GOOD TASTE: Freedom of gluten-free dining

GOING gluten-free doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality, taste or even choice. Whether you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, Mexican, Italian or fine dining, there are plenty of options for those following a gluten-free diet in the Hunter Region.

The first stop for gluten-free goodies in Newcastle is surely Ma Belle at Broadmeadow, or its recently opened sister store, Petite Belle, at The Junction.

The cafes definitely live up to the name ‘‘Gorgeously Gluten Free’’, with a range of goodies including verrines, cakes, slices and biscuits, tarts and sweet pies, quiche and pies, bread and meals.

Cupcake Espresso, Newcastle, Hamilton and Adamstown, serves a Cherry Ripe cupcake that ensures the gluten-intolerant can still enjoy a sweet treat. 

The cherry choc mudcake comes with Belgian chocolate butter cream centre and cherry ripe frosting dipped in chocolate. The Banana Blueberry White Chocolate cupcake is also gluten-free.

Sweet tooths can also head to Sabor In The Hunter, at Lovedale, for a range of gluten-free desserts such as rice pudding, Portuguese traditional chocolate mousse, Portuguese hazelnut mousse and the Sabor Souffle – a warm fluffy chocolate souffle, cooked to order.

Also in the Hunter Valley, Cracked Pepper Restaurant, Pokolbin, has a choice of gluten-free dishes or can adapt other dishes to be gluten-free. Head chef Julz van den Berg is severely gluten-intolerant and has developed a largely gluten-free menu.

‘‘It’s often just a change of mindset. For example, using gluten-free icing sugar mixture, cornflour or soy sauce instead of the more commonly used wheaten versions,’’ van den Berg told GT. 

‘‘Some things, though, have taken a bit of experimentation to develop, like our gluten-free breads and short pastry.’’

Cracked Pepper also supplies gluten-free bread to restaurants in the Hunter and Sydney.

Paymasters, in Newcastle East, also has a great choice of gluten-free dishes for those looking for a special meal or simply a great spot to take in the Newcastle foreshore. Just around the corner, Casa de Loco, Newcastle East, has a nearly entirely gluten-free menu including soft shell tacos, tostadas and quesadillas. 

Their desserts are not gluten-free but the eatery told GT they were working on gluten-free cakes, churros and empanadas.

Hamilton’s La Casita has a range of gluten-free dishes including Frijoles Con Chorizo Y Totopos (refried beans mixed with chorizo, corn tortilla chips, queso fresco and La Casita salsa), nachos, tacos, flautas and enchiladas.

Not forgetting the newly-opened Guzman Y Gomez, Hamilton, which can serve the famous burritos in a bowl for a gluten-free option and has a number of gluten-free menu items.

If you’re in the mood for Italian fare, head to Salina Modern Italian and & Gourmet Pizza Restaurant, at Belmont, for gluten-free pizza bases, pasta and bruschetta. 

Owner Robert Fonti said many people following a gluten-free diet came to the eatery after not having had a pizza in years. 

Other popular gluten-free dishes include the slow-cooked pork belly, and desserts such as polenta, almond and orange syrup cake with whipped mascarpone cream and black cherries, or the mixed gelato.

Wests New Lambton Italian Trattoria also serves gluten-free pasta for dishes including beef ragu with herbs, tomato and red wine and freshly grated parmesan. Also at Wests New Lambton, Chophouse Grill and Hobarts Restaurant both have gluten-free dining options. At Wests Mayfield, Figtree Churrasco offers gluten-free dishes.

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