Eating Broadway: A Gluten Free Guide To London’s Food Markets
By Natasha Dowie
Being a massive foodie, food markets are my idea of heaven. Being coeliac and gluten free, they terrify me. Since going gluten free in 2017, I have been too scared to eat at food markets around London out of fear and trepidation that I might get ‘glutened’. However, going into my fifth year of being gluten free and with the New Year in full swing, I thought it was about time I stepped out of my comfort zone and set out to find the best allergen friendly food in the city. London’s food market scene is both exciting and thriving. The city has a proud tradition of market trading, with time-honoured markets open every day of the week and new ones popping up in every borough. But, due to the sheer wealth of allergen friendly food stalls and independent businesses lining the streets, Broadway Market in Hackney was an obvious place to start.
Hackney’s Broadway Market is saturated with independents. Quaint bookshops, cozy cafes and lively tapas bars everywhere you look, but it’s the intense blend of aromas that greet you on arrival to the market that really seals the deal. It’s almost impossible to choose where to go and what to eat. To narrow down, any stall with the heavenly words ‘gluten free’ plastered across it was a good place to start and at Broadway Market, the shortlist ended up being pretty long.
Starting off at the top of the market with Makatcha. This Indonesian curry stall pops up at many food markets across London but is a weekend regular at Broadway. Makatcha serve up a variety of curries, including meat, vegetarian and vegan options - and their offering is entirely gluten free. They kindly let us try half and half of two curries as we struggled to make our minds up. Starting off with their chicken coconut curry, the chicken was succulent and tender, shredded into a rich and creamy coconut sauce with a sweetness that just made it irresistible. I was sure the beef curry could never live up to the chicken one, until a bite into their signature dark sauce, rich and gorgeous with a caramelised fragrance, sent my taste buds into the stratosphere. The array of accompaniments served alongside the dish, including rice, a chilli sauce and a crunchy salad coated in a vibrant mustard dressing, simultaneously cut through and complemented the curries beautifully. Safe to say, Makatcha served up one of the best curries I’ve had at a food stall or restaurant in a long time and for around ten pounds a serving!
“One of the most special things about Broadway Market is that in just over 100m, you can travel 1000s of miles.”
Dosa’ge was my next stop, a stall in the know about South India’s favourite snack. One of the most special things about Broadway Market, and London as a whole, is that in just over 100m, you can travel 1000s of miles. Having never had dosa before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but aside from the explosive spice blends that met me at first bite, I struggled to get over how this crepe-like delicacy could be gluten free (the secret is lentil flour, folks!) This stall is entirely vegetarian, and with many vegan options, which is generally common among South Indian cuisine, for those of you going meat-free. Everything is prepared fresh in front of you and our choice of paneer masala dosa was stuffed with spicy potatoes, chutneys, and yogurt — crispy and soft all at once.
Anyone for dessert? We pulled up a seat at one of Broadway’s many independent cafes, Cafe Route. Of the incredible menu, the pomegranate cake looked particularly spectacular with bursting pomegranates on top and a gluten free sponge with the softness of a lemon drizzle — (I will definitely be attempting to remake it at home.) Hooked by the incredible range of desserts on offer at Broadway, we then headed down to a completely gluten free stall called Floris with baked foods from custard and jam donuts, to arancini and tiramisu. Our culinary adventure continued well into the week with all the delicious foods we brought home!
It wouldn’t be right to finish this little trip down Broadway without paying ode to the many more incredible shops and restaurants lining the streets. The Broadway Bookshop particularly caught my eye with its intimate and cosy setting and vast array of books you might not find at your average bookshop; I couldn’t resist purchasing one. On top of this, there were great spots for tapas and brunch and I’ll definitely be returning to try out places like ‘El Ganso’ and ‘One Broadway Market’ with their wealth of options for people with dietary requirements and their beautiful, stripped back and quirky interiors.
I was blown away not only by the amount of food I could eat as a coeliac and how ‘fuss-free’ it was, but how incredible the atmosphere at Broadway Market is. It was thrilling to see the market come to life, thronging with people and noise and delicious aromas. I encourage anyone, whether you have allergens or not, to visit more markets like Broadway — let’s be honest, you’ll be eating some of the best food in the city.
See my full Broadway Market at the link below and discover more food markets like Broadway, like London’s latest sustainable market Mercato Metropolitano, over on my Bimble profile.
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