Leadbelly’s Bar & Bistro in Canada Water has swiftly become one of my top 5 places to eat (yes, post incoming) gluten free in London. So long as you do not even think about eating the last piece of the most stupidly gorgeous cheesecake I have ever devoured I want to convince you to visit it too. It is likely to become a favorite for you too. If so, super! Please do remember the kind request about the cheesecake!
Headline virtues include a hugely varied Southern USA inspired menu, wonderful flavors, comfortable surroundings and friendly service. That menu just happens to be 98% gluten-free too with the 2% very well controlled. Treat yourself, eat here.
Leadbelly’s Bar & Kitchen Venue
The combination of outdoor space, a lively front bar area, a cosier back restaurant and seating options for solos, pairs and groups makes Leadbelly’s a P.T. Barnum ‘something for everyone’ venue.
Parasol covered outdoor tables are nestled within a tastefully fenced off area that offers a little privacy from the rest of the square and a view out towards the Canada Water nature reserve. Stepping inside takes you into a light, bright & buzzing bar area featuring a fantastic picture wall. Proceed onward past the bar and you reach the restaurant area. This has a cosy, comfortable and intimate feel distinct from the lively front bar.
Special mention goes to the variety of seating suitable for solos, couples, small and large groups. Also very welcome is that the acoustics in the restaurant allow for easy conversation even during popular times unlike many so very many London venues with a completely open plan layout.
Leadbelly’s Gluten Free Menu
There are some fantastic 100% Gluten-Free restaurants in London. You can see them all on my UK 100% Gluten Free UK Map. Leadbelly’s has more gluten-free dishes than any of them within a 98% Gluten Free Menu. The missing 2% is a Mac & Cheese, a Pumpkin Pie dessert & a small number of pastry dishes. Everything else is either naturally gluten-free or available as a gluten-free option. This includes:
- Burgers with gluten-free buns
- Gluten-Free Sourdough for open-toasted sandwich dishes
- Gluten-Free Buns & Sourdough are toasted entirely separately to buns & sourdough with gluten
- Dishes that come with chips are served with chips fried in a fryer *only* ever used for GF food
- Fish & Chips are available safely gluten-free from that same gluten-free fryer
- Sunday Roasts are available with gluten-free Yorkshire puddings
- Seven of eight desserts are gluten-free!
- Celia and Mongozo gluten-free beers
Why go 98% gluten free? Head Chef Daniel credits a combination of suspected personal intolerance and a realisation that gluten simply was not needed to deliver great tasting food. Combine that with a sustained demand for gluten free dishes and voila, we have Leadbelly’s.
Why not go 100% gluten free? Leadbelly’s have good reasons. One is to ensure Leadbelly’s continues to delight customers who neither want nor need to eat gluten free. This means keeping the very popular ‘Mac & Cheese’ on the menu for example. No supplier has been found that can deliver gluten-free macaroni. Cost is another reason. Wholesale price differences for things like gluten-free burger buns can be similar or even greater than those experienced in supermarkets. I add a third reason. Dining at an entirely gluten-free venue is an absolute treat for coeliacs like me but 100% is simply not necessary to cater safely. Staff training, kitchen facilities & protocols are sufficient.
For both gluten-avoiders and everyone else let me emphasize the wonderfully wide range of dishes offered. The menu features options under Brunch, Burgers & Grill, Bites & Nibbles, Cold & Hot Sharing Plates & Sunday Roasts. American South cuisine is very well reflected in in key dishes like New Orleans Chicken and Cornbread. However Leadbelly’s boasts some highly inventive dishes of its own. Uchucuta Lamb with feta, sweet corn, cucumber & peanut dressing & a Black Bean & Beetroot Burger with Tarragon Mayo are just two that leap off the page and demand to be sampled.
This is the first ever restaurant I have felt compelled to dine at four times in order to have a good enough impression to justify a review. The breadth of the menu is itself a feature but this would be wasted if the food itself was not great. Is the food great?
Leadbelly’s Food, Glorious Food
Spoiler, yes the food is great! So great that I intend to revisit over and over to enjoy more and more of it. So great that I might well make this my regular destination for Friday lunch. I love the idea that there will be a table ‘just for me’ and that there will be a wonderful foodie delight to look forward to throughout the week.
I have not been disappointed by any dish I have tried. There has only been good, great and truly glorious. Quantities feel generous. I have already missed out on dessert once after one too many “small” plates resulted in complete satiety.
Of the dishes I have enjoyed so far, which do I recommend?
From the Brunch Menu there are some wonderful “on sourdough toast” options including Sauteed Mushrooms, Tofu and Avocado. This is also where you can find the best Cornbread I have ever found. Crisp on the outside, light & moist on the inside and perfect for mopping up anything delicious left on a plate. Mopping up, for example, the thick & creamy montgomery cheese mayo that the Asparagus Spears dish bathes in.
Leadbelly’s finally gives me closure from the demise of two London venues that did gluten-free Fish & Chips extraordinarily well, the Truscott Arms and Maddie’s Fish Bar, RIP. I have relished gluten-free Beer Battered Fish & Chips at the incredible Michelin star Indigo at Aldwych One. I happily rate the Leadbelly’s Fish & Chips as its equal. Soft, succulent fish coated in a light, crispy batter. Properly mushy peas. Correctly thin & crispy french fry style chips & tantalisingly tasty tartare sauce.
The best is very literally saved until last. There are an incredible seven gluten-free desserts available including Sticky Toffee Pudding and a Peanut Butter Brownie. I only have words for the Cheesecake however. One word. Wow. Without any doubt, this is the best Cheesecake I have ever had. Best in London. Best gluten free or non gluten free. Simply the best best. I enjoyed a strawberry flavored variety with a garnish of freeze dried raspberry pieces. The rich flavour, indulgent creaminess and firm bite of the base present a strong case for attending a mindful eating course just to learn to appreciate it fully. At the very least cease all conversation, live in the moment and just savour. Seriously gorgeous! The flavour changes frequently providing a great excuse to sample over and over and . . . .
As a Free From Eating Out Awards judge, London Gluten Free Meetup Club organizer and lover of dining out I feel I recognize a tremendous venue when I discover one. Leadbelly’s is simply tremendous.
As a coeliac, Canada Water resident and Canary Wharf worker just one Jubilee line stop away my fervent wishes for great places to eat in Canada Water are now well & truly come true. Leadbelly’s as a destination restaurant and the recently opened health kitchen & cafe at The Lodge Space.
I am deeply partisan and biased. For perspective I have dined here with several friends and invited them to temper my enthusiastic praise if necessary. They loved it just as much! Lets recap Leadbelly’s virtues.
- Hands down the best Gluten-Free dessert menu in London
- One of just two venues in Central London (Zone 1/2) serving safely gluten-free Fish & Chips daily
- Clear will & skill delicious food is on offer to all AND safe gluten-free dishes are available to those that want or need those
- Delicious variety within a menu worth revisiting many times to explore
- Comfortable interior suitable for dining solo, in pairs and groups
- Friendly, capable, engaged staff that help make each meal into a dining experience to treasure
What would I change? Not much, but . . .
- Given the presence of gluten in other dishes I would love to see the gluten-free dishes brought out with little gluten-free flags like Cote Brasserie or on different colour plates like Pizza Express
- More meat & dairy free dishes would be great to enable groups including those following a vegan diet to enjoy dining together
- Yeah, call me greedy but since there is Pumpkin Pie on the dessert menu and I am calling this the best gluten-free dessert menu in London I want that Pumpkin Pie to go gluten-free! Unlike the missing macaroni from the ‘Mac & Cheese’ excellent gluten-free pastry can be sourced so I dare to dream this one will come true!