Tag Archives: Bella Italia

Dinner Plans

The beauty of staying in the amazing Applause apartments in East Aldgate was the ease with which we could accommodate M’s current dietary requirements at mealtimes.  Every morning, he and G enjoyed a bowl of safe cereal and rice milk for breakfast, whilst Mike and I had coffee and brioche before we headed out for the day.  Once breakfast was done, the children and I would finish getting ourselves ready and Mike would make and pack lunches for us all.  The ability to prepare packed lunches was just what we needed as not only were we able to meet M’s extreme food requirements, but also the dairy- and gluten-free needs of G.

20150414_174629On our first day there, we stumbled across a fantastic shop called “Planet Organic“, where we were able to pick up some previously undiscovered M-friendly bits and pieces, including mini rice-cakes, which are perfect for his lunchbox.  Of course, with the packet now nearly empty, the race to find them closer to home is on before he finishes them off.  The brown rice noodles have also been a massive hit and make mealtimes just that little bit more interesting than they have been over the last 3 months.  Sadly, the one thing we had been hoping to find, rice pasta, was sold out and so my search for that alternative continues.

The more interesting task was that of our evening meal.  One of the things we have always loved to do is eat out as a family and it is one of the things that M in particular has found hardest about having his tube.  We have had a wealth of experience over the last decade of finding restaurants that will accommodate the ever-changing dietary needs of G, M and even me and we had settled on a few firm favourites that we knew would almost always meet our requirements.  Of course, the option to cook dinner where we were staying was great to have, but Mike and I were both looking forward to having a break from the monotony of 3-ingredient dinners and decided to do some focussed research before we even left the comfort of our own home.  We spent hours one evening trawling the internet, finding restaurants in the areas of London we were likely to be near at meal-times, looking at their menus and investigating whether they had allergen information readily available to read then and there.  To our delight, we found a few where we knew we could cater for G and where it seemed probable we would also be able to order safe food for M, and we couldn’t wait to put our selection to the test.

20150408_181702Our first was Giraffe, which is just round the corner from GOSH and a popular choice for our post-appointment dinners.  When we got to the restaurant, I asked the waitress at the door whether they would be able to cook safe food for M before she had time to find us a table and the response was fantastic.  She turned out to be the restaurant manager and headed off in the direction of the kitchen to talk to their chef and find out exactly what our options were. The chef assured us he could cook plain, boiled rice and grill a chicken breast for M without using any oil, so, feeling hopeful that this could prove a success, we found a table to enjoy our first family meal out for 5 months.  M was delighted with the plate of food that arrived for him and had no allergic reaction to any of it, reassuring us that Giraffe is a safe choice for the future.

IMG_0940As it turns out, Giraffe was the only restaurant we ate at that was able to cook plain rice for M, but we enjoyed 2 other great meals out and  both restaurants were more than happy for M to munch away on his own rice-cakes to accompany his chicken and cucumber.  The second restaurant was Bella Italia, a popular restaurant chain found across the UK and we had dinner at their St Martins Lane branch.   Again, our waiter worked with the chef to ascertain exactly what could be prepared for M and this amazing plate of food arrived – M joked that he thought they had cut him up a whole cucumber to make up for the lack of variety on his plate.  We were also impressed with how much their gluten-free offerings had improved since the last time we ate there as G was able to enjoy some GF garlic pizza bread alongside her GF margherita pizza with pancetta and ham with goats cheese.

20150411_152613My final recommendation is Jamie’s Italian and I can’t begin to tell you how impressed we were with the excellent service provided at their Canary Wharf restaurant.  From the greeter who listened to our initial needs to the manager who came to answer our questions before we even got to the table, they were keen to reassure us that they could meet all our requirements.  As for our amazing waiter, Tom H, he listened carefully and patiently to what we needed, made sensible suggestions based on M’s safe foods, checked with the chef that everything could be prepared safely and treated M just like any other child eating in the restaurant.  He was delighted with the plate of food that arrived at the table as it was presented in the exact same way as G’s dinner and his unparalleled attempt to eat almost all of the food served earned him the same prize that G was awarded for eating her salad – an achievement that we rarely manage at home.

All in all, our trip to London proved to be a fantastic and unexpected success when it came to our dinner plans for our stay.  We found 3 restaurants who were prepared to go the extra mile, make the effort and help us enjoy some great meals out.  Even better, M had the opportunity to feel more “normal” than he has done in a long time, which, for us, was absolutely priceless.

Eating out

eating out

Unsurprisingly, when you’re having to work with any number of food allergies, it becomes a minefield to negotiate when considering going out for a meal.  As food allergies appear to become more prevalent in our society, more and more of the larger restaurant chains are becoming aware of the need to make provision and adapt their menus to suit a wider audience.  Charities such as Coeliac UK provide their members with a list of “safe” restaurants to eat and offer advice as to what to do when going out for a meal.

For many families like ours, even this information is not enough to guarantee that we can eat out safely. M is our hyper-sensitive, multiple food allergy suffering stumbling block to overcome when we consider eating away from home.  One piece of luck we do have on our side is that M is a complete and utter foodie.  He loves food and is prepared to try almost anything at least once, unlike his big sister, who has become increasingly fussy the older she gets.  He particularly enjoys eating seafood and fish, though he will readily admit that oysters are not a favourite!  And yes, he has tried them, but found them a little too salty for his taste.

However, we have been lucky enough to find a small handful of restaurants that do cater to our needs and that don’t appear to cause a negative reaction in M.  There is no guarantee that these would suit everyone with food allergies, but they may be worth a go.  I would highly recommend contacting the restaurant before your visit to check whether they can confirm if they can accommodate your specific food allergies, taking a look on-line at their allergy-friendly menus and we have found the Dietetics team at GOSH to be extremely knowledgeable too.


  • Nando’s: Whilst there are obvious foods that M can’t eat (the wraps, rolls and breads for a start), the chicken is gluten and wheat free and, so far, M seems able to tolerate the chips.  What’s more, if you’re at all anxious about what the individual ingredients are, each Nando’s restaurant has a Food and Menu specifications book which is readily available.  M loves visiting Nando’s, not least because the children’s menu includes a M-friendly ice lolly as an alternative to the frozen yoghurt offered for dessert.


  • TGI Friday’s have their “Five Easy Pieces” menu, which provides meal options for those suffering from a gluten or lactose intolerance and includes a child specific selection.  M has enjoyed the steak, the chicken tenders and the hot dog without problem, though it is possible that the hot dog contains soya.  Unfortunately, they are yet to provide any dessert that suits those who struggle with food allergies, but the main courses tend to be large enough to satisfy most appetites in my experience.

bella italia

  • We only recently discovered that Bella Italia has a gluten free option on their menus and have been incredibly impressed with the level of service we’ve had when eating there with M.  He chose a gluten-free pizza base, which the manager confirmed was also soya-, dairy- and egg-free, and topped it with their tomato sauce, ham and olives.  M was in seventh heaven when we discovered this treat and is desperate to go back with the rest of the family in tow.  They also do gluten-free pasta, though we have yet to try that out and were able to provide 2 alternatives for dessert – sorbet or M-friendly ice lolly.


  • The latest restaurant to jump onto the gluten-free bandwagon is Pizza Express.  Their gluten-free menu went live on 1 May 2013 and they have now updated the information to detail which ingredients on their menu should be avoided because they also contain gluten.  We tried Pizza Express out with the children last weekend when we were at the Allergy Show and were again impressed with the pizzas that arrived.  However, they did mess up the order a little by forgetting to add G’s goat’s cheese on her pizza, but otherwise we were impressed with the meal.  Sadly, another without a dessert that suits those with multiple food allergies and M insists that the Bella Italia pizza was far better and bigger.

There are very many local or specialist restaurants out there who will also accommodate the most complex of dietary needs, but these should be a good starting point for anyone with children with food allergies.  A word of caution to add, these restaurants are not able to guarantee that no cross-contamination will occur within their kitchens, though they work hard to make sure the risk is a minimal as possible.  We have found that by talking to the waiting staff and explaining our needs, we get the best service we could ask for and I would recommend asking them what they can do to make your eating out experience the best one possible.