Tag Archives: Wagamama

Pizza and Ballet

One of the Christmas presents we were treated to this year was family tickets to go and see Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake” at the Bristol Hippodrome. We have only been to a couple of ballets with the children over the years despite our love of the theatre and my Mum was keen for us to experience this unconventional retelling of this classic ballet. Of course, no family evening out can start without dinner out too and this time round, partly as we were later arriving in Bristol than we’d originally planned and partly because, well, why not, we decided to veer away from our known safe restaurants and look for somewhere new to try.

It’s always a challenge when eating out with G and M because of their dietary needs, but our decision over the last 18 months or so to relax M’s restrictions on high days and holidays in order to find a better quality of life and balance for him means that on occasions like this, we’re able to eat in places where we’re confident he can choose safe ingredients to make a tasty meal. We know that there are a number of restaurants near to Bristol Hippodrome from Pizza Express to Wagamama, so I made the suggestion that we wandered up Park Street to see what else might be available, with our end target being Pizza Express if nothing else seemed to suit.

About halfway up the hill, we stumbled across the marvellous Molto Buono restaurant and, spotting gluten-free pizza bases on the menu, decided to stop there and see how their food measured up to the children’s somewhat exacting standards. It didn’t take too long for G and M to decide what they wanted to eat and were delighted to discover that as well as gluten-free pizza bases, the restaurant also had vegan mozzarella available as a topping. Much to my surprise, G opted for the GF Marinara pizza – tomato sauce, olive oil and oregano – and M chose the GF Diavola – tomato, salami and vegan mozzarella. Mike joined them in trying one of handmade pizzas, whilst I settled on a pesto pasta. The dishes that arrived looked amazing and tasted even better with portion sizes that satisfied even the voracious appetite of the youngest member of our family. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this restaurant – excellent food, prepared simply, served quickly and all at a great price.

Fully satisfied by our meal and with more than enough time to meander our way back towards the theatre, our evening had started in fine fashion. We all then sat enthralled for the next couple of hours as the story of Swan Lake unfolded before us. Matthew Bourne’s interpretation brings a more modern-day twist to the tale and replaces the well-known Dance of the Cygnets with an incredible male troupe of swans instead. The dancing was incredible and brought real inspiration to both G and M as they watched it in absolute awe, something that should never be under-estimated as M had expressed his concerns about watching a ballet – “…there are no words to explain what’s going on, so how do you know the story-line..?” before it even began.

I think we would all heartily recommend seeing this production, though it turns out that I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to the setting, much preferring the classic portrayal of the Swan Lake tragic love story. It was fascinating to talk to G and M about their thoughts on the production, with M uncertain as to whether the second half was a dream or not and both expressing the view that the role of the Swan/Stranger represented the 2 sides oft he Prince’s psyche. This was a performance that really challenged everything we knew and expected of a ballet and was a truly amazing experience. Despite my hesitations about some parts of this version, I am fascinated to see how Matthew Bourne has adapted and updated other ballets and hope to be able to see another of his productions soon.

Finding Gromits and Owls

Summer feels like something of a distant memory now and, I have to be honest, it passed in something of a whirlwind once again. As the children get older, we seem to squeeze more and more into every spare minute we can find, creating precious memories that I hope will last a lifetime. This year we had the added bonus of exploring just how to make the most of having introduced bananas into M’s diet as well as pushing the limits with a few more trials along the way too.

Our summer plans were originally to stay close to home, with my Mum helping out by looking after G and M for much of the time whilst Mike and I both worked. Things changed just after Easter and we found ourselves having to bring forward our plans for a Christmas trip to Canada and head back in the summer instead. However, between the end of the school year and our long-haul flight to Toronto, G and M took part in a rowing course and touch-typing course respectively and we also managed to find the time to head to the beautiful cities of Bristol and Bath for a day in each to explore their summer art trails – Gromit Unleashed 2 and Minerva’s Owls. We’ve enjoyed taking part in an incredible variety of sculpture trails over the years, including the Shaun in the City trail in 2015, so it was great to be able to dip into these 2 challenges, although M in particular was disappointed that we didn’t have time to find all of the sculptures that formed part of the trails.

The glorious weather made it a real pleasure to spend time outside on our feet, though M might disagree with me after our very hot day in Bath, where we had to resort to searching out a supermarket to find some allergy-friendly ice-cream and ice lollies to cool us all down. Food-wise, we enjoyed both eating dinner out at our all-time favourite, Wagamama and an idyllic picnic lunch catered by Marks and Spencer. One evening M even commented that it was just like being back in Syros because he was happily walking through the city in the evening wearing shorts and a t-shirt. All in all, those first couple of weeks of our summer were busy, but amazing and a great start to what the rest of the holiday would bring.

Taking Over once again

In November 2016, G and M were lucky enough to be invited to participate in the first ever Takeover Challenge at GOSH. They spent the day running the Development and Property services department at the hospital and even managed to somehow convince the staff to take them onto the building site of the new research centre being built opposite nearby Coram Fields. One of the jobs they had undertaken during that Takeover Day was to help design the hoarding to surround the building site and we were delighted to see it in place when we visited GOSH for the Big Youth Forum Meet-Up in mid-October as both children got to see their hard work actually being used in real life.

 

So it will come as no great surprise that the minute they heard that there would be another opportunity to Takeover at GOSH this year, both G and M leapt at the chance. Unlike last year, when they opted to be part of the same department, this year they determined to do different things and each took on very different roles with G joining the ICT department as an ICT project manager, whilst M became a clinical scientist for the day. We were fortunate that their secondary school recognised the value in them attending this day and were happy to authorise their day off, something that M in particular was delighted about. I was already in London for the week attending the Foodmatters Live conference and so Mike set off from home extremely early on the Wednesday morning to get the children to the GOSH reception area in time for their respective days to start.

We had arranged that I would meet up with them for tea and over an early supper at Wagamama in Leicester Square, I was regaled with excited tales about the adventures of their day. G’s day was spent learning about how the ICT department is involved in the day-to-day running of GOSH and more specifically understanding how the staff ICT helpdesk is run and looking at solutions to common IT problems. G had an opportunity to visit different hospital departments and help resolve the problems some staff members were experiencing and even managed to successfully close a couple of cases herself. Her final task of the day was to visit the brand new clinical building that has recently opened at GOSH and understand how the decisions around what ICT equipment to provide for patients are made. One of her mentors for the day also took her to visit one of the laboratories in the hospital knowing that M was based there, although she didn’t spot him during her visit.

M’s day was focused on understanding the role of the clinical science team at GOSH and in particular learning more about gene and cell therapies as well as the research that is undertaken in the hospital. He was keen to take on this role because of the rare status of his own condition, EGID, as it demonstrated just how important this type of research is. M spent the day  learning how to split blood samples into different cell types, preparing the cells for analysis, generating DNA fingerprints and analysing DNA for mutations. The team also showed him what eosinophils look like when they’re put under the microscope and gave him an insight to what his scopes might have looked like prior to his diagnosis. As usual, M learned a lot from his day and when he and I attended our local hospital a week later for a set of bloods to be taken, he was keen to explain to the nurses there just what would happen next with the samples they were taking from his arm.

Both G and M had an amazing day at GOSH and we are, as ever, extremely grateful to the YPF and youth liaison team who not only offered them this fantastic opportunity, but also made sure the day was a huge success for them both. I know M already has his sights set on Taking Over yet another department next year, but we will just have to wait and see what happens!

A fine Fish supper

With an unbeatable combination of good health all round, a new approach to food challenges and an accommodating restaurant, this year we had one of the best Mother’s Day lunches that we’ve enjoyed in a long time. Last year’s celebration fell flat, when my Mum was relegated to her sick-bed and left Mike, the children and me to savour yet another fantastic family meal at what has become one of our all-time favourites for allergy-friendly meals, Wagamama. However, a recent visit to our local Wagamama for M’s birthday tea meant we didn’t fancy a return visit quite so soon, after all it is possible to have too much of a good thing and as much as I fancied treating Mum to a late lunch at the amazing Cafe Nouveau, it was just too far to trek this weekend. Fortunately, the opportune coincidence of trialling prawns and our Sunday lunch plans meant we could visit an old haunt that received recent recognition as a gold award-winning venue at the 2016 FreeFrom Eating Out Awards.

Of course, we couldn’t just turn up on the day assuming that we’d be able to safely feed both children, so a preliminary phone call to not only book a table, but also run through all of our allergy requirements for the meal was an absolute necessity. We have been incredibly lucky in the past as we don’t always call ahead and have still found ourselves able to eat out as a family, but a special meal such as this one required a little forward planning. Our restaurant of choice was the marvellous Fishers Restaurant in Bristol and we had our fingers crossed that the inclusion of prawns for the day would make it possible for us all to enjoy a lunch at this great seafood restaurant. The staff were fantastic when Mike called and reassured him that not only could a safe prawn starter be prepared for M, but, as they were including chicken as a main course for Mothering Sunday, prepping chicken, rice and cucumber would be an absolute breeze too.

We had high hopes for our first 3-course meal in a long time, but the generous portion sizes left us all feeling full and satisfied before the dessert menu could even be properly considered. Fishers were able to adapt most of their menu options to be both gluten- and dairy-free to suit G and she was thrilled to be able to order calamari with a sweet chilli sauce, something that is an unexpected favourite with my oft-time picky oldest. She was also delighted by the gluten-free bread basket that she was able to enjoy whilst waiting for her starter to arrive and there was barely a crumb left by the time the calamari appeared. Mum settled on mussels, Mike picked smoked salmon and M and I enjoyed a similar starter of tempura tiger prawns, though mine came with a soy dipping sauce. I would love to be able to share with you the plate of prawns that M was presented with, but my joy at being able to watch my foodie savour every single mouthful meant that I forgot to pull out my phone until that plate was cleared.

G and M’s choices for their main course were a little more mainstream, with M being greeted with a fantastic-looking plate of plain rice, grilled chicken and cucumber batons, whilst G’s huge plate of gluten-free haddock and chips was enough to feed a small army. I was pleased to learn that they have a dedicated fryer to cook all of their gluten-free offerings and seemed to be very much attuned to the risks of cross-contamination for their freefrom guests. We had already confirmed that M could eat the lemon sorbet for pudding and were keen to see what was on offer for G. Sadly, this is when disappointment really hit as despite their brilliance in providing lots of gluten- and dairy-free alternatives for the savoury courses, dessert was a real let-down. The only choice readily available for G was sorbet, which she absolutely hates and when pushed, all the kitchen could offer was the apple crumble – without the crumble. We had heard that in the past, they had been able to go off-menu and cook a gluten- and dairy-free banana fritter, but we were told that they were no longer able to prepare that as an alternative. It was perhaps lucky that G and M were both full to the brim from the rest of the meal and didn’t really want to stick around any longer for pudding and so the rest of us willingly abandoned the sweet finale to our meal and instead travelled back to my Mum’s for a refreshing cup of tea.

Fishers was a great choice for lunch and we were impressed at their willingness to accommodate some tricky dietary requirements. However, the lack of an imaginative dessert menu for those with allergies was extremely disappointing and an area that could definitely do with some improvement to make it a truly excellent Freefrom restaurant.

Home-cooked Chinese takeaway

chineseOne of things that I know M has really missed since his diet became so restricted is the occasional Chinese takeaway shared with the rest of the family. For as long as I can remember our young foodie has loved eating Chinese food and insisted on mastering the chopsticks early on, so the loss of that treat really did hit him hard. Thanks to the amazing team at our local Wagamama, M has been able to enjoy safe Asian food once again and recently I took the plunge and tried my hand at making him a Chinese-inspired meal too. It was never going to be the same as those fabulous meals we enjoyed in London’s Chinatown when the children were little, but hopefully it was a tasty replacement for a much-missed treat.

Lemon chicken is one of Mike’s favourite Chinese dishes and given the base ingredients of, well, lemon and chicken, it seemed to be an achievable goal for my home-cooked takeaway. For once I didn’t turn to my trusty sidekick, Google, for some speedy research, but instead just used the knowledge I’ve stored up over the last few years to see if I could come up with my own recipe for a delicious lemon chicken. I originally considered using lemon juice, water and sugar thickened with some rice flour to create the sauce, but a quick perusal of the fridge brought the last remaining half-empty jar of dairy-free lemon curd to my attention and I instantly decided that that was exactly what this recipe needed.

Having prepped the diced chicken to make a batch of my M-friendly chicken nuggets and with the rice simmering on the hob, I turned to making the lemon sauce, feeling a little like I was concocting a magic potion as I stirred spoonfuls of this with a dash of that in the cauldron saucepan. IMG_0637[1]I’m certain that the authentic Chinese recipe includes soy sauce, but with soya definitely banned from our repertoire for the foreseeable, I tweaked the sharp flavour of the lemon curd by adding a little more sugar as well as some salt, pepper and rosemary until I had a savoury sauce I was confident the children would eat. As I finished cooking the rice, chicken and sauce in my trusty wok, G and M drifted to the table drawn by the delicious smell, eagerly asking what was for dinner. The portions I served soon disappeared as did the children once their plates were empty, which, without a doubt, signalled a new and successful addition to my ever-growing list of M-friendly recipes.

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.

A taste of Asia

Belonging to an on-line support community such as FABED is fantastic, but also really something of a mixed blessing. The joy of being able to build friendships, ask questions and sometimes simply celebrate a milestone with others through a deft few keyboard strokes is always tempered by the isolating knowledge that these families, walking a similar path to ours, might live hours away from us and chatting in person is not always easy to do. We have been lucky enough to meet up with some families over the last 4 years and have some amazing new friends who really understand the stresses and strains of living with a chronic illness. By far and away, one of the best benefits has been sharing recipes and restaurant recommendations and it was following such advice from a fellow FABED Mum that we recently ventured into a completely new dining experience for us all.

To say we were impressed from the moment we stepped through the door of our local Wagamama restaurant is no overstatement and not one part of the experience that followed let them, or us, down. I’ve learned to broach the subject of M’s complex dietary requirements at the restaurant door to save heartache all round and their greeter not only made a sensible suggestion based on the short list of safe foods I gave him – Mini grilled chicken noodles minus a few ingredients – but also headed off to talk to both the chef and the restaurant manager to confirm they could prepare a tasty meal for M that would be as free from cross-contamination risks as they could make it. Reassured that they could accommodate his food needs, we took our seats before perusing meal options that would also suit the rest of the family. 20150725_174814Whilst M was hugely excited about having rice noodles for his dinner, G was less keen, but with 3 different types of rice available, even my pickier eater was happy.

The restaurant manager acted as our waitress and was invaluable in helping us make sensible choices for all the family and our differing allergy requirements. The greeter had done a great job of passing the information on to her and she started by addressing how they would prepare M’s meal to ensure it was as M-friendly as possible. As M is only able to tolerate rapeseed and coconut oils at the moment, the chef suggested they steamed him a fresh piece of chicken, which had not been marinated, and which would not have the risk of picking up any food or oil traces from their other pans. They also cooked a fresh batch of rice noodles, again in a clean pot to avoid obvious cross-contamination and served them with a healthy portion of cucumber “noodles” – a meal fit to tantalise our young foodie’s taste buds. The plate that appeared was impressive and M gave the meal a well-deserved 9/10 (he wasn’t so keen on the cucumber noodles and docked them a mark for that presentation!).

G chose a stir-fried rice and chicken dish (Mini chicken cha han) from the children’s menu and we saw, once again, the impressive and extensive knowledge the restaurant staff had about their food when I asked if the dish was both gluten- and dairy-free. 20150725_175253The manager knew without checking that the sauce contained gluten and advised that most of the other sauces they use in their dishes do too. However, she was able to recommend Tamari sauce, which is gluten-free and would add great flavour to G’s meal. G was as delighted as M when her bowl arrived at our table and she awarded them a well-deserved 9.5/10.

Mike and I were not only thrilled to have found a restaurant that was hugely capable of meeting our exacting requirements, but also had great meals ourselves. The service was fantastic and when a small error resulted in the wrong side dish arriving at our table, they prepared the one we’d originally asked for and gave us the wrong one for free. Back in March of this year, there was a furore when newly introduced EU legislations required restaurants to provide information about the top 14 allergens contained in their menus and over 100 top chefs and restaurants condemned the requirements as an unnecessary and inconvenient constraint on the spontaneity and creativeness of their profession. From the faultless service to the extensive menu knowledge, every single thing about our meal at Wagamama screams out that no chef worth his salt need be worried about such demands and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this restaurant chain to anyone looking for an allergy-friendly place to eat.