Thursday, 14 October 2010

Gluten Free Eating Out - When It Sucks

I was planning a special night away for me and the other half, so I emailed the restaurant / hotel asking whether or not they could cater for my gluten free diet and pepper allergy. I went into great detail about what being a coeliac meant, that I would require gluten free with no pepper seasonings. The owner assured me that I didn't have to worry and that he could cater to any needs that I had. So I gave him fair warning right? I emailed and then called a couple of weeks in advance and everything was set.
When we arrived at the restaurant / hotel, as I said my name for the booking the owner 'joked' to me that I was the one who would be "wanting all the bread and cakes then, lots of stuff like that haha". I laughed it off when in fact I should have given him a talking to, but as it was a special occasion I didn't want to make a fuss. When it came to sitting down in the restaurant the waiter said to me "you're the one with the wheat allergy, yes?"

To which I replied, "no, I can't have gluten".

So despite me emailing and calling, and explaining the situation in great detail, they had no clue. The alarm bells did ring, but I was determined to make this a special occasion for my other half. The waiter came back and told me all the options, so I went with two really safe bets, or so I thought. I went for prawns in garlic (shells on so hopefully no cross contamination), they were fine. For my main I ordered a crab salad, again I thought, shell, plenty of shell, no problem! On the menu it said whole crab, so I thought cool, no problems here, it's probably just been cleaned and then I'll do all the picking.

Nope, the brown crab meat had been taken from the shell and put into a dish, the claws and legs were in tact. Bear in mind that I had specifically said no gluten, no pepper, not only to the owner but to the waiter too. I sampled the dressed brown crab and what did I taste?

MUSTARD. ENGLISH MUSTARD.

Colman's mustard powder IS gluten free, but over the years pre-coeliac I had eaten enough of the stuff to know that this was in fact out of the jar, ready made mustard - containing GLUTEN.

I was horrified. Luckily, I sampled the tiniest amount of the crab meat, so I knew I could carry on the evening for a few hours and they pay the price later. I didn't say anything because I felt that the whole experience had been an utter joke. The way I was greeted on arrival, I thought he was being upbeat, positive about the whole thing, when in fact he was just a stupid man who didn't have a clue about food.

Want to see the orignal email I sent?

Here you go:

"Hi,

I am planning a trip to (edited) in the coming weeks and would love to dine in your restaurant, however I suffer from a condition called Coeliac Disease. This condition means that I am unable to eat anything containing gluten and comes with a variety of different allergies. Please forgive me if you are already aware of the condition, but it is imperative that when I eat out, my meal is totally free from gluten and pepper (the spice) of any kind. Awareness of the condition isn't as common as would be preferred and some people don't realise how easy it is for food to be cross contaminated by utensils, plates etc.

I have dined at your restaurant in the past prior to developing Coeliac Disease and so I know the quality of the food is superb. I'm very conscious of not visiting a restaurant prior to contacting them because I hate to be that awkward diner who creates problems for the kitchen.

Would it be possible to dine at your restaurant and order a gluten and pepper free meal? I absolutely love seafood and have seen many items on your sample menus that appeal, I just wouldn't want to create any issues for the kitchen due to my requirements."

To which I received to the reply:

"No probs re diet, we can sort for you.
Just speak to me when you arrive."

It is people like that who make life hard for us on a coeliac disease diet. If you can't cut it in the kitchen with gluten free food, tell me and I'll go elsewhere. Don't lie and then make me ill.

I should have kicked up a fuss, but for various reasons I didn't. It's tough being a coeliac some days.

Thankfully we have wonderful places like Brasserie Blanc who do know what they are doing and do it very well indeed!

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