"We work on loyalty and good karma," says Wholegreen Bakery's owner Cherie Lyden. The gluten free bakery has a fiercely loyal customer base first established through their Carriageworks and Northside Product market stalls and now through their cafe on Arden Street in Waverley. Certainly it's where coeliacs go for refuge - my coeliac friend Shaney has brought me here today. She remembers one of her first visits to the cafe walking out with big bags of over $100 worth of gluten free goods.
While gluten free cakes are simple enough, they've got the almost impossible nailed: bread and pastries. "The bakery was created to bring a bit of joy into the lives of gluten free people. Why should we have to miss out?" says Cherie who is a latent coeliac along with her 8 year old daughter who was diagnosed at 2 years old.
Normally good gluten free breads and pastries are a challenge as it is so difficult to replicate the effects of gluten but French chef Sebastien Syidalza has mastered these after months of testing. So much so that Shaney is his biggest fan girl as she can now eat her fill of pain au chocolat, ham and cheese croissant, cheese and feta pasties and glistening fruit and chocolate caramel tarts.
The croissants are such a production that they are only sold on Fridays and Saturdays. I watch Sebastien cutting out the triangles and rolling them up. This is an entirely gluten free bakery so there is no risk of cross contamination.
Sebastien trained as an accountant in France but became jealous of a friend who worked in pastry and switched careers. He met an Australian woman, who would become his fiancé and they moved to Sydney.
Cherie was a nutritionist but she considers herself, "An eat everything in moderation type of girl". The bakery uses free range chicken and grass fed beef as well as the best butter to suit the tricky job of working with gluten free dough. Sebastien's beloved French butter had to be forsaken as it was just too hard in texture and an Australian butter used in its place.
Shaney and I take a look at the display and she points at all of her favourites, which to be fair are pretty much everything in the display. I love the sound of the beef sausage roll, chicken and leek pie and the ham and cheese croissant while Shaney's favourite is the lentil pie. I sit down with a warming pot of almond milk sticky masala chai sweetened with honey.
Chicken & leek Pie $8.50
The chicken and leek pie is creamy and the pastry is really good. The filling has a good amount of sauce to it and I have to stop myself from devouring it all. You probably wouldn't even notice that the pastry was gluten free except perhaps maybe the puff pastry top isn't as layered.
Grass fed beef sausage roll $8.50
My other favourite is the beef sausage roll with a flaky pastry and a delicious beef mince filling and a house made tomato sauce.
Lentil Pie $8.50
The lentil pie is also good especially with the herb pesto but I think out of the two, the chicken and leek is the winner for me. The side salad is a quinoa, kale and carrot salad with a mustard vinaigrette on top. I can see that most people get a baked item and a salad as their lunch.
Seeded bread $9.50
We also try their bread-the other thing that is hard to crack gluten free. The seeded sourdough is Shaney's favourite so we try a loaf of that (and on Saturdays they have French baguettes) and it's really good. If you were a celiac you'd be over the moon with the bread, spread with some of their house made pesto and butter.
Spinach, feta and kale pastie $8.50
My other favourite along with the chicken pie is the feta, kale and spinach pastie with a fragrant hit of nutmeg-this is just as good or in many cases better than a regular glutened version.
Ham and cheese croissant $8.50
As I've eaten basically half of all the above I only intend to have a bite of the ham and cheese croissant but my half is gone before I know it. Filled with bechamel, ham and topped with cheese it's buttery and moreish. Although you don't get the honeycomb effect inside like with a glutened croissant there are definitely layers and the taste is there and there's a definite crunch and flake factor too.
Plain croissant $5, pain au raison $5.50, fruit Danish $6
And then there are the pastries. The plain croissant is lovely and buttery with a sweet glaze on top and can be served warm if you want it. The raspberry and custard Danish straddles sweet and tangy well and you can see the pastry layers in this. My favourite is the glazed snail with sultanas and custard. It's very close to a glutened version and a delight served warm. I can see people taking these home and stashing them in the freezer for when they need a hit. Or just ripping them apart in the car on the way home and raining crumbs down on their active wear (or is that just me?).
Coffee éclair $7.50 and choquettes
There are three éclair flavours and the coffee is the staff favourite made with real coffee, tiny specks of coffee and a chocolate coated coffee bean on top. The chouquettes are made to go with pearl sugar sprinkled on top and sold in lots of 5 bites.
Salted caramel, chocolate and hazelnut tart $8.50
Tart-wise there is a range including chocolate and salted caramel, lemon meringue and the newest addition: raspberry and pistachio. The chocolate caramel tart has a gorgeously crisp tart shell and a layer of caramel and then chocolate ganache and a generous sprinkling of hazelnuts.
Raspberry & Pistachio Tart $8.50
But my heart is stolen by the raspberry and pistachio tart. For starters there looks to be almost a punnet's worth of raspberries on each tart. There's that same crisp tart shell, a layer of roasted, chopped pistachios, pistachio ganache and then a layer of creme patissiere on top before the layer of fresh raspberries on top!
So tell me Dear Reader, are you a gluten free eater or coeliac and if so, what food do you miss the most? Do you have many friends that are coeliacs?
This meal was independently paid for.
24 Arden St, Waverley NSW 2024
Open Monday to Saturday 7am–4pm
Phone: (02) 9664 2211