very serious, and even though they take great care in all Eighty/Twenty cafes to keep gluten-free foods separate, he sees that customers can be nervous about the risks.

“This is a safe place. It’s a place where coeliac and gluten-free customers can come and feel totally relaxed because they know everything is safe for them to eat,” he told Region.

“Other companies that make gluten-free products might also have gluten in their range, which is why we wanted to partner with GlutenFree4U because they are 100 per cent gluten-free.”

Even the sugar on the tables was carefully chosen because it comes from an entirely gluten-free facility. Aakash has thought through every last detail so you don’t have to.

Outdoor table with four different plates of cakes and pastries.

The selection of cakes includes gluten-free danishes and croissants. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

While this cafe features familiar Eighty/Twenty favourites – shoutout to the acai bowls – it is separate from the other Eighty/Twenty stores (which aren’t exclusively gluten-free). The Gluten Free Cafe menu has burgers, pasta, pizza and there’s also an impressive cakes cabinet that features GlutenFree4U pastries, desserts, and a range of reduced sugar and vegan cakes made in-house.

I had eggs benedict with smoked salmon on sourdough toast. I’ve often found other gluten-free breads have a strange cakey texture, but this bread was so close to the ‘real thing’ that I doubt I would have known the difference without being told.

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I also couldn’t resist the vegan buckwheat waffle, loaded with fresh fruit, date sauce, ice cream and macadamia crumb. It’s a moreish mix of crunchy, sweet, soft and delicious.

The shop also has large freezers with a comprehensive selection of frozen breads and meals. It’s usually hard enough to find gluten-free spaghetti, let alone a selection of fresh fettuccine and different ravioli flavours! There’s also a shelf with biscuits and different flour mixes for easy gluten-free baking at home.

As I was choosing between a Danish or a cake, a young woman walked into the store: “Is everything really gluten-free?” she asked suspiciously.

When Aakash assured her that yes, everything really IS gluten-free, the delight on her face was plain to see. She said she couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten a chocolate croissant, so Aakash popped one in the oven to warm it through for her.

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Gluten Free Cafe & Shoppe will be a life changer for many coeliac and gluten-free Canberrans, but it’s so good anyone will enjoy their menu.

Gluten Free Cafe & Shoppe is located at 23 Lathlain Street, Belconnen. They are open seven days a week from 7 am to 3 pm. Follow them on Instagram. Learn more about Eighty/Twenty, and visit GlutenFree4U for all their locations and products.

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