Top 10 allergy friendly places to eat (2014)

IMG_9028SO, here it is – my run-down of our top allergy friendly meals out in 2014. A bit late, but timely in the aftermath of the ‘100 chefs rant against EU allergy laws’ thing. I’ve been tweeting my thoughts on this for a week, and am frankly bored of the moaning. Compelling caterers to declare which allergens are in their dishes doesn’t make anywhere more able, or likely, to cater for us, but it’s a first step on the road to greater understanding. It means that at least we have the right to ask, and to be told. I think that’s fair enough.

Anyway, enough about that. From never having the confidence to allow anyone bar family to cook for Sidney, in this past year we’ve managed to find a clutch of places happy, willing and able to cater for his multiple allergies. They are living proof that it is possible and, for that, I love them longtime.

So, in no particular order, here we go: Continue reading “Top 10 allergy friendly places to eat (2014)”

Eating out with allergies: the ‘rules’

IMG_1611THERE I WAS, poised to press ‘publish’ on my next post: our top 10 allergy friendly places to eat from 2014. Finding safe spots is never easy, but over the past year we’ve clocked up a few favourites.

Then I realised I should probably preface this post with The Rules. They are the steps we take, and the key things we consider, whenever we eat out. I’m sure others will have more to add, but this is simply how we go about things. Here goes:

* I always ring and email in advance to check the manager and chef are aware, and in some cases we pre-order our meal. It starts as a sussing-out call – do they sound as if they know what they’re doing? If not, forget it. If they do, I’ll go into greater detail, stress that we need the food to be prepped free from cross-contamination, and find out what dishes are likely to be safe for Sidney to eat. I’ll usually summarise the allergies and what we’ve mutually agreed in an email before our booking date. If nothing else, it’s only fair to give a place advance warning where possible and to explain fully what we’re after. Continue reading “Eating out with allergies: the ‘rules’”

Brave new world & breadsticks

DSC_0456NEWS that a posho West End restaurant has been forced to close its doors wouldn’t usually fill me with glumness. But, oh, how I am bemoaning the loss – temporary or not – of Locanda Locatelli.

The celebrated Portman Square hangout has been left homeless following a gas explosion in the five-star Hyatt Regency Churchill hotel that houses it.

And now its chef-patron, Giorgio Locatelli, says he may abandon the site and try to re-open elsewhere.

So why my gloom? Well, because a visit to Locanda Locatelli last year marked the beginning of a brave new world for us as a family. It’s where we ate our first meal out, fully catered for Sidney. Continue reading “Brave new world & breadsticks”

The dishes I wishes

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Sweet potato fries – a simple allergy free option

WHEN I FIRST turned vegetarian about, ooh, 28 years ago (gulp) it was pretty standard fare when eating out to get pizza with holes in it where the salami had been picked off, a plate of peas and potatoes while everyone else chomped on chicken and more baked beans than you could shake a farty stick at.

And in truth it’s only been in fairly recent times – say, the last five to ten years – that I haven’t always been faced with the same bloody meal every time I eat out.

Continue reading “The dishes I wishes”

The catering conundrum (and some easy steps)

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Get that pinny on and get scrubbing

THE BATTLE to convince more people to cater for food allergies is double-edged.

On the one hand, you want to stress how simple it can be – some common sense, a clean kitchen, clean utensils and being scrupulous about ingredients does the trick. On the other hand, it’s vital to stress how dangerous it can be if those simple processes aren’t undertaken properly.

I understand why many run scared. Legally, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to describe their premises as 100 per cent guaranteed ‘nut free’. But, as our visit to Higher Lank Farm proved, it is possible to cater safely for both allergic and non-allergic guests.

Continue reading “The catering conundrum (and some easy steps)”

Allergy-Friendly Eatery: Don Fernando, Richmond

This one comes courtesy of the lovely Gemma Morris of Sky News fame… She’s allergic to tree nuts and recently stumbled across Richmond tapas joint Don Fernando, where the staff told her they never cook with nuts nor nut oils.

As she says: “It was great to have such peace of mind when eating my dinner.”

While I haven’t yet made it across the river to sample the fare, I gave them a quick call to see if they do indeed operate a nut-free zone. The answer? “Nope, we never use nuts or nut oils in our kitchen.”

Fair enough, they buy in some desserts and these may contain nuts or ‘traces’, while some breads are produced outside the premises in an environment where nuts may be present.

But every item on the menu, they tell me, is clearly marked with potential allergens – specifically nuts, dairy and gluten.

Why, when so many other places fail to do the same? “It’s just something we get asked quite a lot,” I’m told. “Certainly with nuts it’s potentially dangerous so we decided to label our menus more clearly. And if there’s the slightest possibility of any traces then we say so.”

Co-owner Edoardo Izquierdo adds: “We still believe the customer is always – well nearly always! – right and listen to all suggestions. Hence we try to welcome and accommodate all customers including those with allergies.”

This is a neighbourhood eatery, owned and run by the Izquierdo family since 1990. It occupies an unassuming position on the corner of The Quadrant, slap bang by Richmond tube and mainline stations.  Take a browse of reviews online and you’ll find the same comments: “friendly”, “authentic” and “lively”.

Add to that a big cheer for being allergy-aware and there’s a lesson for every restaurant in town.

Don Fernando, 27 The Quadrant, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1DN, 020 8948 6447, info@donfernando.co.uk, www.donfernando.co.uk