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IMG_1233As a judge at the annual Free From Food Awards, I get to taste the widest range of existing and new gluten free products on the market. There is always something exciting to discover. This year I had the pleasure of judging the dessert category, and one of the highlights for me was finally getting the chance to try London’s new GF patisserie, Manna Dew.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving any award secrets away… But I have to admit that their Red Velvet Cake and Chocolate Caramel Bombe for me stood out amongst much of the beige, overly sweet and coconut laced range. Having tried these delicate, light cakes in judging, I made it my mission to get to Manna Dew as soon as possible.

Just a short walk from Clapham Junction station, Manna Dew, a petit patisserie and café is the showcase for their completely gluten free cakes, macarons, tarts, breads and sandwiches. Opened by Mo and Diana – 2 ex-engineers – earlier this year, they were proud to give me the guided tour of their specialist bakery, where gluten is never present. Prior to opening, they spent more than 10 months developing and perfecting recipes. In particular they focused on traditional French patisserie, even hiring an expert Patissiere from French icon Laduree to teach them essentials of baking including tart fillings and of course the famous macarons.

And their hard work has paid off. Everything behind the glass counter looks like it belongs in Paris. Neat, petit, colourful and so incredibly tempting, it reminded me of my trip to Helmut Newcake in Paris. Delicate pastry tarts filled with vibrant yellow passion fruit filling, a row of narrow mini loaf cakes, bright coloured macarons in a range of flavours plus ‘those’ Red Velvet and Chocolate Carmel ones that instigated the trip in the first place. In the window, to tempt passers by, were high risen scones, snappy biscuits, dense brownies and superfood flapjacks too.

In addition to being gluten free, with a couple of dairy free options, the recipes are all made without traditional refined sugar, using agave nectar and coconut palm sugar instead. Focused instead on the highest quality ingredients, real vanilla and flower essences, whole nuts and no funny additives. However there is still refined sugar used in the macarons, as these just would not work without good old fashioned icing sugar.

In terms of quality, I was really impressed with the overall quality of each product I tried. The skill and ingredients shine through. There are still some improvements to be made – too thick pastry, dry scone and bread (has anyone ever had a good GF scone?) but given how new they are to the market and free from baking, it’s really very good. The flavours are punchy, not too sweet and everything was an appropriate size. The mouse speciality cakes are light and without compromise for being GF. I didn’t get to try their signature focaccia, which is their base for sandwiches, and I hear good things about. One for next time along with some macarons I think…

To be honest, its just a shame its in Clapham Junction. But they have grand plans to supply the best restaurants and shops of London, the sooner the better. They do also do an amazing value afternoon tea, which needs to be booked in advance and is only £11. For this you get a pot of tea, 2 little rustic loaf cakes, 3 finger sandwiches plus a scone or macaron. Double the price to £22 for more tea, sandwiches and an additional creamy cake it is incredible value given the quality of these bakes.

Please note: all products sampled were paid for in this review.

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