Free from… anything but taste
I’m always excited when a new shop opens in Norfolk, particularly when it’s independent and right on the money – new London-based ventures often closing before they really get going, priced out by chains willing to pay extortionate rents.
In Norwich, competitive rents and an arty bunch of locals – Norwich University of the Arts is one of the best in the country for Design, Arts and Media – ensures some longevity for inventive folk keen to start a new business.
While the ‘free from’ phenomenon could be considered a trendy phase, one lady who isn’t jumping on the band wagon is Louisa Kiddell who ran award-winning Hellesdon Barns – a food emporium selling entirely gluten-free products. Her second venture, The Gluten Free Shop and Cafe, opened in Norwich’s cobbled Timber Hill last month and is already a roaring success.
The tiny downstairs cafe is always buzzing when I walk past, but it’s the shop upstairs that I find most intriguing. Head up a narrow, spiral staircase and you feel like you’ve walked into someone’s private pantry, with no staff, no tills (you pay downstairs) and several rooms to bounce around. It’s raw and trusting (no CCTV cameras means I could easily slip some Tapioca into my pocket without anybody noticing).
The shop also has a coding system so that sufferers can always buy the appropriate item:
Red – contains oats
Blue – made entirely with gluten-free ingredients
Green – contains glucose syrup, maltodextrine, dextrose, maltose or similar
Yellow – contains Codex wheat starch
Arranged in a lovely hap-hazard fashion, gluten-free cereals sit next to a self-service flour dispenser bar, where 17 different flours – from Almond flour to Polenta – are sold by weight.
Underneath, books dedicated to making ‘free from’ recipes are for sale. In this area too is a fridge filled with pastry products to put straight into the oven – thinks crusty pies and quiches.
Onto the next room, and wheat-free bread forms a centrepiece, from rolls to baguettes and wraps to loaves. Here too are jams from The Garden Pantry, set honey from the Norfolk Honey Company, salted chilli & peanut brittle from Big Skins Food Co and fudge from The Little Fudge Stall, each beautifully packaged.
Just when I thought I had exhausted the shop, I find another room with a range of porridges by Delicious Alchemy, who also make white and brown bread mix, as well as mixes for vanilla sponge and chocolate brownies.
Something I didn’t expect to find in a gluten-free shop is local wines – don’t ask me why; as far as I know there isn’t wheat in wine. Still it’s good to know that even the healthiest of eaters – whether it be through necessity or otherwise – enjoy the odd tipple.
Gluten Free Shop & Café, 21 Timber Hill, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 3Jz. Tel: 01603 610573. norfolkglutenfree.co.uk