Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Oscar and Bentley's

I've been friends with Léonie for 11 years now (eek!) - we lived together at University in our final year with three other girls and managed to not fall out with each other once.  She disappeared a couple of times in the following years (once to Wales and once to India of all places) but we have always been good friends and she has crashed on our spare bed after nights out more times than I can count.  If I am utterly honest about it I looked forward more to us pulling out the sofa bed in the living room, wrapping ourselves in duvets with gigantic mugs of steaming tea and watching back to back re-runs of My Super Sweet Sixteenth whilst fighting off the hangover.

Lé has always been a vegetarian but has, in the last few years, also been required to switch to a GF diet.  She is also tee-total these days but we don't talk about that.

Oscar and Bentley's, the home of glamorous, gluten free food in Canterbury, was the ideal place to take her for an afternoon treat one cold winter's afternoon.
Lé finds it really hard to eat out as so many places don't fully cater for gluten-free so it was brilliant to take her somewhere where she didn't need to worry about anything on the menu and, for once, could choose from any of the options without having to ask staff what is GF friendly.  This makes for a very happy Léonie!
Oscar and Bentley's has been open for nearly a year and is owned by one of the Canterbury Players!  We get around a bit...

You can book and reserve tables for special occasions; there was a 50th birthday party going on when we were there and I'm fairly sure they had been working their way through the extensive wine, beer and champagne menu (which include a GF beer made from malt and hops!)
Katherine and Sarah, the owners, are sisters whose mother was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and therefore has an intolerance to gluten.  They both worked tirelessly to make sure that this intolerance did not affect their mother's enjoyment of food and cake.  There was, and still is, a distinct lack of options for people who are on GF diets,  something that, while getting better, is still difficult as gluten is such a common binding and structural agent in cooking and baking.  In doing so they realised that there are a lot of people out there who share the same dietary concerns as their mother who would also benefit from their creativity and baking genius.

Oscar and Bentley's was born.

All of the cake's and bread are fresh and baked daily in the store and there is a real emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and produce. 
I have been in a few times and it is always busy.  It does a fantastic mixture of luxury cakes and muffins, all road tested by Sarah and Katherine as well as a full bistro menu, including breakfasts, beef carpaccio, potted duck, wraps, salads, omelettes, burgers, risotto, steak and even a red Thai curry!  The menu is seasonal and varies throughout the year.
It is located just off the highstreet, opposite Debenhams and from the outside, Oscar and Bentley's resembles many of the other historical pubs and coffee shops in Canterbury, with its lead window panes, wrought iron street lamps and stained glass, but inside it is an entirely different matter.  There are no dusty wooden beams and dark corners in this little slice of GF heaven.
Sparkling chandeliers, etched glass mirrors and luxury fabrics in a decadent colour scheme provide a light, modern but still intimate cafe.
We settled in out of the cold and were quickly approached by the waitress who demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the goodies available.  I will be back here for lunch at some point but for now we focused on cake.  We have our priorities straight clearly.

I dug into a white chocolate rocky road slice; gooey and sticky and chewy and moorish and not at all like other gluten free food I have eaten.  It had flavour and texture!
Lé had a (raspberry I think) and almond frangipane - light, moist and not dry in the slightest - an impressive achievement without gluten.  I've tried to make frangipane (with gluten it must be said), and have found it ridiculously difficult to do perfectly so I applaud anyone who can!   This particular one also held its structure and didn't crumble to pieces when Lé stuck her fork in it, a definite positive!
We both got stuck into pots of tea - Jasmine for me and Earl Grey for Lé.
Topped off with bottles of ginger beer for added spice!
We had a relaxed and unhurried afternoon.  At no point did we feel under any pressure to hurry up and leave.  The waitresses were attentive but unobtrusive and the prices were very reasonable.  I think that the bill for 2 pieces of cake, 3 pots of tea and a ginger beer came to £15.  You can also buy and order the cakes and pastries so you can enjoy excellent quality GF cakes at home! Oscar and Bentley's is gathering quite a hoard of loyal followers who rave about it (just check out Tripadvisor) and Katherine and Sarah are also regulars on the food fayre scene, popping up with delectable nibbles of cake and pastry for people to try and converting people to the concept that a GF diet does not mean boring, at least not anymore! 

I'm lucky in that I have no food allergies or dietary requirements and so have never had to look through a menu and discard the majority of the items because I can't eat them.  I can't even imagine how that must affect your enjoyment of dining out, or even dining in.

It felt wonderful being able to take Léonie somewhere where I knew that she and I could look at the same menu and she could have anything she wanted, knowing she was safe and wouldn't be suffering the next day.

Now that is a priceless feeling!

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