I can’t quite believe it! We’ve been abroad for the first time in two years (thanks COVID!). It really didn’t look like we’d get there after cancelled summer plans and then cases of COVID rocketing at school before half term. It also didn’t seem like it would be worth the hassle whilst doing the costly tests and filling out the countless forms. But we did it, we managed a half-term city break and it was definitely worth it to explore this grand Spanish city and enjoy some truly warm late October weather.
We flew with BA who were fantastic with allergies. They happily made numerous ‘no nuts on board’ announcements which was reassuring. However the risks of flying were bought home to me when, despite the announcements, I looked down at the pile of rubbish my neighbour was carelessly tossing onto the seat between us (pretty gross in itself) to see the wrapper of a peanut bar. I was shocked, and as he’d already finished it i didn’t fancy a confrontation.I guess, like many people he just hadn’t listened to the announcement. Luckily Little S was across the aisle and absolutely fine but it certainly made me feel rather uncomfortable and goes to show that you can politely ask people to look out for others, but some just don’t hear it, or won’t listen or don’t care 🙁.
We stayed in an apartment in the very centre of the old city so we could self-cater. this is always our choice as eating out is generally difficult and often stressful but also we’d get bored of eating out all the time, sometimes homemade food is what you want/need. As per usual, I packed plenty: bagel thins, wraps, dairy-free margarine, dairy-free cheese, oat milk, chocolate, biscuits and a cake; however this time I wished I’d packed more.
We were in the centre of the old town with it’s tiny streets, so only had small shops nearby and we found no safe bread (all contained or warned may contain sesame, and lots contained milk too) and pasta was equally tricky as most contained egg, we only found one pack of Barilla spaghetti that was OK. On our last day we popped into a slightly larger supermarket and there were a few loaves of Schar gluten-free bread which we could have bought. Also, because they were mainly small shops dairy free yogurts were hard to come by. Next time I’ll definitely pack more bread and some emergency pasta!
We were on the visit to celebrate D’s birthday so we definitely wanted to eat out once at least. Before travelling I must have spent hours researching online for potential allergy safe restaurants. This was a difficult task, there were a few that were recommended for gluten-free but I didn’t easily come across any that were recommended for milk, egg, and nut allergies. After what felt like hours of fruitless research I came across La Pala d’Oro, a family run traditional Italian restaurant that proudly declared that they could cater for allergies (see below), and the menu had great allergen labelling, this was the destination for the big day (I’ll come back to the actual meal later!).
Since shopping proved far tricker than we’d expected and we had wandered past plenty of restaurants that looked possible, and it looked so appealing to sit outside and eat, we thought we’d be really brave and try a simple meal out. The restaurant we chose looked like a good choice and the manager was enthusiastic about his ability to cater for us. It was a traditional Spanish restaurant called Lo Gueno de Strachan and the menu featured grilled meats and he guaranteed there were no allergens on the grill. Perfect! Well, it was a safe meal but it was extremely underwhelming, plain grilled chicken or steak with some seriously bad greasy and cold chips! The vegetarian choice was a frankly odd salad that tasted rather unpleasant. Funny though, even though it wasn’t good food we were happy (and relieved) to have eaten safely, maybe that’s the lot of an allergy family, you put up with bad food just because it’s safe!!
Other than that disappointing meal, we did find plenty of fancy cocktails to enjoy, which is rather lovely whilst overlooking the beach and enjoying some late October sunshine!
So onto our meal for D’s birthday at La Pala d’Oro. I’m hesitant to write this because it was so good, the food was great and then service was perfect until the pudding and then both girls reacted to a likely trace of milk in the sorbet and the meal ended under a cloud, but i don’t think it was entirely the fault of the restaurant and I do think it is a fantastic restaurant that is worth seeking out… so hear me out before you make any decisions.
La Pala d’Oro has branches in both Malaga and Benalmadena, and has an extensive menu with something for everyone, from pizza to pastas to grilled meats. The menu has very clear allergen labelling which is always a big relief. The waitress who took our order clearly knew the menu inside out and even confirmed which pastas were egg-free. To our utter delight we could all partake of the wonderful freshly made bread basket (this is unheard of) as it only contained gluten. Oh my it was delicious! Light olive focaccia, crispy grissini and crusty bread rolls. We didn’t mean to eat it all, but we couldn’t resist the deliciousness!
Then it was pasta bolognese for Little S made with penne so no egg traces, she declared it the best bolognese ever and it even came with a garnish of edible petals. Big S had a prosciutto pizza with no cheese which was wonderful. Chewy, blackened, proper Italian base with light air bubbles, fresh tomato sauce and plenty of toppings. D and I had absolutely perfect pizzas too.
Then a different waiter came to remove the plates and said ‘you can only have the lemon sorbet for pudding, how many would you like?’ I guess I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by how amazing he meal had been and so didn’t go through the please use a fresh scoop etc. Little S then heard a blender and the sorbet came – surprisingly – in a glass with a straw, which was rather unexpected. It definitely didn’t contain milk but there was certainly a trace in little S’s – she had a sip and then her mouth started to ‘feel funny’ and she came out in some hives. We thought it odd as Big S seemed fine, but then she finished off Little S’s and her lips started to swell. So clearly there was a trace of milk in one of the sorbets – possibly from the blender or the scoop. They were both ok in the end, but it did add a layer of stress and kind of ruined the meal. I’m not blaming the restaurant as the rest of the meal had been so fantastic, but it was a lesson to me to never let the guard down, and don’t think because it’s going well that those questions don’t need asking. But even so, I would go back, I would make those questions a priority, but I would be confident of a fantastic meal out.
Malaga was a fantastic destination for an autumn city break. There were plenty of things to see and do, the weather was gorgeous and it was just a lovely place to wander around; but it wasn’t the easiest allergy destination. I would advise to pack lots of food – bread! But, if you are brave, safe food can be found 🙂