Tag Archives: TGI Fridays

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.

 

 

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

  • 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

  • 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.

pizza

  • 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.