Monday, 1 April 2013

Eating out: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Alexandra is quite fussy with food- not keen on vegetables or salads. Eating out with a toddler or young child can be hard enough if you have a picky eater, throw in the gluten-free requirement and it can become as farcical as a Carry On film.  We have had a variety of experiences in restaurants from the fantastic to the distinctly under-par.

The Good:
Many chain restaurants have an 'allergy book' which lists everything on the menu and whether it contains gluten, lactose, nuts etc. This is really helpful when it comes to sauces, dressings and the like, and although choices are often limited, at least you know what you're getting.
Nando's (chicken chain) deserves special mention for having a large gluten-free range.
We also had a lovely waitress at Pizza Hut (who now do GF pizza bases) recently who took Alex, along with the 'book', to help her pick from the ice cream factory and then felt sorry that she couldn't have all of the sweets so gave her a free bowl of 'pink' ice cream. Made Alexandra's week!

We have also been surprised at how accommodating many smaller cafes and restaurants can be. On holiday in Cornwall we were amazed and delighted at the number of tiny venues in little one horse towns that advertised GF food- definitely recommend it as a holiday destination for any coeliacs.

The Bad:
We still need to have our eagle eyes peeled even if a meal purports to be gluten free. Unfortunately, not all restaurant staff have an understanding or training when it comes to special dietary requirements. An example of this happened recently:
Fortunately: we went to a Frankie and Benny's restaurant that had an allergy book.
Unfortunately: it took ages to find.
Fortunately: when it was found it turned out that their burgers are gluten free.
Unfortunately: the gluten free burger arrived in a bread bun (yes- a normal flour filled bread bun!)
Fortunately: we noticed and asked for it to be changed.
Unfortunately: the waitress thought that taking the bun off the plate and re-serving the food would be ok.
Fortunately: our eagle eyes were peeled!
Unfortunately: it took another 15 minutes for a fresh burger to be cooked by which time everyone else was finishing.
Fortunately: the waitress and the chef will be more prepared (hopefully) the next time someone asks for gluten free food!

The Ugly:
Out with a friend and the kids recently we thought we might pop into All Bar One (who operate a child friendly policy) for some lunch. I asked the waiter if they had any gluten free options on the menu. 'No' he responded glaring at me and walked away. As we were putting hats back on and he bustled by again I was feeling a bit militant (it was freezing outside) and asked why not- they should have. 'Fine, I'll check in the kitchen' he mumbled and walked away again. We halted with the hats half on- do they/ don't they? Two minutes later the waiter harrumphed (yes I think harrumphed should be a word!) back and grudgingly informed us they do have gluten free options and he supposed we wanted a table. Err- no! Do you think I'm going to trust my daughter's well being with a waiter who's frostier than the snow falling outside? (we went to Pizza Hut!)

There are plenty of examples of good and not so good options and service, I guess as there is in any industry. I do feel that some basic awareness training for all staff or a quality standard for restaurants that can really support people with special dietary requirements would be good though, to help make choosing a restaurant a little bit easier for the (surely very high number of) people with special dietary requirements.

What have been your experiences of eating out with a child with coeliac's-any hot tips?


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