How to Eat Gluten-Free in Sydney

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Mar 10, 2017

by HANA JO

For the gluten-intolerant, dining out can be a minefield – the sneaky stuff is everywhere. There are reliable cuisines and dishes that coeliacs can fall back on, such as Vietnamese and sashimi, but explore Sydney’s food scene a little more and you’ll find eateries making the extra effort to cater for gluten refusers. Not only that, these spots will also satisfy companions less concerned with gluten and more concerned with flavour – everyone wins.

Mex it up

Go burrito-less or opt for corn tortillas and you’ve got a gluten-free fiesta on your hands. Mexican food is a crowd-pleasing option that’s adaptable to special diets and perfect for communal dining.

In town, upmarket Méjico’s gluten-free dishes are marked on the menus and include everything from salads and ceviche to corn lollipops and achiote chicken. Or try El Loco at the Excelsior in Surry Hills, where there’s a great pub atmosphere with people spilling out onto the street. All tacos on the menu can be made with lettuce leaves instead of tortillas and there’s grilled market fish and gluten-free sides. 

Over at El Topo in Bondi Junction, you’ll find a handful of different margaritas and an interesting menu where, at last count, all but four dishes are gluten-free – who knew crickets don’t contain gluten? For the coolest Mexican in town, Playa Takeria hosts weekly drink or taco specials and you’ll find gluten-free versions of all your favourites: guac, nachos and tacos.

Going north? Chica Bonita in Manly proudly promises that more than 70 per cent of the menu is free of gluten. It’s open for lunch and dinner, with a menu that covers snacks, tacos and sope (a traditional dish of corn cakes with toppings). The drinks list includes mezcal, anejo rum, margaritas, beers and wine. 

SEE ALSO: Sydney’s Best Yum Cha Restaurants

Eat your greens

Vegetarian and vegan restaurants often have gluten-free options and usually point out when dishes can be modified to suit various dietary requirements. You certainly won’t go hungry at the quirky (and handily BYO) Nourishing Quarter in Surry Hills, where gluten-free sauces complement the Asian-inspired dishes. You’ll find tofu, quinoa and sweet-potato noodles on the menu and mismatched tables, cutlery and crockery inside.

Kindness Cafe offers lunch and dinner in a tiny open-air space in Darlinghurst. The restaurant’s aim is to bring authentic Thai flavours to vegetable dishes and more than half of the tasty plates are gluten-free. There’s also long-time favourite Yulli’s in Surry Hills, offering an eclectic menu with gluten-free Mediterranean and Asian vegetarian options. It’s perfect for a drink and gluten-free snack.

Image: Kindness Cafe

Turn Japanese

Sushi is convenient, healthy and easy to find in Sydney. Seek out the best sashimi and seafood at the Sydney Fish Market and make a day of it with family and friends – just hope that your chips don’t get nabbed by the seagulls on patrol.

In the CBD, Masuya not only has great sashimi but a good selection of gluten-free salads, meat dishes and hotpots. Or take a casual turn in Surry Hills with Izakaya Fujiyama, the Japanese version of a gastropub. The fresh sashimi, flavoursome seafood and meat off the grill, plus an impressive saké list, make for a veritable gluten-free feast.

Head to Saké in The Rocks with friends for a lively atmosphere and modern Japanese dishes. On date night, try Sokyo at The Star for inventive fine-dining from chef Chase Kojima. Or if you’re craving a burger without gluten, go for Kojima’s Japanese take at Sydney’s first rice-burger joint, just across the way at Gojima

In Potts Point, the ever-friendly team at Cho Cho San has plenty of suggestions for gluten-free dishes (just ask your waiter for options). We recommend the incredible king crab omelette with Japanese curry.

Image: Gojima

Indian flavours

Curry and rice is always a good option for the gluten cynic but where to go when you’re ready to add a few more Indian dishes to your dinner menu? Malabar, in Darlinghurst and Crows Nest, is a South Indian restaurant where you’ll find a regional specialty called dosai, made from lentil and rice flour. It’s a delicious crisp substitute for bread served with a choice of fillings and dips.

If you like your curry with a view, Aki’s in Woolloomooloo won’t disappoint. The few gluten-laden dishes are marked on the menu so everything else is fair game. There’s a mix of classic and contemporary fare and it’s an ideal fine-dining venue for a group with intolerances.

In Balmain, the ever-popular Indian Palace has been open for more than 30 years and has a huge selection of authentic curries, entrées and gluten-free Indian ice-creams.

Image: Indian Palace

Breakfast and beyond

There are plenty of cafés and casual eateries that cater to Sydney’s dietary exclusions, almost all of them serving a range of gluten-free offerings.

Eggs are always a safe bet, but why play it safe? Some of our favourite dishes are the specials and the array of sides served up at the communal tables at Bread & Circus in Alexandria, the Green Start Breakfast and Goodness Lunch bowls at The Farm Wholefoods in Potts Point and Neutral Bay (stock up on nuts and dried fruit while you’re there) and every salad we’ve taken away from the hole in the wall that is Scout’s Honour in Redfern.

Iku outlets are conveniently located and ideal for take away lunches (we rate the rich laksa and their sweet treats) and if you’re after a gluten-free bagel, you must visit Brooklyn Hide in Surry Hills.

On the north side, Pure Wholefoods in Manly always has a tasty selection of ready made salads and treats to go, and last but not least, you can enjoy super-healthy soups and gluten-free pancakes in the courtyard at Egg of the Universe in Rozelle – and even partake in a yoga class if that tickles your fancy.

Image: The Farm Wholefoods

Tasty Thai

Curries, stir-fries and rice noodle dishes served in Thai restaurants make them an el dorado for those seeking a gluten-free meal.

Enjoy most of the menu at Longrain in Surry Hills – the whole crispy fried snapper is a treat; it has a tapioca-flour batter and is great to share on a fancy night out with friends. Take comfort knowing the oyster, soy and fish sauces used are all gluten-free, too. The team at Chat Thai’s casual eateries will point out what’s ready to eat as-is and what’s adaptable on the menu (try the spicy fried rice for lunch).

All of your favourites, including pad Thai, chicken with cashew nuts and garlic prawns, are on the extensive gluten-free menu at the original and sprawling Thai Pothong in Newtown. If you’re in the market for Thai knickknacks, they have a mini-marketplace inside the restaurant.

The banana blossom salad and whole-fried barramundi are standouts on the menu at the small and bustling Muum Maam in Surry Hills. There’s also a new, larger outpost in Barangaroo. Spice I Am, in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, is also commendable. Ask for the gluten-free menu; popular dishes include the green papaya salad, Mussaman curry and the signature dish of goong ma kham: deep-fried king prawns with tamarind sauce. 

Image: Longrain

Land and sea

Wood-fired meat and seafood come to the fore at hip and happening Firedoor (try the dry-aged meats) and Nomad (the pickles and charcuterie are made in house) in Surry Hills, or if you’re craving a steak with some gluten-free friendly salad and veg on the side (and posh surroundings) look no further than Gowings Bar and Grill in the heart of Sydney.

Really need to impress? Rockpool Bar and Grill’s incredible interiors will knock any diner off their feet. There’s something to please every palate on the menu: crudo, lobster with herb butter, 15 different types of steak and, of course, loads of sides. Felix’s modern French menu, and suitably themed space, is full of charcuterie, rotisserie and shellfish. At Colin Fassnidge’s 4 Fourteen, finished in typical Surry Hills industrial-chic styling, classic meat-and-potato combos go to a whole new level – corned beef and colcannon never sounded so good.

Looking for take out? For exceptional rotisserie chicken served with gluten-free friendly sides, Paddington’s The Chicken Shop is the place to go. Head further down the road to the recently refurbished Paddington Inn if you want to eat in for a neat and simple selection of meat, poultry and seafood dishes with intriguing accompaniments such as smoked bloody Mary granita, seaweed mustard and blood plum, in a contemporary dining room covered in original art by Christiane Spangsberg.

Easy Italian

This is where gluten-free eating gets tricky. Luckily, there are some top-notch Italian restaurants with gluten-free pizza and pasta on their menus. Freshly made gluten-free pasta? Find it at Otto in Woolloomooloo (also check out the risottos and wood-fire grill section of the menu) – best for a romantic dinner. Over at neighbourhood favourite Baccomatto Osteria in Surry Hills, they not only have a gluten-free pasta available but bread too and it’s all marked out on their menu. Low-key, BYO restaurant Trovata, in East Sydney, also has a marked up menu and can replace any plain pasta with a gluten-free penne.

Is pizza is more your scene? Get thin and crispy gluten-free bases at Mad Pizza locations, and in Bondi Beach, you’ll find healthy bases made with wholegrain brown-rice, millet and potato flour at Pompei’s and a whole load of gluten-free pizzas marked up on the menu at Bondi Pizza outposts, including the Americano with pepperoni, chilli and mozzarella and the classic Supreme. In town, you can get a wood-fired Napoli-style version with classic toppings in quaint surrounds at Vanto in the Queen Victoria Building.

Asian styling

For an all-out Chinese banquet, look out for the menu items marked with an asterisk at Mr Wong in the CBD – you’ll notice the Alaskan snow crab salad, Mr Wong-style scrambled eggs and Chinese roasted duck are all labelled. For Asian-inspired food with an Australian twist, stop by Kylie Kwong’s Billy Kwong in Potts Point for a produce-driven menu that changes with the seasons – just let the staff know your dietary requirements and they’ll go through the menu with you. Don’t miss Kylie’s famous deep-fried silken tofu with black bean and chilli sauce.

Hamish Ingham’s Bar H in Surry Hills is an ideal spot for an intimate rendezvous or an indulgent snack paired with a well-chosen glass of wine. More asterisks on the menu here will tell you what can be made gluten-free: charred calamari, cured Black Angus sirloin and fried chicken top the list.

The kitchen at Neil Perry’s Spice Temple is also quite accommodating with a separate menu available (you can’t go wrong with the gluten-free version of the fried eggplant and any of the kung pao dishes), while over at China Doll in Woolloomooloo, upmarket pan-Asian food with a view is the order of the day. The kitchen makes an effort to use wheat-free soy and potato and tapioca starch when they can, so more than half their menu is, or can be made, gluten-free (the chilli salt squid is a crowd favourite) – just ask for options.

For a slightly more laid-back experience, the coeliac menu at Fu Manchu in Darlinghurst covers off plenty of classic Chinese fare, and some modern takes too – think chilli cornballs, Nonya chicken curry, char kway teow rice noodles and steamed salmon.

Top image: The Farm Wholefoods

SEE ALSO: Where to Find Sydney’s Best Dumplings