If you’re looking for a gastro pub in the Buckinghamshire area which caters for allergies The Three Oaks in Chalfont St Peter is a great restaurant to try.
I went there this month for a friend’s 40th surprise birthday meal; it is a gastro-pub apparently owned by Terry Wogan’s daughter and we had a lovely meal, they totally ‘got’ what allergies mean and made me feel at ease. I survived the night without any allergic reaction and had a superb meal. Thank you to The Three Oaks!
So here’s what I did to make sure all went smoothly…
- I phoned up and chatted to the manager – he listened carefully to my various and many allergies and assured me they cooked all food from fresh, that the chef would go through the menu and suggest some particular dishes that he thought he could cook well and make tasty without nuts, dairy, wheat, soya, tomato or celery.
- I emailed them – After speaking to the manager I followed up with a very comprehensive email explaining exactly what my allergies are and most importantly the foods I CAN eat which is EVERYTHING else! I explained that I would be happy to follow the chef’s advice if he had particular dishes in mind that would be easy for him to adapt or that he knew to be safe. I told them what I love to eat, that spices, chilli, ginger, garlic etc. are all fine for me. I explained how dangerous cross contamination is. I also told them I will be carrying an EpiPen and that my friends and husband know how to use it in case there is an emergency.
- Introduced myself and arrived early – I got there as early as I could and introduced myself to the staff, who were expecting me and knew about my allergies. This immediately put me a little more at ease. I explained that I’d like to understand the menu before sitting down so I didn’t have to have the protracted lengthy toing and froing in front of my friends, which I always hate. The chef was too busy to speak to me in person, understandable since the pub was heaving but he had gone through the menu prior to my arrival and suggested dishes which he could adapt easily. Perfect! By this stage I was fairly confident they understood my requirements.
- Assessed the menu and selected the safest options – armed with my own personal crossed out menu I chose a starter and a main and I actually had a choice. The scallops starter with raisins and cracked pepper was a totally new experience for me. I would never normally order something like that, in fact I usually skip the starter and pudding to make things simpler and have a bowl of olives or something really simple if it’s available instead. But I loved that excitment of trying something new, the expectation of what was to come, and I loved it. I could get used to this eating out business again.
- Three main meals to choose from – what a treat! I decided to go with steak which is what I often do choose, partly to err on the side of caution but also because I really did feel like good steak and have been told their steaks are great. The three cooked chips were also calling to me so the decision was made. The steak was a really thick succulent cut, cooked to perfection and I couldn’t finish it all. Not like me but I’m not used to having a starter too. My tummy was complaining it might burst!
- Even an interesting dessert! – Pudding is usually a bad idea as they nearly always contain either nuts, dairy and/or wheat. A bowl of fruit, whilst often lovely and refreshing gets a little repetitive and sorbet is also nice to have in the absence of any other choice but you get used to expecting nothing more than fruit and sorbet. Now I was so full by this stage I was quite happy to just have a mint tea and quietly undo my belt a notch… but when the waiter told me the chef had an idea for a crushed ice and fruity concoction called a Granita how could I refuse? It was probably a course too far – I was so full by this point I was fit to burst.
- Thank the staff and chef – so finally, as I sipped my peppermint tea I began my thank yous. Thank you to the waiters and waitresses, all the staff and particularly the chef who went the extra mile for me. They all made sure I felt special, that my food was safe and I knew they had checked everything to make sure it was OK for me. I can’t thank them enough. Thank you also to my husband and friends who are used to eating out with me, who always look out for me and who revelled in my food heaven along with me. We were all mighty impressed with the service.
So The Three Oaks get a big Gold Star. I would definitely eat here again and would also recommend the restaurant to anyone else worried about eating out with allergies.
What could they do better? I’ve given them 8/10 because noone is ever perfect and there is always room for improvement. They already mark their menu to show the presence of Gluten and Nuts which is brilliant, but there are 14 major allergens that can cause anaphylaxis, indeed probably more, but 14 that need to be labelled on packaged food goods.
A new law from DEFRA which could come into practise in 2014 (very soon) would mean that all catering establishments will need to have some kind of record of the major 14 allergens and their presence in any food provided.
This means the customer can make an informed choice about whether to risk eating there, knowing that at least the restaurant understands what the major allergens are and which of their dishes contain them.
Maybe this could be incorporated a bit better into the main menu, thus avoiding quite so many scribbles and crossings out, or perhaps have a separate allergen menu.
But I actually love that they mark up the menu. The chef goes through it and marks down which menu items are safe and which are safe with an element leaving off.
It’s my favourite local restaurant and I eat here often. Keep up the great work Three Oaks.