Romeo’s Gluten Free Bakery, London

Outisde Romeo's on Upper Street
Outisde Romeo’s on Upper Street

This unique place is really easy to find, it’s on Upper Street, in between Highbury and Islington station and Angel station. I have never been so spoilt for choice before, what a welcome novelty it is to have an entire menu which is safe for coeliacs! For the first time since being gluten free I was “erm”-ing and “ah”-ing trying to decide what to order.

This bakery provided me with my first ever gluten free scone since diagnosis. With the vintage plates and cups and saucers, I felt a warming sense of inclusion where I’ve previously felt left out. It seems like a small thing, eating a scone with tea, but having never been anywhere that provides gluten free scones, I really appreciated this moment. What’s more, because the whole bakery is gluten free, I wasn’t panicking about problems with potential risk of wheat flour getting into the baked goods via cross contamination, which is a problem often faced elsewhere.

My first scone since diagnosis!
My first scone since diagnosis!

Romeo’s offers breakfast, lunch and treats with tea, as well as the option to eat in or take away and to buy loaves of freshly made bread. I was particularly impressed with the bread, there’s sundried tomato, olive bread, plain and more. Most gluten free folk are used to bread crumbling to pieces but the loaf I got form here made perfect slices and stayed together. It also tasted more like normal bread than I’ve ever experienced before. Before visiting Romeo’s I thought I’d more or less given up on gluten free bread but I really enjoyed having beans on toast for breakfast with this loaf.

Romeo's fantastic gluten free bread
Romeo’s fantastic gluten free bread

If you’re in London I would highly recommend visiting this place, the staff are enthusiastic and friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming with a homely feel. You can visit their website here.

A selection of cakes
A selection of cakes
My friend Dora is very happy with her delicious gluten free banana cake
My friend Dora is very happy with her delicious gluten free banana cake

Sunrise Festival

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It’s that time of year again – festival season!

There’s a short festival guide here but I had such a positive experience at Sunrise Celebration this year that it seemed right to do a post dedicated to that particular place and the values it promotes.

Being a coeliac really doesn’t need to hold you back, it does put certain limits in place but all we have to do is learn to work with them and we’re good to go. Here is a basic example festival menu if you’re looking for ideas and the rest of the post is about how I have been learning to heal myself through a newfound awareness of the importance of a mind body and soul connection.

So, food for a typical day at a festival:

  • Breakfast: Gluten free muesli with almond milk, chopped banana and apple.
  • Snack: Nakd raw food bar (These bars are amazing, if you haven’t heard of them give it a try!)
  • Lunch: GF crackers with cashew nut butter spread, oranges, tinned pineapple slices, avocado and lentil crisps.
  • Dinner: Meal bought from festival (most places now will have a gluten free option or serve naturally gluten free food. E.G. The Raw Food Café at Sunrise provided excellent gluten and dairy free meals, and all the food was raw.)

My main advice would be to take a fork, knife, spoon, plastic bowl and then loads of GF cupboard and snack food alongside some fresh fruit (which should keep for a weekend) and a few bits of veg like avocado or carrots. Then you can always take some money for main meals at the festival. If you’re worried then get in touch with the organisers before to double check there will be somewhere for you to get suitable food from.

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            Recently, a really big part of getting my digestive health back in order after damage from eating gluten as an undiagnosed coeliac has been focusing on bringing my mind body connection into balance. I’ve been meditating for 20 minutes every morning and every afternoon for 9 months now. This has been alongside regular yoga, a focus on nutrition as well as working with the flow of energy through practices such as Kundalini yoga and Reiki. In all honesty, I have found this route to be very beneficial, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I seem to have a new awareness of the unlimited source of wellbeing within me, that strong stable core which we all have but often become disconnected from. The more deep rest I gain through meditation (vital for healing), and the more I understand my body through yoga, the better my stomach gets. I was beginning to lose all hope that my tummy would ever feel normal but now I feel nothing but gratitude that I am finally doing okay.

            Sunrise Celebration was the perfect place to be to put all of this into perspective and see just how important it is to continue along this path of making health and wellbeing a priority. Food wise, it can be daunting packing up to go camping or to a festival as you try to think what to take. Pre-diagnosis me would have taken a load of rubbish cakes, pot noodles and cheap instant pastas, so this is where I count my blessings for having a condition like coeliac because it forces you to really think about what you’re putting into your body.

I decided to put some money aside to get one main meal a day at the festival, to save the hassle of cooking and planning. This felt really good, spending money on nourishing food instead of alcohol which my teenage self would have spent the cash on. I was really prepared with snack and breakfast food too to make sure I wouldn’t go hungry. Prioritising health and diet at a festival is a bit of a new concept to me and it changes the whole experience for the better.

            For the entire weekend, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and appreciation for life. I saw the good in everyone and everything I looked at, and in myself. There is a fantastic programme of workshops at Sunrise, as well as inspirational talks, a healing field with various treatments offered and plenty of good music to dance to. From emotional release workshops to laughing yoga, meditation to learning Thai massage, there’s all sorts to try out.

            The community feel at Sunrise is simply divine. It was my third year running at this festival and every time I have been brimming with warmth from the way everyone comes together to create an open, welcoming space for all. I have come back with a spring in my step, and being coeliac wasn’t even an issue the entire weekend. In fact, I had better working digestion that weekend than any festival I have ever been to, so here’s looking forward!

            The best thing we can do is to take responsibility for our own health and well-being, this thought used to be daunting to me when I didn’t believe I had the strength to do it. But now, as I’m coming out the other end, taking responsibility for myself could not feel more liberating. And what’s more, having communal spaces to share food, practices, music and connection is a great way to keep positive. I would really like to hear your experiences, words or reflections so don’t hesitate to leave a note in the comments section!

            With Love, X

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