Now this year has been a bit of a roller coaster when it comes to eating out. I have been forced, by circumstance rather than me actually being brave, to venture out into the real world of eating out.
First in Copenhagen at EAACI (I really must share the menu and pictures of those meals) and now in Birmingham whilst working at an exhibition.
We do eat out occasionally at home. There are a few places which cater really well for me, including the Pink and Lily in Lacey Green, Le Bistro in Wendover and The Red Lion in Wendover. But it involves emails, phone calls, checking and much stress on my part and usually all for steak and chips or ham, egg and chips. It means those ad-hoc, last minute, let’s just go to the pub for supper occassions don’t really happen any more. Even simple meals like this, or roast dinner which I have enjoyed at many local pubs, including my local The Russell Arms, delicious though they are, still have me checking, checking and praying no one will make a mistake or get upset that I have smuggled in a flask of home-made gravy.
To venture out to unknown places with little or no research, with no choice of where to go is alarming and slightly worrying. The only alternative is to shun the hospitality and company of colleagues and spend a night in my hotel room with a tub of humous and a packet of corn tortillas. This is actually what I really want to do because I HATE trying to order food mentioning all my allergies with a passion. I have had so many awful experiences and been turned away, brought to tears etc. I would just rather avoid the stress.
But staying in my room while the rest of my colleagues dined out? Not something I relish and probably not great for my career either so I am being brave, stepping right of that comfort zone and demanding better.
When I booked the table for our evening meal I mentioned my allergies and the staff said it would be fine, just let the staff know when you take your seat. But it’s not always as simple as that and what I am trying to do by speaking to someone before hand is to avoid the inevitable questions upon questions upon questions. I understand that they were busy, the place was heaving with people attending various shows at the NEC so speaking to a chef about my small meal one evening is out of the question.
After an eventually pleasant steak, mushrooms, new potatoes and peas at The Premier Inn I was just wishing I could slink off and find a microwave to prepare the emergency ilumi curry. We had got there in the end but it just means the whole table is also involved in my endless quest for freefrom food.
The inevitable toing and froing between waiter and kitchen, to ascertain each element of a meal fills me with dread. It turned out OK but I hate having to be so fussy and make people check, and then check again, having only come back with half the answer.
Waiter: “The chips are not cooked in a dedicated fryer and the mushrooms and peas come with butter on them.”
Well I was glad he checked, and he obviously did check, but am I just supposed to always just accept that. Is that it? Just a plate with a slab of meat, all for the same over priced steak price? Really? Do I have to beg AGAIN? It makes me so tired having to keep on asking questions that should have been thought of before returning to me…
Me: “Is it possible to have plain potatoes with no butter? A jacket spud or new potatoes? Whichever is easier? and possibly some mushrooms or beans or some vegetable or salad without butter or dressing? If not then yes, just a plate with steak on it please.” Something is better than nothing.
But I survived, the steak was lovely, cooked well, medium rare and I did indeed get a lovely jacket potato and some plain mushroom and peas. Simple.
But I am always left feeling that the chef, the waiter and my colleagues think I’m always making one almight fuss about a simple meal out.
Eventually I did get a deliciously cooked medium rare steak with some trimmings. Thank you Premier Inn – lovely steak and thanks to all the staff who helped me.
For breakfast I brought my own Nairns nut free muesli, my own milk, slightly warm, but the small individual cartons work well. Hotels don’t seem to have a fridge any more unless requested beforehand so to keep milk cool, fill the sink with water, stuff a flannel over the plug so it doesn’t drain away and leave small carton of milk in the cold water for breakfast in the morning. I have asked in other hotels for my milk to be stored in their kitchen fridge which works fine, but is a pain as you then have to wait for someone to get your milk while you hang around the kitchen door looking suspicious and getting in the way.
I made use of the herbal tea bags, the jam pots, bacon and egg one morning and juice. Oat cakes with marmalade is very nice, in the absence of a safe wheat free toaster.
So Premier Inn did alright. I think it’s more a matter of awareness and a bit of training so that staff are confident about what allergies are, what the customer is asking for, and how to communicate with the minimum fuss with staff in a busy kitchen.
Thank you Premier Inn – lovely steak.
Note to self – phone to request a fridge in room next time to keep the milk and humous fresh. Once opened it is never quite as good the next day without refridgeration… my lunches on the stand consisted of corn tortillas, olives, dates, oat cakes, apples, Plamil chocolate, grapes, humous and some ready salted crisps. Not all at once of course! But going away with work means I have to plan evening meals, my breakfast AND my lunches. My bag is always half full of food!