Yak’s resident Coeliac and dictator of taste, Lauren Freemantle, shares her favourite venues to safely* wine and dine around Newcastle on the gluten-free diet.
PUB STYLE FOOD
A favourite in the local GF circles, Cooks Hill’s Commonwealth Hotel, affectionately known as ‘The Commy,’ delivers a satisfying fix of pub classics like chicken schnitzels and crumbed lamb cutlets, as well as more highbrow options such as Atlantic salmon, arancini balls and slow roasted lamb shoulder. Separate GF fryers are used for crumbed foods and many of the dishes are also Dairy Free. The Commy also runs ‘Moreish Mystery Mondays’; a $35 three-course meal (but you won’t know what it is ‘til you get there – exciting, right?). Be careful when booking though, because not every Moreish Mystery Monday is GF.
There’s nothing quite like a night out with friends, gazing across Newcastle Harbour, a tug boat chugging along happily as you chug cocktails. That’s the relaxed atmosphere you can expect at Harbour Bar at Honeysuckle. I like to start with the mushroom arancini balls and follow with the crispy-skinned barramundi, or if I’m feeling decadent, I’ll go a GF schnitty and chips (reminiscent of KFC) topped by the mushroom sauce. Beware, serving sizes are large!
There’s something for everyone at Harbour Bar, from burgers to pizzas to oysters and shares, and the online booking system makes it easy to organise a table for the whole gang.
A classic haunt among University of Newcastle students, Hotel Jesmond or ‘The Jeso’ is more than just a place for beers on the dance floor. Having undergone a recent renovation, The Jeso is a family-friendly and mates-friendly pub with a lot on the menu. While its award-winning burgers are off the cards for GF people, you’ll find an array of GF shares and mains to make up for it. Pro tip: Tuesday trivia nights get pretty loud so unless you’re in it to win it, go another night.
For special occasions, you can’t go past Rustica at Newcastle Beach. The ocean views are just as delicious as the food, and I’ve found the waitstaff to be very attentive and accommodating to Coeliac needs. I attended a banquet-style work event at Rustica and was impressed by the subtle changes they made to my dishes to make them GF. On a date, you can’t go past the Kleftico lamb shoulder with greens and candied walnuts, plus the panna cotta to round out the night.
BEST NEW VENUE
For a taste of the Mediterranean in the suburbs, why not try New Lambton’s Article 24. The standard menu is full of GF delights like the Spanish pilaf, braised lamb shank, lamb kefta and garlic and chilli prawns. Lighten things up with the Greek salad and finish off with a duo of gelato. With the new interior and 1920’s look bar, you won’t realise you’re sitting in the middle of Regent Street.
Sometimes you just can’t be bothered, and with mainstream fast-food joints out of reach for Coeliacs, it can be hard to pick up dinner on the fly. Fear not, I have a few options.
Grill’d has never let me down. With restaurants at The Junction, Westfield Kotara and Charlestown Square, it’s fairly convenient with lots of options, and they’re also on UberEats. My favourite burgers are the Baa Baa, Simply Grill’d, Simon Says or Caesar’s Palace. You can get burgers on the Gluten Free Bun or the Low Carb SuperBun – if you need to, tell staff you have a gluten allergy and they can toast your bun on the grill rather than in the toaster. The interactive menu online has a full list of ingredients for each burger, so check it out if you have other intolerances.
Toronthai, as the name suggests, is a Thai restaurant at Toronto. But there’s also a second restaurant at New Lambton which is my new go-to for Asian takeaway (seriously, I hadn’t had a good stir-fry in two years). Toronthai offers all the classics you’d expect like green curry, panang curry, satay chicken and pad thai in GF, but almost all menu options can be made to be GF. You can pick-up in store or have your meal delivered for ultra convenience.
This recommendation comes from a Coeliac friend who enjoys a good chippy with tomato sauce. The Blue Shop on EK at Charlestown is your typical Fish n Chip shop, which can prepare a special GF batch if you ring ahead of time on (02) 4943 2817 (they have to heat up the separate fryer).
The Kingfish at Honeysuckle is more pricey, but does GF grilled or battered fish and hand-cut chips prepared in a separate fryer. The Kingfish is a dine-in restaurant as well, with a good range of GF small plates to try.
Most Newcastle cafes have a few GF dishes on the menu, and I can’t list them all here.
A long-time favourite of mine, before and after my diagnosis, is Lotus Corner at the Junction. Pictured on the cover image is their earth bowl with spiced chicken added. I also love the beetroot and pumpkin salad from the lunch menu. It’s the perfect venue for brunch and many dishes on the breakfast menu can be converted to GF.
Chaddies on Regent is a great casual option in New Lambton. People bring their dogs to sit in the outdoor courtyard and catch up with friends over coffee. There’s a range of baked goods on the menu provided by adjacent business The Blind Baker (more on that next) as well as quirky dishes like this loaded potato with turkey and cranberry I had recently.
For possibly the healthiest food in Newcastle, you have to try Momo Wholefood, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant which also has a few GF dishes. Personally, I found their buckwheat seedy bread to be reminiscent of what a budgie would eat – but so many people love this venue, who am I to judge? Perhaps ironically, Momo Wholefood sits in the old KFC building in town, but it is a beautiful heritage and airy space.
Some other GF cafes in random locations which I’ve heard good things about:
As alluded to earlier, New Lambton’s Blind Baker (not to be confused with the glutenous Grumpy Baker at The Junction) offers a delicious selection of ‘normal’ tasting cakes and breads. The beef and red wine pie is to die for (albeit heavy) and I love the seeded loaf. Pro tip: if you can’t eat your bread within a day or two, freeze it because the lack of preservatives will make it go stale quickly.
For special occasion cakes, you can’t go past Euro Patisserie. Eating their GF chocolate cupcakes made me nervous because they tasted suspiciously good – but all was well! I recommend ringing a day or two ahead to put your order in.
BEST CHACUTERIE BOARD
Perhaps I’m biased because of the artsy, moody and old-timely aesthetic of the place, but I was very impressed with the GF chacuterie board I had at Bar Petite at Newcastle Beach. So often you see unnecessary fillers placed onto cheese boards, but this one had all the good stuff. I also loved the fried haloumi bites and sweet potato fries. The food is expensive of course, but that’s the price you pay to look and feel like a 1920s jazz singer, swilling away another illicit red to forget all your woes.
And there you have it folks, my top picks for gluten free dining in Newcastle as at June 2021. Feel free to drop me a line if you have another great venue to recommend!
*Individual discretion is always advised. This list is compiled from my individual experiences as a Coeliac and recommendations on the Gluten Free in Newcastle Facebook group. Always talk to the venue’s waitstaff and chef before ordering to determine whether the food will be safe for you.
All images by Yak Staff Writer, Lauren Freemantle.