I totally adopted a gluten-free lifestyle by accident. I moved to Cape Town from Bloemfontein in 2015 and lived alone for the first time in my entire life. I stopped buying bread as it was physically impossible to finish an entire loaf by myself before it went off, and I detest throwing food away. I was also working terrible hours and living in Blouberg while working in the city, so I only ate Woolies wraps and salads from the Oranjezicht Engen.
After a year or so, my brother moved in and he is an avid bread and pasta fan. Immediately, my eczema started flaring up and I starting getting headaches. My doctor suggested a gluten sensitivity and as soon as I cut gluten out of my diet, I started to see a difference. Since moving to Stellenbosch at the beginning of the year, I have been on the hunt for the best gluten-free spots.
Whose gluten is it anyway?
As I’ve mentioned, I have a gluten sensitivity. This implies that I do not have an anaphylactic reaction to ingesting gluten – translation, I will not die if I eat gluten. My boyfriend on the other hand, has a wheat allergy, which according to gluten.org is “an immune reaction to any of the hundreds of proteins in wheat”. His symptoms include cracked and bleeding skin, nausea, itching and more.
A third type of gluten-related problem is Celiac Disease which is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in reaction to the ingestion of gluten. Like having green or brown eyes, or blonde or brunette hair, this is something you inherit from your parents. According to gluten.org, “to develop celiac disease a person must inherit the genetic predisposition, be consuming gluten, and have the disease activated. Activation triggers may include stress, trauma (surgeries, etc.) and possibly viral infections.”
These varying types of gluten-related health issues, result in varying considerations when we choose a restaurant. While I can easily stomach one slice of pizza and deal with a hangover-like headache, my boyfriend would not even have a bite as the consequences are quite severe. Therefore, I’ve included restaurants that cater exclusively for a gluten-free diet and those where you can still get a pretty decent gluten-free meal, if you know what to choose.
The LCHF / Gluten-Free Life Hack
Having to navigate the world of gluten-free grub these last few years, I’ve come to realise that rolling your eyes at a restaurant advertising a LCHF diet will probably do you no good. The banting diet excludes the intake of wheat and is therefore the perfect choice for grabbing a bite.
Stellenbosch has one of the most awesome banting restaurants that I’ve been in. The Mill Coffee House, situated in Mill Street, is not only a bright yellow sidewalk café in the heart of Stellenbosch, it is a delicious hotspot for banters. Their menu includes coconut flour flapjacks, coconut flour bagels, cauli pizzas and almond & macadamia flour waffles.
My favourite is their cauli pizzas. We had the Spanish (main pic of the post), and not only is the base extremely thin, and a combination of flavourful and chewy, it is generously loaded with toppings that complement each other perfectly.
You won’t find them on social media, but they are available on OrderIn and UberEats during the day.
*Expert tip: Java Bistro also has a ridiculously delicious banting burger which is also worth a try!
The Retail Space
In the last few years, Kauai has gone from strength to strength, and especially since its collaboration with Discovery and Virgin Active, they have been actively promoting healthy diet choices.
My favourite menu item, the Princess Wrap and all other wraps on the Kauai menu, are available in a gluten-free option. The gluten-free wrap, which I’ve had many times before, is similar in texture to the normal wrap, but slightly more chewy. At an additional R12 per gluten-free wrap, it is worth the splurge as their wraps are amazing and the wheat-free / low carb wrap does not take away any of the yumminess.
Kauai’s Stellenbosch branch is situated in De Wet Square, in the centre of town. The restaurant has outside seating and is always abuzz with students heading in and out, giving it a lively vibe. They are also open till 8pm on weekdays.
Let Them Eat (flourless) Cake!
Just around the corner from Kauai is the beautiful little cake shop, Birdcage. A true Stellenbosch institution, these ladies know how to bake! Spending time in their coffee shop is such a treat. You can see the hustle and bustle of the kitchen through the glass, but they’ve created a tasteful, beautiful and serene front of house.
They’ve recently started venturing into the flourless cake space, and they are already excelling at it. How about a flourless dark chocolate cake with a macaron crust dusted with cocoa powder? Or consider the polenta, lemon and almond cake, or a cheesecake with a coconut and ground almond crust, xylitol sweetener and topped with sour cream.
The best part, they taste delicious as well! I’ve recently had the dark chocolate cake and it’s safe to say, I’m smitten. These cakes are available in the shop, but also for pre-order if you have a special event or birthday coming up.
Believe me, you always find yourself in a situation where you are invited to a place with no gluten-free options and you have to improvise. Salads are my favourite way of keeping to my gluten-free regime and sometimes I even skip the whole search for a gluten-free alternative and head straight for a salad bar.
Leaves and Loaves on Bird Street in Stellenbosch is my favourite salad bar in town, mostly because I can construct my own salad, which means a handful of rocket, grilled chicken, seasonal veggies and don’t hold back on the tomatoes.
Another great option is Meraki. They are situated right next to our offices and are always a great option for a quick lunch. Their salads are always phenomenal, but their seasonal menus also offer a wide range of mains that beat searching for a gluten-free alternative.
Meraki is also known for their ‘Create your plate’ breakfast which allows you to construct your own breakfast, giving you the option of cutting out all that unwanted gluten and sticking to other breakfast favourites like eggs, bacon, mushroom and avo.
The Philosopher’s Bread
The very last addition to this list is quite a controversial one. Having wine at De Akker late one evening with the boyfriend, we meet some Stellenbosch locals. As we share our gluten woes, they share the philosophy of the Schoon bakery which holds the belief that gluten and wheat allergies do not originate from wheat itself, but from the chemical processes that commercially produced flour are put through.
The next morning we head to Schoon Manufactory – partially because we are suckers for a trend, but also because we are curious. When you cut gluten out of your diet, the rest of the world still keeps eating braaibroodjies and therefore any form of bread that resembles the real thing and that we’re able to enjoy without consequence, is a blessing.
We each had a slice of Schoon Sourdough. Now, please don’t take this as religion, but we savoured every moment of that freshly baked bread – the light and airy texture, the chewy crust and that signature bitter sourdough taste – and we were fine. In the future, we’ll experiment some more with this theory, but if the gluten-free life chose you, maybe give it a go?
Are there any good gluten free spots in and around Stellenbosch that you can recommend? Pop them in the comments below!