Going gluten free!
It’s not always easy being gluten-free in Hong Kong. For those of us who are intolerant, we’ve all got that story about the time we were “glutened” despite our best efforts to eat right. Kids can be diagnosed with celiac disease when they’re as young as 6 months, or when they get their first taste of gluten in foods. Having said that, this city’s gluten-free dining scene has come a long way over the last few years. Needless to say, we’re embracing it with open arms! From quick grab-and-go lunch spots to special-occasion afternoon tea, there are now plenty of places to indulge in a variety of gluten-free fair. Whether you’re looking for all-day breakfast and brunch menus or paleo cupcakes for the little ones, these top 10 picks are here to get you started…
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This may just be our new wellness saviour. Verde Organic is a beacon for better living, offering a beautiful selection of organic, gourmet and artisanal products. There are many items here, both grocery and personal, that you cannot find anywhere else in Hong Kong. It’s also a lovely space to peruse!
Verde Organic has a range of gluten-free products, from pantry staples (Levain Sourdough) and sweet treats (Loving Earth Chocolate) to superfoods and supplements (KIKI Health). Kids – and parents – will love the Vanilla Choc Chip cookie from Kookie Cat, which is gluten-free, soy-free and vegan. The sustainability-minded will be happy to hear it’s also palm oil-free!
Top Tip: Don’t leave without checking out the selection of home and personal products (such as Savon Stories Soap). The whole place is, quite simply, #lifegoals.
Verde Organic, Shop 318, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2529 3288, www.verdeorganic.com.hk
A completely gluten-free bakery and cafe (yes, we said 100% GF!) that serves an all-day breakfast and brunch menu. Think Breakfast Tartine and a large selection of delectable cakes. Sweetpea Cafe is a beautiful little space, with cosy nooks and some al fresco seating – the perfect spot for coffee, cake and some light afternoon reading.
We love the Double Chocolate Vegan Cake, which is decadent and super chocolatey, without being too rich. It appears to be equal parts cake to icing, which is more than fine with us! The added bonus is that it’s vegan, so our dairy-free and vegan friends can partake too.
Top Tip: The slices of cake are quite big, so it’s wise to go mid-afternoon so you can enjoy yourself without being too full from lunch.
Sweetpea Cafe, 4 Shin Hing Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 9261 1505, www.sweetpeacafe.hk
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Perfect for lunch or dinner, Mama San serves a blend of Asian cuisines, from Cambodian and Vietnamese to Indonesian and Malay. The good news is that they have a separate gluten-free menu – a rarity in Hong Kong – and the staff are well-informed when it comes to food allergies!
This is a great spot to go as a larger group and share a lot of different dishes. We’re big fans of the salt crusted barramundi stuffed with lemongrass pandan and lemon basil, as well as the Cambodian duck with shallots, peanuts and sweet potatoes. The drinks menu is just as pan-Asian – the Coconut Mojito (rum, coconut water syrup, mint citrus) goes down way too easy.
Top Tip: Try the excellent set-lunch menu on weekdays. There’s something for the whole family!
Mama San Hong Kong, 1/F, 46 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2881 8901, www.mamasanhongkong.com
The gluten-free afternoon tea at the Four Seasons is the ultimate indulgence. Striking the perfect balance, it includes a seasonal array of delicate savouries and sweets. Most importantly, you won’t be able to tell the scones aren’t the real thing – they are scrumptious, and served with an assortment of cream and jams.
Much to the delight of our vegan readers, The Lounge serves the only gluten-free and vegan afternoon tea in Hong Kong (that we’re aware of!). It’s nearly identical to the “standard” version, with just a few substitutions – none of which take away from the taste.
Top Tip: This is a popular spot, so be sure to make a reservation at least a couple of weeks in advance for special occasions. The gluten-free and vegan afternoon tea sets need to be ordered 48 hours in advance.
The Lounge, Lobby Level, Four Seasons, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3196 8820, www.fourseasons.com/hongkong
One of K-Town’s neighbourhood treasure, CHINO serves up modern Mexican with Japanese flavours. Although not technically a gluten-free restaurant, the majority of dishes here are naturally gluten-free. For starters, we love the Corn with chipotle kewpie and cotija, as well as the more obvious Chips & Guacamole with shiso salsa. Moving onto tacos, we can’t get enough of the marinated pork with pineapple and tomatillo, and chicken tinga with pickled onions and avocado. Also, don’t miss out on the chicken & egg tostada – it’s seriously good but incredibly rich so be careful not to fill up.
The tacos are obviously a huge draw to this place, but it’s worth leaving room for a bigger plate. The bone-in pork chop with salsa veracruz melts in your mouth, and the marinated skirt steak with grilled corn salsa always hits the spot. CHINO also boasts an impressive drinks list with excellent wines, smooth tequilas and exotic cocktails.
Top Tip: The staff here are among the best in Hong Kong. They’re helpful, knowledgeable and well-informed about food allergies. Feel free to ask them about the ingredients in any of the dishes.
CHINO, 1B-1C New Praya, Kennedy Town, +852 2606 0588, www.chinohk.com
La Vache! is an oldie but goodie, because, well, Steak Frites are always a good idea. Furthermore, the procrastinators out there can rejoice for there is only one thing on the menu: a house green salad, followed by steak frites served with the secret La Vache! sauce. The frites are the only food cooked in the frier, so there are zero issues with cross-contamination. For something sweet, try the fresh strawberries and cream from the dessert trolley.
Top Tip: For dinner, you can only make reservations for five or more people. To get a table without a reservation, be there when doors open at 6.00pm. Perfect if you’ve got hungry little ones!
La Vache!, 48 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2880 0248, www.lavache.com.hk
This is our go-to spot for gluten-free goodness in the city. The Cakery offers a variety of gluten and dairy-free cupcakes and baked goods that taste like the real thing. Some of them are even Paleo-friendly. We love the “Cup O Joe” (coffee cupcake with coconut butter frosting and coffee/walnut crumble) and “Rabbit Food” (carrot cupcake with dairy-free cinnamon cream, not to mention the Chocolate & Orange Biscotti. In other words, there are plenty of “healthy” options for sugar-craving kiddos!
Catering to health-conscious eaters more generally, The Cakery also has a Guilt-Free menu that is suitable for those following low-sugar or low-fat diets. If you don’t have much of a sweet-tooth, why not try the Gluten Free & Vegan Poppy Seed Sandwich Bread – you won’t be disappointed.
Top Tip: Don’t wait until the end of the day to pick up your treats as they often run out of the top selling gluten-free cupcakes.
The Cakery (Central store), Shop 301, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong +852 6683 3833, www.thecakery.com
This (fairly) new kid on the block only opened recently, but is already a lunchtime hit with gluten-free eaters. Here, the focus is on fresh and natural ingredients, and combining the right macronutrients to create well-balanced meals. Fete Up is a bit like a cafeteria in that you create a “Fete Box” from a selection of dishes – one carb, one protein, one hot veg and two cold veg. Nice and easy.
Most of the dishes here are gluten-free, but they aren’t labelled as such. When ordering, ask your server which dishes are gluten-free just to be sure. We like the chicken curry with coconut rice, roasted cauliflower and steamed broccoli. The portions are also surprisingly filling!
Top Tip: It gets very busy during the lunch time rush, so get there around noon if you want to avoid a long line. There are a few seats upstairs, but we prefer to grab and go.
Fete Up, 182 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 9772 4531, www.feteup.com
We were disappointed when 3/3rds closed in Central last year, but the silver lining is that the restaurant in Wong Chuk Hang is alive and well, with a rooftop garden to boot. They now serve dinner and weekend brunch too, which offers a nice alternative to our usual go-to eateries in town.
3/3rds has a weekly lunch menu, comprised of fresh sandwiches, soups and salads. Their menu is clearly marked for food allergies, and all of the salads and the majority of soups are gluten-free. The wild rice with dried cranberries and almond flakes is a winner, as is the roasted aubergine with tahini and oregano.
Top Tip: Almond milk is available for your alternative coffee needs.
3/3rds, 22d, Yally Industrial Building, 6 Yip Fat Street Wong Chuk Hang, +852 3462 2951, www.three-3rds.com
This is an exceptional dining experience for gluten-free eaters and perfect for special occasions. Serving both lunch and dinner, Flint has a classic menu with dishes from the sea, from the pantry, and so forth – you get the picture. The menu isn’t labelled for allergies, but the staff are well-informed and most dishes can be adapted to accommodate allergies.
To start, they have gluten-free bread rolls – actual bread rolls, not just sliced bread! Moving on, we thoroughly enjoyed the Iberico pork chop with pumpkin, crackling and cider jus, and the glacier 51 toothfish with sobrassada, white beans and Romesco sauce. The quality of the food here is excellent, you won’t be disappointed.
Top Top: Flint has an extensive wine and cocktail menu, so we recommend a couple of sundowners before adjourning for dinner.
Flint Grill & Bar, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, +852 2810 8366, www.marriott.com/hotel-restaurants/hkgdt-jw-marriott-hotel-hong-kong
Featured image via Unsplash. All other images via respective companies.