Victoria Hall has brought her gluten-free cafe to York selling everyday food everyone can eat

DELICIOUS cakes and brownies sit enticingly in the window at 2 Oxford Place, one of York's newest eating out spots in Gillygate.

Step inside and you will find all the trappings of a modern cafe: deep leather sofas, battered wooden tables, a gleaming tank of a coffee maker, and a blackboard with the menu of the day chalked up on it. Instead of bare brick walls, there is wallpaper featuring a print of bare brick walls.

It's cosy and inviting in the way the best cafes are.

The focus is on daytime snacking, with breakfast, brunch and lunch menus available – although it is also open on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Classic and traditional would be the words to describe the offerings: everything from granola, honey and yoghurt to the full English for breakfast; soup of the day, fishcakes, quiche, sandwiches and sharing plates for lunch; and in the evening, penne arrabiata, fish and chips, and bangers and mash.

If it all sounds rather ordinary, then that's just what owner Victoria Hall intends.

You see, everything at 2 Oxford Place is gluten free. Yes everything: from the bread in the sandwiches, the cakes in the window display, the sauces for the pasta and the batter for the fish and chips.

The aim, says Victoria, is to create tasty, everyday dishes which people with a gluten intolerance can enjoy – and everyone else too.

And the success of the venture – which began in Leeds four years ago (located at yes, you've guessed it, 2 Oxford Place) – is that diners don't realise they are eating food designed for people on a restricted diet.

Victoria says: "I wanted a place where people who are on a gluten-free diet could eat normally. Somewhere they could dine out and have all the things their friends were having – the sauces, the bread, the fish and chips – all the things people just take for granted."

Victoria, aged 31, began a culinary journey with gluten-free food as a teenager when she was diagnosed with coeliac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects 1 in 100 people and attacks the digestive system, stopping it from absorbing nutrients. Like many sufferers, she wasn't diagnosed until years after being unwell.

She says: "I was sickly as a child but there wasn't a crisis until I was 18." At that point, she was a student, living away from home, eating a less varied diet and drinking beer. "I got really really sick," she says.

The prescription was to strip gluten from her diet, which is a tough challenge for anyone, but even harder 13 years ago, when the notion of gluten-free food and the industry around it was much more low key.

"It's changed masses today – you can pop into your local supermarket and grab anything on the 'free from' aisle," says Victoria.

As a student, if she wanted to eat what her friends were eating, she had to cook it herself without ingredients containing gluten. It was tricky because so many food and drink staples have gluten in them, from cereals, bread, pizza and pasta to biscuits, crackers, sauces, and beer.

She began by baking. "I used to buy cookery magazines, rip out the pictures and stick them on the walls. I would adapt recipes, tweaking them and having a go."

By trial and error, she discovered what worked. "Gluten-free baking is quite different," she begins. "If you were making a Victoria sponge, normally you would have equal parts of butter, sugar and flour, but with gluten-free baking you have to have different ratios. The quantity of butter is much lower and you use more milk – it has to be full fat as you need that fat. There is a much higher liquid content as the absorption of gluten-free flour is different to wheat flour. You make gluten-free Yorkshire puddings differently too – if you add an extra egg you will get a better result."

But the real secret ingredient, says Victoria, is xanthan gum, a plant-based gelling agent which adds structure to gluten-free bakery. "If you don't add this to your gluten-free cake mix it will just be like single cream," advises Victoria. It's widely available in supermarkets, she adds.

Victoria can rightly call herself an expert in gluten-free baking – she has written a glossy cookbook packed with recipes for bread, cakes and savouries, including making pastry. It is called This is Gluten-free: Delicious gluten-free recipes to bake it better, and is available from Amazon and from Victoria's own website, priced £15, where she also sells her own gluten-free bread mix.

At 2 Oxford Place, Victoria does all the baking and bread making, while her chef Wai Aye prepares the food. Both Wai and Katie Logan, front of house, worked with Victoria at the Leeds restaurant.

Victoria will be sharing her favourite recipes with our readers every month in a new column, with the first appearing below - for a savoury pea, feta and mint frittini.


York Press:

Victoria writes: Gluten free and a sneaky vehicle for veg, these are brilliant for transporting to a picnic. They also make a great staple for lunch, needing nothing more than a simple green salad to accompany them. You can vary the filling to suit your mood and the seasons; keep the egg and crème fraiche mixture constant, and mix it up with combos such as sundried tomatoes and mozzarella, cheddar cheese and bacon, or smoked salmon and dill.

Makes 12

Start to Serve 2 hours

Prep Time 25 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Cooling / Setting time 1 hour


Soft butter, for greasing

3 courgettes

4 eggs

300g crème fraiche

Salt and pepper, for seasoning

100g frozen peas

85g feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped


1. Preheat your oven to 190c/gas 5.

2. Grease a 12-hole deep muffin tin with butter.

3. Using a Y shaped vegetable peeler, peel the courgettes lengthways – shave off as many long strips from one side of the courgette as you can before turning it over and working from the other side to the core.

4. Use the courgette strips to line the holes of the muffin tin. Use 4-6 strips per hole and overlap them to ensure that the lining is complete.

5. Sprinkle all of the frozen peas and two-thirds of the feta cheese and chopped mint into the courgette-lined holes, distributing evenly and then set aside while you make the filling.

6. In a jug, mix whisk together the eggs, crème fraiche and season with salt and pepper.

7. Pour the egg mixture into the courgette cases and then sprinkle over the remaining feta and mint.

8. Place the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the filling is lightly golden and set.

9. Place the tin on to a wire rack and allow to cool before carefully removing the frittinis from the tin, using a palette knife to loosen the edges.

The frittinis can be served cold or warmed-up slightly in the oven before serving. Be sure to remove them from the tin before warming, as it will be much easier when they are more firmly set.