Coeliacs. Just about everyone knows at least one, and some of you may even be one. Historically, coeliac kind have had a pretty rough time of it in Melbourne, but in the last ten or so years I have become very proud of how far we have come, and now think of Melbourne as perhaps Australia's most accommodating and duodenally progressive city.
That having been said, a lot of coeliac culture still relies on word of mouth, and there are many great places to buy gluten free groceries that may easily slip under the radar. There are probably too many to be named, but below I have listed what I believe to be the best three coeliac friendly supermarkets in Melbourne, from North, to East, to West (sorry South).
If you are or cook for a coeliac, these places are all great and all deserve a visit for their own special reasons.
North: The Fruit Peddler, Northcote
If you are cooking a gluten free meal, you can quickly pick up your gluten free basics here. Once next door to the legendary coeliac haven Silly Yaks (or more recently, Saks) Café, in recent years, the Fruit Peddler actually bought out Saks to expand, and have become quite large and extensive. Despite this, it has managed to maintain quite a cute old-world general store feel.
I'll be honest: It's pretty hard to miss
In terms of groceries themselves, The Fruit Peddler is an organic/ health food store rather than a specialty coeliac store, but their new space, love or hate how it came about, has allowed them to provide quite a large number of gluten free options and brands where it once sold just the bare basics.
Food for the modern coeliac, with an old-world general store feel
Silly Yaks-branded pies, pasties, and other baked goods are available at the back of the store, along with a gigantic selection of Zehnder breads, including olive, pumpkin, and sultana.
A freezer full of Zehnder awaits you at the back of store, bearing sultana, pumpkin, and olive bread as well as all the delicious bread basics and more
Despite buying out Silly Yaks Cafe to expand, they have not deprived the world of it altogether, selling its range of frozen pies, pasties, quiches and other goodies
A neighbouring freezer cheerfully proffers the range of The Pastry Pantry gluten free frozen pastries, and when I lived in the northern suburbs and was going through a now somewhat regrettable pie-baking phase, this freezer was a good friend to me. I am glad it survived the expansion untouched.
A huge selection of packet mixes takes up one of the walls
Including little heard of doughnut mix and many other cake and bread mixes
Gluten free cake, pancake, doughnut, muffin, bread, and custard mixes line the shelves, as do ready-made biscuits, crackers, and muesli bars.
Variety abounds for the sweet-toothed snacker
But the savoury snacker is not discriminated agaist
For the conservative coeliac, don't panic! There are also (as there always were) the basics in terms of pastas, pizza bases, and the more traditional line-up of gluten free breads (the ones that can also be used to ward off intruders at home), so everyone can leave happy.
Yep... Those breads.
Probably the only frustration that I could foresee for the coeliac shopper is the layout of the place. The gluten free food is not clearly labelled or set apart from the other food, so you need to take the time to pick through everything to find what you want gluten free. The average coeliac will probably be thoroughly immune to this though, and the trade-off for the variety gained is well worth it.
In case you were wondering, they do actually also pedal fruit
In terms of cost, you will pay pretty much what you expect to pay for gluten free food. It is not really cheap, but similarly, it is not more expensive than the average coeliac shopping bill.
Where I once would have recommended that this was a place for basics, since the expansion I would recommend the Fruit Peddler to coeliacs as a northern hub for groceries. If you are near Northcote, it is well worth a visit.
Address: 103 High Street, Northcote
East - Sunnybrook Health Store, Ormond
The entrance from the carpark. I originally mistook it for a car repair workshop, but don't be deceived by the bright building and narrow entrance. A coeliac haven awaits within.
Sunnybrook only needs two words to describe it; huge, and diverse. But I'll give you a few more anyway while I'm here. Sunnybrook will always be special to me because it was the first place of its kind that I came across.
It's the size of a small supermarket and is absolutely packed with goodies that cater to pretty much any form of food allergy or intolerance that you can think of. Like a supermarket, it sells all the gluten free basics and necessities at quite reasonable prices, with a little bit extra.
There is the usual artillery of frozen gluten free goodies to make your dinner easier, but there are also some impressive extras. Probably, somewhat boringly, my favourite of the basic freezer items is the gluten free puff pastry which actually puffs and flakes (anyone who has been a coeliac for a while will understand why that is exciting). My favourite freezer extras would definitely include, but be careful not to limit themselves to, the doughnuts and chocolate éclairs. Which leads me to the need to disclose that any time spent in the freezer section must be accompanied by a warning: the chocolate éclairs are extremely manipulative, and highly motivated to come home with you. When they get there, they will not let up until you have eaten them all. For this reason, if you are weak, I recommend you send someone in to the freezer section on your behalf.
The freezers, for those with strong resolve. Home to breads, pies, pastries and snacks, along with the infamous, highly manipulative chocolate eclairs
There are shelves of preservative-free wine and piles of different types of gluten free beer, sauces, packet mixes, breads, snacks, pastas, and numerous other things that a coeliac might be pining for.
Just because you have dietary restrictions doesn't mean you shouldn't have fun!
... A lot of fun
There is also a sizeable section of shelves for gluten free lunch box fillers for anyone with a tiny coeliac, or the frequent munchies.
From the front entrance. It is difficult to convey the size of Sunnybrook through photos. This is really only a tiny piece
Be aware that the entire store is not gluten free. They cater to a wide range of dietary fragilities (usually clearly marked) so coeliacs will still need to double check things before they buy, but there is generally very explicit labelling throughout the store. Additionally, there are always people on-site who will happily chat to you about your dietary issues, which may be a comfort to gastrointestinal newbies.
Address: 553A North Road, Ormond
West - Absolutely Gluten Free, Werribee
The entrance off Watton Street is quiet and unassuming. That's probably because all the exciting stuff is inside
In my opinion, Absolutely Gluten Free supermarket and cafe is the reigning champion of the duodenal world. I won't go into as much detail as this place deserves, as I have previously written a more detailed review on it here. Suffice to say pasta, bread, packet mixes, pastry, quick frozen meals, confectionary, sauces, spreads , cereals, snacks, doughnuts, beer, pies, everything you could want and buy in a normal supermarket with a run-of-the-mill digestive tract is alluringly displayed on these shelves with not a hint of gluten in sight.
The owners of this store have developed it with a great deal of love and care, and it is very clear that their goal was to provide coeliacs with a supermarket that was as extensive and diverse a normal supermarket. They have done it too. The average coeliac will get through a shopping trip here without having to read a single ingredients list.
Although it appears quite small upon entry, they have managed to squeeze an insane amount of gluten free food into the place, and the average coeliac could easily kill a couple of hours amongst the aisles
The hardest thing you will ever have to do is walk past the hot jam doughnuts to get your shopping done
Fortunately the confectionary isn't until the end
Whilst absolutely everything is indeed gluten free, the supermarket also caters to a wide variety of additional dietary requirements including but not limited to egg, dairy and fructose. The owners are always on-site, are incredibly knowledgeable, and are happy to discuss your individual situation.
Dairy free yoghurt, cheese, and dips for the variably intolerant, and that's not even the start of it!
When you are done with your shop and are planning the drive back from Werribee, you can top off your shopping with a vanilla slice, that actually tastes like vanilla slice! The cafe at the front of the store has any number of cakes and slices that you could imagine as well as paninis and countless other mouthwatering post-shopping-necessities for you to restore your strength with before driving back home. It really is a tiny coeliac micro-world.
A huge array of baked goods in various forms of dietary sensitivity. If you are lactose intolerant or a coeliac, this is the magical place where your respective vanilla slice days are not yet over!
Probably the best thing (setting aside the vanilla slice) about Absolutely Gluten Free though, is that it does what it says. Absolutely everything in the store is gluten free, so entry essentially earns you a coeliac hall pass. Everything about this store makes it a safe and happy place for coeliacs, and I feel that this is what makes it far and away the jewel in Melbourne's Coeliac Trail's crown.
More gluten free beer than I would ever have thought existed line the shelves of the fridges
The prices are extremely reasonable too. I find them, on average, to be quite a bit cheaper than the average health food store.
If you are a coeliac, I would venture that you should not attempt another single depressing shop at Coles until you have seen this place.
Did I mention the hot jam doughnuts?
Address: 85 Watton Street, Werribee
Those were my top three picks for gluten free shopping. The coeliac survival tool is communication though, so if you know of any other or better places of refuge for the dietary-challenged, please feel free to post about them in the forum below. I am always excited to try new places and to pass the word along!
I live in the area and shop regularly at Absolutely Gluten Free, but I'm finding Aldi, Coles and Woolworth now have a very extensive range of their own gluten free products at very reasonable prices. No longer do you have to mortgage the house to do the grocery shopping
Thanks for the recommendations:) I have visited all of the stores on the list now and find Sunnybrook best suited to my needs and their range is the largest so I can do all my shopping in the one place. They also have an online store which I now order from weekly and find it convenient as I have recently moved to the other side of the city.