La Polenteria is, not surprisingly, a restaurant based around polenta, which is a corn based meal that is a staple in northern Italy. Based in Soho, it is a convenient spot for a pre-theatre meal or just to stop for lunch or some cake.
**Note: From 6 March 2017, La Polenteria is rebranding to LEGGERO**
If you are looking for gluten free in London, polenta is naturally gluten free and La Polenteria is accredited by Coeliac UK (2015), so it is an ideal option for those on a strict gluten free diet. There are also plenty of vegetarian options.
For the Brits, polenta is not commonly cooked at home, so all the more reason to give it a try! Most of us have seen polenta as side dishes, such as ‘polenta fries’ or as a mashed potato replacement, but La Polentaria are using polenta in inventive ways, such as as bread or pastry replacements in both savoury and sweet items.
You will find a wide range of hearty meals as well as healthy salads. If polenta just doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are also non-polenta meal options such as pasta
Please note: the menu has changed since I wrote this review – you will find more up to date photos and information on the 100% gluten free London post.
The menu has some information about the nutritional value of polenta and how it is prepared and also has photos of the dishes. I wouldn’t normally like to see photos on a menu, but as this is a new concept it was helpful in making a choice. The restaurant is licensed and a gluten free beer is available (coeliacs just be careful as not all the beers are gluten free).
I chose the mushroom cups, which was my first real introduction to polenta done in an inventive way, with a pastry case. There was plenty of nicely seasoned mushroom making it a very enjoyable entree. My friend had the tomato ‘bruschetta’, which was a generous serve, but a very plain dish that could have done with some basil and seasoning.
This cheese board is listed as a starter, but it would be just as good as an after dinner option or a snack. My husband gave high praise for the cheese selection and did not want to share!
My main was a cheese stuffed sausage on a bed of salad with polenta chips and mayonnaise for dipping. The mix of flavours was good and the mayo was a nice accompaniment for both the chips and the meat.
My husband really enjoyed the salmon fettuccine. The gluten free pasta had a slightly different texture to normal pasta, but still not a problem for someone not needing to eat gluten free.
My vegetarian friend enjoyed having a lot of vegetarian options on the menu, and she described her meal as a bit like cannelloni, but not baked. She enjoyed it, but thought the salad needed a dressing just to lift the flavours.
Overall our group felt that polenta is probably something to have in small doses as it risks becoming a bit ‘samey’ if you are having it at every course, although the same could be said for having wheat or another grain at every course. I would recommend mixing it up with polenta and non-polenta courses. The one from our group who didn’t have any polenta absolutely loved his meal, and although the rest of us enjoyed our meals, we perhaps felt a bit overwhelmed by polenta after two courses.
I would definitely visit again and next time would save room for dessert. We were provided with sweet polenta biscuits with our bill and they were lovely.
For a price guide, starters are generally £5-7 and mains range from £10-18.
La Polenteria is a small restaurant (maybe seating around 20 people), so at peak times it would be a good idea to book. Our waiter was really friendly and gave good service. If you are working or staying nearby, there are also some takeaway and delivery options.
After our visit, it was good to see La Polenteria had been shortlisted on the 2015 Free From Eating Out awards, as one of eight restaurants acknowledged for catering for special diets.
64 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UQ Phone: 020 7434 3617
7 days noon-11.30pm
Declaration: I was invited to review La Polentaria and our party received a complimentary glass of Prosecco.
For more ideas on eating out in London and the UK, please check the following links:
- 100% Gluten Free UK page (including London)
- Summary of chains offering gluten free options
- all UK restaurant reviews
- Restaurant Lists page
- Gluten free at Heathrow & Gatwick
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