London Gluten Free Pizza: Stingray Café, Tufnell Park
Another balmy summer’s evening, another round of gluten free pizzas. This time it was the turn of Stingray Café in Tufnell Park, North London – an independently run Pizzeria that offers gluten-free starters, mains, desserts and – pleasingly – beer on its menu.
We stepped off the North London high street into Stingray Café just before 7pm and were shown to our seats in the spacious upstairs area. It was already half full and filled completely within the next hour, with several takeaway orders making the kitchen even busier. Stingray has been around for over ten years and has offered gluten-free alternatives on its menu for four, whilst manager Ash has been responsible for running the restaurant for the past year. Ash came to the UK from India twelve years ago to study hospitality at Bournemouth – a university renowned for its hospitality and tourism school – and spent time working in an Indian restaurant before taking the management role at Stingrays. A friendly and knowledgeable character, Ash suggested we try the Chilli King Prawns and Prosciutto & Mozzarella to start. This would be washed down with a bottle of Crop Circle – a gluten-free, coeliac UK registered beer brewed by hopback using malt and yeast.
The King Prawns, which appear on the Specials Menu once a month, were tangy and delicious with a great kick to them. The Prosciutto and Mozzarella was equally nice, with the cheese, supplied by specialist Italian ingredient supplier Italia Mea, oozing from the plate. The Crop Circle beer was nice at first, but due to a slightly bitter aftertaste I couldn’t drink more than one. Whilst it was much nicer than most gluten-free beers I have tried it wasn’t up there with my favourite Mongozo, which I had to double check was definitely gluten-free when I tried it for the first time.
For my main I had my favourite, the Quattro Stagioni (or Four Seasons to you and I) pizza with tomato, mozzarella, ham, artichoke olives and egg, whilst Mrs Intolerant London had Pasta Luigi, with halloumi, roasted aubergine, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. We waited a few minutes for these to arrive whilst the kitchen dealt with a 20 pizza takeaway order, but the wait was worth it. The thin and crispy pizza bases are made using Dove’s Farm gluten-free flour, composed from a mixture of tapioca, potato, maize, buckwheat and that most brilliant of binding substances, xantham gum. According to Ash, a lot of diners couldn’t tell the difference between these and the regular bases, and whilst it lacked a bit of moisture (as 99% of gluten-free pizzas do) it really wasn’t far off at all. Mrs Intolerant London loved her pasta, as from a gluten-free point of view the fusilli twirls lacked the stodginess of many gluten-free pastas; from a more general point of view the pesto was rich and velvety, complementing the fresh ingredients used.
The restaurant was completely full by now, not bad for 8.30pm on a Thursday evening. Inhabited by a mixture of young professionals and families with young children using crayons to create pieces of art for their parents’ walls, it seemed like most people in here were regulars, which contributed to a lovely, relaxed atmosphere. Almost as lovely as our dessert, the gluten-free Chocolate and Walnut cake. Rich, velvety and warm, the cake went perfectly with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream.
For gluten-free foodies, Stingray café is well worth a visit for three main reasons. Firstly, the menu offers genuine options, meaning you’re not only stuck with one or two options per course and you can even enjoy a beer with your meal. Secondly, the staff are personable and the restaurant has a real family feel to it. Ash seemed to be on first-name terms with many of the diners and it is clearly the kind of place that people keep coming back to. Finally, with a bottle of wine, a couple of drinks in addition, and three courses each, the bill came to less than £50 for the two of us, which is great value!
Stingray is celebrating its 10th birthday with a special three-course £13.95 menu. Please visit http://www.stingraycafe.co.uk/ for more information