Another addition to the Gluten Free in London food map, La Polenteria.
I’ve been meaning to visit La Polenteria for yonks, but having been away from London (I’ve been camping out in lovely Bath) it’s been difficult to sample as many places as I would like.
I finally bit the bullet when I won a voucher to eat there at last year’s Allergy Show. I took it as a sign that the universe wanted me to eat (even) more gluten free Italian food.
The food is Italian with a twist; polenta, otherwise known as cornmeal, serves as the base for most of the meals.
Having endured several disastrous polenta-themed meals as an exchange student in France (I think polenta was the only gluten free thing my host-mother knew how to cook *memory vom*), I have not been polenta’s biggest fan.
However, since my FODMAP ordeal, pickiness over food is a luxury I cannot afford. I am now game to try pretty much anything.
I was happy to find that though polenta is ever-present on the menu, it is well-flavoured with great sauces, meat and vegetables. There is fresh gluten free pasta and ravioli, gluten free beer and what seemed to be homemade gluten free bread.
La Polenteria’s bread was the highlight – it was some of the best gluten free bread I’ve ever had, and my non-coeliac boyfriend agreed. It was a treat to have proper artisan-style bread to dip – not a hastily defrosted Borrower-sized single slice, as is the case with many restaurants.
We enjoyed our unusual starters of polenta, egg, cheese, truffle oil and asparagus (me) and a Mediterranean veg basket (David). The starters were beautifully presented and filling on their own.
For main, we both opted for the ravioli. Ravioli is one of my favourite things that has only recently become available gluten free, and it is still quite hard to find. It was a treat to eat real gluten free fresh pasta in a restaurant (!). It didn’t quite match Coori’s GF ravioli for me, but it was still satisfying.
We were absolutely stuffed after the starter and main so didn’t try any of the sweet stuff. Do comment below if you’ve tried the desserts, I’d like to go back and try them sometime.
As always, it was a treat to eat somewhere that is 100% gluten free. No need to conduct a risk assessment of every meal on the menu, worry whether the waiter / chef really understood your needs, spend half the meal paranoid about the potential to get ill from cross-contamination. Unsurprisingly, this makes for a much better coeliac dining experience.
La Polenteria is a little independent restaurant in the heart of Soho. It has a cosy, buzzy atmosphere, and the staff were friendly and competent. La Polenteria’s themed food distinguishes it from the identikit Italian chains prevalent around Central London. You feel like you are getting a unique meal and experience.
I found it a little expensive and would probably have been more careful about what I ordered if not for the voucher. Starters started at £6 and mains at £11. In fairness, this is Central London, and Soho rents are through the roof – perhaps I’ve been away from London for too long. I know for many coeliacs, price is secondary to safety and therefore enjoyability of food, and eating somewhere that is 100% gluten free is a rare treat.
Would I recommend it?
If you enjoy rich Italian food (polenta in particular) and are prepared for the bill, then absolutely yes. The food is on the unusual side so it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for the same reason, it feels like a unique experience.
Having met the people behind La Polenteria at last year’s Allergy Show, they seem like decent people with a real enthusiasm for providing quality gluten free food. I’m happy that they seem to have found their gluten free niche in Soho.
If you are an Italian-food-loving coeliac or GF dieter looking for somewhere safe to eat gluten free in London, La Polenteria is definitely one for the list.
64 Old Compton Street London W1D 4UQ
Have you eaten here? What did you think?
Share in the comments if there are any more gluten free restaurants I need to try in London.