The Grocer is a restaurant and tavern nestled within the thriving Spitalfields market. It boasts proper pub food using seasonal and ethically sourced ingredients, has a dedicated gluten free menu and, drum roll, won a Free From Eating Out Award Gold in 2018!. Can it delight this spoiled for choice gluten free foodie?
The Grocer Comfort, Style & Service
The Grocer has a warm and welcoming indoor space and an outdoor terrace with sofas and benches. Excellent comfort and also excellent for market and people watching. Thanks to relatively generous space noise levels do not interfere with meal time conversation unlike many other London venues. This helps The Grocer toward being a great place for a sociable lunch or supper.
On two visits I booked late and mentioned that I am coeliac within the booking. Both times I arrived to a lovely welcome including a table with my name on it together with dedicated Gluten Free menus. This little touch makes it really obvious that my need has been recognised. Lots of restaurants enable mention of dietary requirements within bookings but only some consistently highlight these when the diner arrives. More of this best practice please!
The Grocer Free From
Gluten Free, Veggie and Vegan are all very well catered for. The Grocer has a rather fantastic dedicated Gluten Free menu available to view online (link to menu). Fantastic why? It is broad and appealing. Soup, salads, sandwiches, meaty dishes, veggie dishes and more than one pudding! There are even two sharing platters. With the sole exception of ice cream all the gluten free dishes are freshly prepared in-house.
Veggie options are plentiful. Vegan dishes appear few as most veggie dishes feature eggs or cheese but the The Grocer is willing and able to offer vegan dishes through simple substitutions. For example a popular ‘Celeriac, Spinach, Leek & Cheese Gratin’ has the cheese replaced with a vegan cheese. Vegan pastry is used to enable dishes such as Butternut Squash, Beetroot & Spinach Pie to be vegan too. There are also three flavors of vegan ice cream on the pudding menu.
I effectively interview my servers and the manager or chef of places I visit both for my own comfort and confidence and as a qualifier for reviews. All staff I talked to at The Grocer demonstrated the ‘right stuff’. They happily received my many questions. They answered with certain knowledge or checked and then confirmed and never speculated. Knowledge of ingredients and preparation was clearly strong.
The Grocer Food
What makes for a best in class Pie? I am poorly qualified to answer as I eat them rarely. So when I asked for a recommendation and a Butternut Squash, Beetroot & Spinach Pie was suggested I ordered it with some hesitation. Yet, yet . . . . this Pie was rather marvellous. It began to capture my affection with a rich and heady aroma of roasted veggies and followed up with fresh, bold, charming flavors and crisp and flaky pastry. Are all pies like this? If so I have been missing out! I rather suspect this pie is better than most.
Another surprise hit was a Aubergine, Courgette & Goat’s Cheese sandwich (or Eggplant, Zucchini & Goats Cheese!). Soft & thick cut gluten free seeded bread enveloped generous servings of warm veggies and creamy cheese. I sampled one only because my non-gluten free dining friend Tristan ordered and shared. Tristan has duly earned a brownie point as this was easily the most enjoyable sandwich I have eaten all year!
Part of my dining philosophy is that all food is for sharing (I accept not all feel the same!) but I especially appreciate the variety offered by dedicated sharing dishes. So discovery of two sharing plates on the The Grocer gluten free menu was most welcome. Butter Bean & Parsley, Crushed Avocado & Beetroot & Harissa Dips were eagerly scooped up with root veggie crisps, gluten free toast ‘soldiers’ and crudites. Healthy, hearty food.
The Grocer Desserts!
We must talk about gluten free brownies. No we must. Within some gluten free circles there a brownie bashing theme based on frustration that they are so very common and desire for something new! I continue to have love for brownies and that their proliferation means that a great gluten free brownie must really be GREAT!
The Grocer offers a gluten free brownie and is located next to a Leon restaurant. Leon offers a ‘Better Brownie’ and they are pretty good. The question I asked when ordering The Grocer brownie was therefore . . . . is The Grocer brownie better than Leon’s Better Brownie? I had fun with that, yes! And the answer? Oh my goodness, also yes! Served warm, intoxicating chocolatey aroma, gooey, fudge like, deep and rich and oh just what a perfect brownie should be like.
Beyond the Brownie there is also a most appetising gluten free Apple Crumble. I adored the presentation within a cast iron pot and combination of steaming hot apple crumble with chilled vegan vanilla ice cream.
The Grocer Recommendation
The Grocer earned a Free From Eating Out ‘Gold’ Award in November 2018. These awards are given only to venues that demonstrate robust allergen free safety and great food and service. Read more about those awards and see all venues within a Free From Eating Out Awards Map.
Based on my experiences I thoroughly endorse the award! Menu choice is wide. Dishes are delightful. Service was welcoming, capable and reassuring for this careful coeliac. The location offers a compelling option of combining a great meal with a visit to the very special Spitalfields market.
A very neat feature that will encourage me to return often is that the The Grocer refreshes their menu often by picking an in-season veggie and theming the menu around it. This makes it the “Top of the Crops”. On my initial visits the hero was Butternut Squash. What next? My tip is for celeriac. 2019 is the year of celeriac.
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