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Delivering on gluten-free happiness

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A haven and destination eatery for people from the Manawatū and beyond.

At Munch, their niche is catering for people with food allergies and intolerances. A 100% gluten free and nut free premises, they offer keto, vegan, low fodmap, and vegetarian options. They were also the first café in the district to be Dining out Programme approved as being coeliac safe. You can imagine Max Smitheram's delight when after cycling 1316km from Cape Reinga (with his friend Andrew on a 3000km Tour Aotearoa cycle journey) that the food served would be coeliac safe and gluten free. This was only the 2nd time over the past 15 days that he had felt confident to sit down and eat what was being served without resorting to a dehydrated gluten free packet meal.

Munch’s tagline and ethos is “Inclusive Eating”. They do their best to cater to the dietary needs of every customer, even if it means specially preparing a safe meal for them. “We get coeliacs come in here and they can choose anything from our menu and cabinet. Suddenly they’re overwhelmed with being able to dine out ‘normally’. Something changes in them, and they realise they’re just like everyone else. People’s gratitude is amazing,” says James.

Being inclusive isn’t limited to the food – it’s about welcoming diversity to the cafe. A sticker on the front door welcomes the rainbow community and the toilets are gender neutral. The staff are a mixture of nationalities. Everyone is welcome.

People are often surprised by the “big city feel” when they walk into Munch, with its two-story layout. James teamed up with her son Brodie to do the fitout. They’ve created a unique décor James describes as “eclectic bordering on eccentric”, creating a strong sense of place – something which James believes is essential for a successful eatery. The walls are decorated with items like old record covers, bevelled mirrors, and retro art pieces. It’s a visual feast. James bought most of the collection from opportunity shops.

Looking around, everyone can spot familiar items. “People come in and see artwork or something that they had in their childhood. It gives them that connection straight away.” Says James.

“Munch delivers on the three essential ingredients in building a successful eatery - great food, great service, and great atmosphere.”

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