Tag Archives: allergy-friendly restaurants

Thank goodness for TGI Fridays!

When you’re an allergy Mum, there is nothing better than finding somewhere your entire family can eat safely when you’re out and about. I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen when I’m at home, tweaking recipes and continually trying to find new, tasty and interesting ways to prepare 5 safe foods for M and sometimes I just want a break from it. We have found some firm favourites amongst the chains, who have not only been able to cook M-friendly food when we were excluding just 7 – remember those days? I just about can – but have also impressed us in the last 12 months too. From old faithfuls such as Pizza Express, Giraffe and Bella Italia, to newcomers Wagamama and Jamie’s Italian, my cup quite literally runneth over! Our holiday to Cornwall last summer led to the discovery of an amazing small independent restaurant who catered for M without hesitation and made all the difference on our first holiday with a tube.

tgiWith the start of a new year, we decided to branch out and challenge yet another popular old friend, TGI Fridays. M has been reluctant to visit this restaurant since he went elemental last year and our first suggested meal out after he was discharged from GOSH fell sadly flat, when he refused to stay there because “..everyone around me will be eating chips Mummy…“. As we had not long had to stop the potato trial due to all his problems in hospital, Mike and I could totally understand and were massively impressed that, at long last, he’d been able to tell us his reasons for not wanting to stay. However, never one to be beaten by a near 10 year-old, I bided my time until we once again headed out for a small bit of sales shopping and decided to treat them to lunch as well. M’s first choice was Wagamama, but an ill-timed fire in their kitchen put pay to that idea and I tentatively suggested TGI Fridays as a potential alternative. Although only a couple more days had passed since our first attempt, M felt a little more able to challenge their menu and we set off on our brand new restaurant adventure.

The first thing on our to-do list was to advise the greeter of our allergy needs as soon as we arrived at the restaurant and asked for a table. I always do this when we eat anywhere new, even when it’s just a new location of one of our known safe restaurants, so that neither child has to go through the stress and embarrassment of discovering they can’t cater for them and having to leave the restaurant. The greeter asked the restaurant manager to come talk to us as this is TGI protocol when dealing with customers with food allergies. We explained M’s dietary requirements and he reassured that they could prepare chicken, apple and cucumber for M, though sadly not any rice as their current rice dish contains a Cajun spice mix which we haven’t trialled with him as yet. With M happy that he would be able to eat, we headed for our table, ready to peruse the choices for the rest of the family.

20160103_160912 (1)For those of you not in the know, TGI Fridays has a separate menu for allergies, which lists the lactose- and gluten-free options readily available. G was delighted to see such a selection of starters that were safe for her and begged to be allowed to try one of those as well as her main course. She opted for the BBQ houmous starter with corn tortilla chips, followed by the Bacon burger with fries from the allergy-friendly children’s menu. Having sorted our little Miss out, we’re turned our attentions to the more knotty problem of young Master M and here I have to say, TGI Fridays came into their own. The manager came to sit with us at the table, armed with a mammoth allergy information folder and cross-referenced every single menu item we were considering for both children to ensure the food would be absolutely safe. He advised us that they used separate chopping boards for the food preparation to avoid cross-contamination risks and showed an in-depth understanding of our requirements which reflected the extensive food safety courses I later found out the restaurant chain insists all their managers attend.

The only potential issue arose when we discussed what oil M’s chicken would be cooked in as the restaurant uses either olive or the more generic “vegetable” oil in their cooking. As we are still limited to rapeseed and coconut oil only, I asked if the chicken could be cooked without oil and the manager went off to see what could be done.20160103_160748 I was impressed to discover that before settling on that as an option, he had actually investigated whether they could get hold of any rapeseed oil from one of the neighbouring restaurants for M’s chicken breast, but had rejected that option when he discovered those restaurants couldn’t guarantee that there was no cross-contamination risk. Instead, the chefs prepared the chicken oil-free and the speed at which it disappeared from M’s plate is a testament to how well prepared and tasty this dish turned out to be. G’s food vanished in similarly quick fashion and Mike and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that our risky restaurant choice proved to be such a success.

*following our visit, I discovered that TGI Fridays also have an impressive allergy menu on-line, which allows you to select the foods you’re avoiding to see what choices you have. This is a great tool to give you an idea whether they can cook for you or not, but nothing beats talking to the restaurant managers themselves.

 

 

A Numbers Game

Tomorrow’s Tubiversary marks:

20141207_12421712 NG-tubes and the accompanying tube changes, which included…

2 tubes pulled out by accident and 3 that broke unexpectedly;

4 pump backpacks worn out and replaced (and number 5 will be needed soon);

approximately 70 Feeding Friends stickers and 60 strips of Tegaderm used to keep that tube firmly stuck to the side of his face;

and at least 3 other tapes tried, tested and rejected;

1 Christmas, 1 Easter and several birthdays survived and celebrated;

11026157_10152614450811123_382817830123987117_oNearly 1 whole school year achieved with only a few days off;

1 week away in Cornwall enjoyed;

4 weekend trips planned, packed for and successfully negotiated;

5 safe foods and 2 safe oils identified and back in his diet, resulting in…

…around 15 new recipes adapted and perfected…20151121_162110

4 new kitchen gadgets invested in and well-used…

…and impressively 16 restaurants found to be amazingly able and willing to accommodate the trickiest of dietary requirements

 

Not forgetting:

20150212_082048

M's daily batch of medicines

410 litres of E028 pumped

12 daily medicines reduced to just 3;

nearly 3kg of weight gained

5cms of height grown

 

And including:20141216_121143

12 months of stock counting, and rotating, and checking, and ordering

52 weeks of new syringes and dressings

365 days dealing with pumps beeping – …on…off…start…stop…blockages…settings…errors…”just becauses”!

8,760 hours of making sure Pictures July 06 019the tube is tight enough, taped enough, in the right place enough…and not getting caught on anything

525,600 minutes of longing to be able to hold or stroke or kiss that precious little face without the tube getting in the way

Countless tears shed, hugs shared and frustrations vented

 

All amounting to…

One year of the best health ever

20150208_181917

 

 

 

The Beauty of Brighton

Having made the epic journey to Hastings to dip our toes into events of the past, we took full advantage of being near the South coast and decided a side trip to Brighton was in order. Our Sunday started at a slightly slower pace and once the unavoidable homework was out of the way, we jumped into the car to head an hour west to our destination. I achieved the ultimate moment of parenting success, entirely unplanned, article-1363789-0D813C3A000005DC-44_964x628when G spotted the infamous white chalk cliffs of the area. I hadn’t realised it was something she had learned a little about in geography this term and mentally gave myself a pat on the back for ticking the boxes for both her history and geography classes.

Following what seemed like an army of motorbikes of all shapes, colours and descriptions into Brighton, we found our way to a centrally located car park before heading out on foot. We had managed to park strategically close to the main shopping centre and started our short visit with lunch at what has become one of our all-time favourite allergy-friendly restaurants, Wagamama. As at our home branch, their service here was phenomenal, the attention to detail spot on and we all enjoyed food that we knew would be reassuringly safe for both M and G. Once the most critical part of our day was dealt with, we walked to our final destination for the afternoon, 20151011_124225the Brighton Pavilion. A new experience for all of us, although I have seen it from the outside before; and what an amazing experience it was.

The children were astounded to see the Indian-inspired splendour of the Royal Pavilion buildings in Brighton – another big tick here as M will be studying India later in the year! – and keen to listen to the audio guides telling them more about the design, build and use of the Pavilion since it was first transformed from modest seaside villa to magnificent palace for King George IV in 1815. M fell in love with the Banqueting Hall with its impressive dragons, life-like lotus leaves and the 30-foot high chandelier, covered in over 50,000 crystals, hanging in the centre of the room. Equally amazing was the music room, which has been painstakingly restored, not just once, but twice since 1975 due to excessive damage caused first by fire and latterly by storm damage. G and M also loved trying to spot the secret doors, behind which were often hidden one of the multitude of toilets in the place or access passages for the servants so that King George wouldn’t see them as they went about their work.

Indian-Soldiers-in-the-Music-RoomThere is currently a photo exhibition about the role the Royal Pavilion played during WWI and Mike and I were fascinated to read about the conversion of this once royal palace to a hospital for troops from the Indian Corps wounded on the Western Front in France and Flanders. As we walked from room to room inside the Pavilion admiring all the artefacts on display, there were often also photos showing how each room had been converted for use during the war. Huge efforts were made to not only protect the historical elements of the palace, but also to make these injured soldiers feel comfortable and “at home” during their convalescence. What struck me the most was a statistic about the number of patients treated during the 14 months it was open (though please forgive me if I misquote as my recollection is perhaps a little hazy): between December 1914 and January 1916, around 2,500 Indian patients were treated and only 18 died. Amazing when you think how horrific many of the injuries suffered by those troops were. Following the Indian military hospital, the Pavilion was then used for a further 4 years as a hospital for British amputees, who not only had wounds treated and prosthetic limbs fitted, but were also then rehabilitated to develop skills to help them in their later lives once the war had ended.

The Royal Pavilion our home from 1890 to 1914 and 1921 to 1928

The Brighton Royal Pavilion is a truly captivating and beautiful place to visit, with a fascinating history and it delighted us all. We spent a great couple of hours exploring the rooms and admiring the architecture and I’m glad that we were able to make that stop before heading back home after our busy weekend.

The Tremendous Trewithen Restaurant, Lostwithiel

We knew this year would be a very different holiday to our last one in Florida or our more regular stints in Portugal, but Mike and I were looking forward to a week off work and hopefully grabbing some last moments of sun before September arrived. As it turned out, we had far more sun than we had originally expected, or as the forecast had suggested and even managed to visit some of the beautiful Cornish beaches as well as our other planned days out. Aside from the weather and the inevitable question of whether we’d get everything in the car (we did – just), my biggest concern was whether we’d be able to enjoy some family meals out during our week away, an integral part of any of our holidays and not least because I was desperate to have some time off from the kitchen and the need to constantly find new ways to tantalise M’s temperamental taste-buds. The time taken beforehand to search out possible restaurants that would be able to cook for M and G proved to be time well-spent and we found some amazing options that we would happily recommend to anyone, food-allergies or not.

Our all-time favourite restaurant and the one we would visit again at the drop of the proverbial hat, was the truly amazing Trewithen restaurant based in Lostwithiel, the ancient capital of Cornwall. I had discovered this restaurant during one of my many sessions on Google (don’t ask me how as I’ve struggled to find that original review again!) and had started the ball rolling by sending an email enquiry to find out if they could cater for M or not.email

This was the fantastic and prompt response I received from Paul, owner and chef, and immediately prompted Mike to ring and make a reservation for our first night there.

Excited by the prospect of a meal that we were confident would be prepared with M in mind, we arrived ahead of schedule (practically unheard of in the 7Y2D household) and were seated in their charming back dining area. The restaurant is set over the 2 floors of a 17th century townhouse, which gives it a cosy atmosphere and you feel like you’re eating amongst friends. The menus arrived at our table and here was the first big tick of our evening. 20150822_190031G was presented with their Junior menu, which had been carefully annotated just for her to show which options could be made both GF and DF as she needed. As she spent time perusing the dishes, M was informed that the chef was busy preparing his dinner – a small touch, but such a thoughtful one as it helped him to feel as much a part of the dining experience as the rest of us. We were given baskets of delicious bread with a variety of butters, oil and vinegar to enjoy whilst we chose our meals and G was thrilled to receive her very own serving of GF bread and DF butter. We had taken some rice crackers for M to nibble on as we enjoyed our starters and, having been informed that they cooked with local rapeseed oil, we asked if he could have his own mini dish of rapeseed oil to dip his rice crackers into – a request that was instantly met and received his great approval.

20150822_194030To our delight, so tempted was G by the menu in front of her, she decided to try something new and picked their Tomato and Basil soup to start, followed by the GF penne pasta with a tomato sauce and goats cheese; and I don’t think I have ever seen her plate empty quite so quickly when out for dinner. M’s meal was equally successful and he enjoyed a “mountain” of rice, strips of cucumber and a beautifully marinated and succulent chicken breast. The waiting staff were knowledgable, polite and helpful throughout our meal and at no point did we feel that our requests were too much trouble for them to handle. The meal was such a success that when asked if we should come back again later in the week, M’s response was an immediate “..of course!..” Even better, we heard what has to be one of the quotes of the week from M that night in response to Mike’s question of whether he wanted to come back because it was “posh”.

Well yes Daddy, of course. Who doesn’t like posh restaurants?

20150826_192901Our return visit couldn’t come quick enough for our impatient duo, who asked almost every day whether tonight was “the night” for going back there and that evening didn’t disappoint either. We persuaded G to try something different and she picked GF, DF fish, chips and peas, which were declared the “most delicious ever” and was able to have dessert of DF vanilla ice-cream. For those of you battling with the need to eat dairy-free, you will understand just how excited I was to see this on their menu as we generally find the puddings are either GF or DF, rarely both and usually not something our little Miss Picky will eat. As for M, well that night he ate like a king and I still have absolutely no idea where he put it all! To accompany his plate of safe foods, the chef had also prepared him some apple ring crisps and deep-fried sage leaves and M was in seventh heaven. He not only cleared his plate, but asked for more and the kitchen was more than happy to cook another chicken breast for him as quickly as they could. 20150826_192854I had taken a dish of home-made safe apple crumble with me for M to enjoy, but had no need to produce it at the table as they had lemon sorbet on the menu, which proved safe for him to eat. Our waitress was fantastic in writing down the ingredients for us so that we could check it was 100% safe and the look on M’s face as he slowly swallowed that first mouthful was simply magical.

And really, I need say no more. The restaurant impressed us from the start with their obvious understanding of food allergies, their knowledge about cross-contamination risks and their attention to the fine details which meant both children really could enjoy an excellent 3-course meal with all the “twiddly bits” on offer too. I loved that the menu was carefully annotated to meet the food needs of every individual customer and that the ingredients in the dishes were listed, so you knew exactly what you were eating and there were no hidden extras. They happily swapped my mashed potato for rice on our second night and willingly went that extra mile when we asked if they could cook more for M. They were even happy to give me the recipe for the marinade used for his chicken, so I can attempt to replicate the dish at home. A big thanks to Paul, Claire and the rest of their team, who made our meals during that week an unforgettable experience. I don’t know when we’ll be back, but we certainly intend a repeat visit if at all possible and they well deserve the phenomenal 20 out of 10 that M awarded them!

A Pizza restaurant success story

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been blogging a lot about the new recipes I’ve been experimenting with and some fantastic restaurants we’ve found, who have been amazing at providing safe food for M. With food trials proving to be a far lengthier challenge than the medics imagined, the opportunity to gently encourage M back to enjoying eating out on occasion has been one we’ve grabbed with both hands in order to maintain some much-needed sanity and time-out from the kitchen. pizzaOur latest foray was back to an old favourite of ours, Pizza Express, as in the past 4 or so years we’ve enjoyed allergy-friendly meals out, school trips and birthday parties there. I thought it well-worth a return visit to see whether it could now meet our new and somewhat exacting requirements.

Our lunch-time adventures started with a phone-call to our restaurant of choice to see whether they would be able to cope with M’s diet or not. Whilst we don’t always phone ahead, we were going to be in a part of the city where alternative choices were not readily available and we didn’t want to be trawling the streets with 2 grumpy and increasingly hungry children in tow. Mike spoke to a very helpful woman, who was able to confirm that they had plain chicken readily available and would be able to provide the chicken and cucumber parts of the meal. Unfortunately, as we have found in other restaurants, Pizza Express couldn’t cook plain rice for M, but were more than happy for him to eat from our own stash of rice-cakes or crackers whilst the rest of the family enjoyed our lunch.

 

Armed with the reassurance we were after and having convinced a very reluctant M that we really needed to stop for lunch soon, we headed off to the restaurant. Our waitress was brilliant and didn’t bat an eyelid on hearing our requests for a goldstarsgluten-free, dairy-free American pizza with goat’s cheese for G and a plate of plain chicken and cucumber for M as well as Mike and my more normal menu selections. The plates of food arrived and my picky pair set to trying it all out. The top marks out of 10 (an unbelievable 10/10 from M), empty dishes and requests for seconds that quickly followed were a sure-fire testament to the meal itself and we are delighted to have found yet another M-friendly restaurant for us all to enjoy.