When a nutritionist suggested that giving up gluten might improve my health, I decided to bite the bullet instead of the bagel. Gluten, in case a reminder is needed, is a protein composite found in wheat, barley and rye. It is very harmful for those with coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease that stops the body from absorbing nutrients.
I am not gluten intolerant and certainly not coeliac, and therefore a bit shy about being that person buying Free From Everything food along with almond milk (dairy is verboten too). So there I was clutching my soy cappuccino – ordered sotto voce expecting an eye-roll from the barista, who did seem to be thinking “another neurotic, lactose-phobic middle-class, middle-aged woman clutching a yoga mat” – when I passed a café called Beyond Bread in Fitzrovia.
This “100 per cent gluten-free space” had loaves of bread, sandwiches, cakes and, my death-row meal, quiche on display. I had found my new hangout – and it doesn’t hurt that Beyond Bread’s decor is chic and modern too.
I was, however, expecting the food to be less tasty than the “normal” variety, having experimented unsuccessfully elsewhere with a gluten-free vegan cheese sandwich. But Beyond Bread is, in fact, better than the real thing.
So what do they substitute the wheat with to make it taste that good? “We use flour from brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, chickpea and a grain called teff,” explains founder Elena Golubovich.
The “keen home baker” first had the idea for Beyond Bread three years ago, having given up gluten herself. “When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2008, I had high blood pressure. My obstetrician suggested that I cut out gluten; my blood pressure dropped, and my skin and digestion improved. After I had my baby I went back to wheat and felt much more bloated and tired. So I gave it up again and now my family is gluten free and healthier for it.”
Due to the lack of preservatives in the baked goods, they don’t last long. This isn’t a problem in my kitchen, but it does mean that Beyond Bread doesn’t do online or mail order. This could be the only downside to my new favourite find.