Dietary requirements, allergies and sensitivities can take all the fun out of eating out. My experiences regularly involve browsing through numerous restaurant websites and menus and E-mailing, or calling, places to check (and double check) they can feed me. In itself this is already slightly annoying as there is no spontaneity allowed. The worst experiences are in places that enthusiastically claim to be able to feed me, and then serve sub-par food. Sad food makes me sad. The following eateries therefore are are well prepared for a range of allergies, and really took the stress out of eating out.
The important thing to know is that due to EU directives, restaurants in the UK are required to know which of their foods contain the 14 main allergens (celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites). Many restaurants will have a list (sometimes labelled nutritional information) available on their website, so if you have one of those allergies, make sure to have a look there. Some of us have a garlic and onion sensitivity/allergy, which is not included on the list. That is where the fun begins.
Disclaimer: I do not have allergies, I have a range of food sensitivities and am on a low fodmap diet (thank you, science!) recommended by my GP. Those are two different beasts and require different levels of care. Do mind that if you have Coeliac disease, your best bet is to check Coeliac UK certified venues, rather than trust gluten free dishes in restaurants. Remember that if you have Coeliac, just because a food does not have gluten/wheat in the ingredients, the risk of contamination in most restaurants is high.
Best allergen treatment I have head in a restaurant so far. The Manager on duty deals with all allergy orders and either prepares the food, or overlooks its preparation. The kitchen in my local Nando’s is on view, so I could see her hard at work. More importantly they have a booklet that lists all of the ingredients in every single dish. The manager very patiently went through most of the book with me to make sure I could eat something. Unfortunately, all of their chicken comes into the restaurants pre-marinated, and all of the marinades (not surprisingly) contained garlic. However, if you have an allergy to something that is less fundamental to most of the world’s cuisines (lucky me), they will surely sort you out. My Caesar salad with halloumi was still really nice, I just hate to be the girl eating salad at a chicken restaurant like I’m watching my weight or something.
Similarly to Nando’s the manager is called in to take your order here. They make sure that your order will be free of your chosen allergen. Even in my case I was able to eat a nice noodle stir fry. I did find it slightly awkward that I was asked to choose what I would want first, and then told whether it could be made garlic/onion free. It’s a big menu, and this took some time. I would feel better if I could be told what I can eat and then could make my mind up to choose, especially since I called beforehand. Other than this slight glitch (which is not unique to Wagamama), it was a good allergen free experience.
A bit more pricey than Nando’s, but this is a real gem in London. They are fully certified Coeliac friendly. There is no gluten on the premises whatsoever, and their menu is delicious. They also have a dedicated low-fodmap menu, which is very nice. I cannot recommend this place enough.
Write down the name, because it’s so beige you will never remember it. I call it that restaurant opposite that pub in Covent Garden... Farmstand prides itself on ethically sourced food, with a menu that is 80% plant based, their meet and fish are also apparently ethical. From an allergy eater perspective this little restaurant was great. It is not too expensive for central London (main and two sides under £7), with most dishes being gluten free (but not Coeliac certified). Why did I love this place? It was my first experience eating out while on a restrictive diet. Upon hearing the litany of my sensitivities, the very nice person behind the counter pulled up a yellow folder, which had all ingredients (not just the 14 allergens) listed for every dish. The best part? He let me peruse it at my own leisure. I calmly read through it, decided what I wanted, and ordered. All without causing a massive queue or having an awkward back and forth with my server, because I forgot to mention I’m also sensitive to apples etc. It was lovely!
This one was a bit of an awkward experience. I called beforehand (I usually do) and was assured that all dishes are cooked from scratch and therefore taking out the garlic and onion will not be a problem. It was the matrix of gluten free and lactose free that was a bit of an issue, as the restaurant has two separate menus for that, and by menus I mean there were menus and highlighters involved. I basically had to cross reference at the table which was not a massive problem, just required a bit of focus while dining in a group of seven. My vegan friend had a similar problem, as vegan options are not clearly marked on the menu, he had to cross check with a dairy free menu (a highlighter was involved). The logistics were worth it and the food delicious!
If you know a place where I can eat a garlic and onion free pizza, for the love of all that is holy, TELL ME!!!!