Take it from a local girl, Cardiff is wonderful. It is a buzzing, green, manageable nook of the UK that happens to be a capital city – so you know that while there are of course tourist attractions and shopping centres, chain restaurants and crowds, we do also have the most charming arcades, bookshops, shrines to fictional characters and – most importantly – independent cafes. It’s lovely and I won’t be told otherwise – it is not my heavily biased opinion, but a fact.
So with my homesick fangirling a little bit out of the way, here are my top places in Cardiff for great GF eats and a damn good cup of coffee.
Right in the heart of Morgan’s Arcade, so you know it’s going to be all cobble stones and cuteness, is one of the best lunch spots in town. They do jacket potatoes, toasties, soup, curry, sandwiches, salads – I could go on. And pretty much everything is GF adaptable, which makes things easy unless it’s a particularly busy Saturday and everyone’s Christmas shopping and there’s a rugby match on because then they will sell out of everything pretty fast.
Their coffee is award-winning, and rightly so, free refills of filter coffee definitely not a downside in my book. They do advertise a selection of gluten-free cakes and that’s misleading, but the GF caramel shortbread they do offer is worth an entire menu of options so don’t be disheartened.
It’s definitely cosy inside and out (though outside is still under a roof because it’s in an arcade) and the staff really know the food that they’re serving – both me and my less fussy friends would recommend this place, particularly if you just want to be able to eat a damn good sandwich for lunch and not be offered a quinoa salad for once (though I’m sure they do those too).
I can’t begin to explain how much I love this place. Not only is it in my hometown, right next to a park with my name in it’s title, it is also a creperie run by an unbelievably lovely French woman who offers GF options for all crepes, galettes, waffles and cookies. And she does an amazing soy toffee nut latte.
It’s my utopia, what can I say.
But whether or not it includes all of your favourite things in one place like it does for me, it is undoubtedly a wonderful place for breakfast or brunch. Pretty much nothing on the menu is off-limits to those of us who can’t eat certain things, the view of the park is gorgeous at any time of year, and I dare anyone to finish a waffle in there because I haven’t quite yet managed it.
You will leave full of fine French and free from friendly food, and intensely strong coffee (though decaf is available if you want to miss out on that particular buzz)and I dare anyone to not be satisfied.
So go, practise your French, order a crepe and thank me later.
I know that this chain has slowly invaded England (just in Southampton there are at least three) but it’s a Welsh company so I’m claiming it.
Not a solely GF environment if that’s important to you, but their coffee is magnificently strong, they offer soy free of charge in most branches, and, most importantly to me, they not only do a pretty great GF orange polenta cake, they also do (wait for it) gluten free AND dairy free chocolate praline brownies that I would certainly maim a few people to get my hands on. They’re rich, chewy, crunchy, smooth and just gah delicious.
If you’re not in the mood for coffee, or trying to stay away from caffeine or dairy (or soy), they also have a full menu of fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies, and for the summer there are frappes and iced coffees galore – choice is not an problem here. And for those who can enjoy a dabble into the world of glutenous cake their teacakes are the size of your head so you can’t go wrong (or hungry).
It’s aesthetic is also very friendly to those of you who want to take a book or laptop and spend a while in a stylishly dark yet cosy space with bookshelves and inspirational quotes from beloved authors on the walls. It’s a truly welcoming place to be. And they do Welsh cakes – even in the English branches.
So you’re welcome England, for our beautifully hipster coffee houses, straight outta Pontcanna.
This one is just round the corner from The Plan (above), so the same arcade offers you lots of different choices. And Crumbs is an option for those following a stricter diet, or perhaps a more adventurous one if you don’t want a mere GF bread substitute of what everyone else is having.
Salads are this place’s forte, though not a boring limp lettuce-and-tomato deal, more a fruity couscous jumble with a side of falafel. This stuff is filling, wholly vegetarian, and largely GF and vegan, though a little pricier than eating in some of the other places on this list.
However you do get an extremely cosy setting for your lunch date and the option of GF cake, with an added sense of community – this is the kind of place that warrants regulars as well as welcoming newcomers with open arms.
Though not much in terms of table space Crumbs is never empty, and I think that’s an excellent sign, especially for a cafe with such a niche menu. And it is nice to eat in a place where everyone else is eating the same thing you are; a rarity in a world where lunch is predominantly defined by bread.
Despite it’s name, you won’t find many crumbs here, just the super-food boost you’ve been looking for.
Garlands Coffee House is like walking into a doll’s house. Dimly lit and crowed in the best possible way, with a big mahogany bar and a faded pink theme, it seems all ruffles and tea-time until your bearded pop punk waiter walks over. It’s a truly charming juxtaposition.
Breakfast is definitely what this place is built for. They do everything from cooked breakfasts to pancakes to granola – to banana and peanut butter sandwiches (not a hit with me but each to their own).
They of course do lunch and snack food, you can just go in for a cup of
tea if you like, they are also licensed to serve cocktails in the evening. But honestly a brunch of fluffy American style GF pancakes with pulled pork and maple syrup (seriously, don’t knock it ’til you try it) is something not to be missed out on.
The size of the place means it gets busy quick, but it’s a perfect little shelter from an often bustling town centre, tucked inside an ornate arcade and lit so you feel like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
It’s just you and your pancakes, and if that’s not appealing I don’t know what is.
I’ve saved the best ’til last. Waterloo Tea, either in the city centre (another cute arcade), Penarth or actually by Waterloo Gardens in Penylan is both adorable, allergen conscious and, in the case of the park, dog-friendly.
I’m in love with it.
Not only do they offer GF almond and polenta cakes, they also offer dairy free, vegan and nut free options – sometimes all in one cake. And if you’ve ever doubted the deliciousness of chocolate avocado frosting, go here and let them change your mind.
I must admit I’ve had better coffee but there’s is definitely not to be sniffed at and the selection of cakes makes up for it infinitely. They also offer breakfasts and lunches, but in my opinion this is a perfect Sunday afternoon tea place to walk your dog and stop for cake. And I would highly recommend the gluten-free dairy-free strawberry and pistachio cake if you’re going to do that. They also have a list of tea longer than a Dickens novel so choice is not just limited to sweet treats.
And you will not find a cuter place, despite the fact that I’ve just given you a list of them all in one city.
So please go and discover the cute little gluten-free corners of Cardiff, you will not regret it I promise.
Let them eat cake!*
(gluten-free of course)