Turtle Bay

We recently had reason to celebrate and decided to brave the big wide world with a trip to a restaurant. D and I have visited Turtle Bay before but not for a family meal out – when we’ve been it’s been so loud with pounding beats that you couldn’t hear your neighbour speak – not exactly conducive to a nice relaxed child friendly meal!

Cocktails! 🍹

Anyway, the girls have developed a taste for spice and Turtle Bay is where you want to go for spice! As it turns out it is also a great example of an ‘allergy applause’ destination and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

As usual, we had perused the allergen menu (easily available online here ) at length and were delighted over the range of potentially suitable dishes. It seems that nuts are not much of a thing in this restaurant which is always reassuring.

We identified suitable dishes for starters, mains, children’s menu and pudding. This was looking good 🤩 as a range of pudding options is more than a little unusual for us!

We went early (6.30pm) and it was quiet, calm, felt totally safe from a Coronavirus perspective. The atmosphere is just like being on a tropical holiday – the rustic beach cafe vibe and Reggae has to bring a smile to your face.

We started with mocktails and cocktails which added to the beachy vibe. The service was fabulous – the waiter knew the menu inside out and listened to our requirements with care. We had chosen a sweetcorn fritter starter to share but the waiter was concerned about the oil they were fried in. He checked with the chefs and they confirmed they were not happy to say they would be safe for a a milk allergy. This was disappointing for the girls as they love sweetcorn fritters but reassuring and exactly the kind of response we’d want in this situation. Instead we shared some Trini doubles – delicious chickpea curry on fluffy rotis. I was expecting the girls to dislike the chickpeas (they’re never keen when I use them!) but they both pronounced them delicious and devoured the plateful. Chickpeas are now definitely on the menu at home this week!!

Trini Doubles

Little S had the barbecued chicken and chips (only allergens soya and sulphur dioxide) from the Little Turtles Menu  – which was a huge portion, grilled to perfection and served with the crispiest, fluffiest chips I’ve seen in ages.

Big S nearly had a curry but opted for the jerk chicken with chips – again it was thoroughly enjoyed but a bit spicier than the children’s version.

I maybe found the veggie offerings a little less pleasing – I had an Avo Chilli Smash beach salad and while it was very tasty it seemed a bit like a few veggie things were chucked on a plate with the hope it would make a dish. I would have chosen something else if I’d realised the same chickpeas were in both the starter and my main. I like chickpeas but twice in a meal is a bit much!

Beach Salad

When it came to it we were too full to enjoy pudding, so I guess we’ll have to return to try out the dairy-free ice creams, sorbet or chilli chocolate brownie. 

All in all it was a fabulous choice of a meal out, and a celebratory one at that. A holiday vibe, great fancy drinks, fantastic allergen free offerings and some delicious spicy food. We’d thoroughly recommend it 😀

The Boulevard Restaurant, East Wittering

 

Perhaps wrongly, we don’t often frequent independent cafes or restaurants, and instead opt for the reliability of chain restaurants with their meticulous allergen folders and by-the-book trained staff with strict procedures when handling customers like us. It is quite simply easier. It is a shame as you do want to support small independent and family run businesses over large corporates. So we are really happy when we do come across somewhere independent that can suit our needs without trouble.

We came across The Boulevard Restaurant in East Wittering, West Sussex by chance. We had originally pinpointed a positively reviewed and recommended nearby pub (for allergies) but received such a terrible response from the management when we enquired about allergens – real rudeness in fact that we left pretty rapidly. Having made the unusual move of leaving the house for a day out without a full packed lunch ‘just in case’, we had to find an alternative place to eat. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far before we stumbled across this little gem of a family restaurant.

The Boulevard is family run and has I believe served since 1979. It’s a relatively ‘simple’ cafe restaurant with the kind of menu you would expect but with daily specials, very generous portions and crucially the staff have been without fail so helpful, efficient and friendly. There’s a full range of safe (or adaptable) favourites on the children’s menu, and the main menu has plenty of veggie and vegan choices – so we’re one happy family! So much so, we’ve now visited three times even though we live quite a way away.

Another highlight for us is they sell a full range of New Forest Ices, and as I’ve mentioned before their sorbet is dairy-free, egg-free and totally nut-free too. When we visited they had three flavours of sorbet. A choice of pudding for the girls when eating out is a rare luxury for us, and again outside of a chain, the girls would be offered a piece of fruit usually.

Then to the girls’ delight, the bill comes with a little tub of jelly beans rather than the ubiquitous chocolates. Happy bunnies all round!

So, if you’re near the Witterings (the beach at West Wittering is vast at low tide and well worth a trek) I’d really recommend a stop off at The Boulevard Restaurant – we might even see you there!

Pizza Express (actually a reasonable option for the dairy and egg-free)

It may seem strange that I’m writing a review of a very well-known pizza chain – doesn’t pizza rely on cheese? However, we’ve eaten at a LOT of Pizza Express branches as a family and the girls have always been able to eat a safe and tasty meal, one that is almost completely on the kids menu (very unusual for us, we normally end up having to eat ‘off menu’ and always lose out financially for it).

At Pizza Express the waiting staff have always seemed friendly and well trained. They have unfailingly listened to our requirements and made no fuss…. And we’ve never had any food mistakes in any of the branches we’ve visited.

On the bambino menu the girls can start with dough balls and side salad (dairy, egg and nut free). This is followed by a pizza (minus the cheese)…. A cheese-less pizza might sound a bit substandard, but since the bases are unfailingly delicious and the tomato sauce good too, it is still a surprisingly satisfying main course. It’s all rather dough-based, but hey, it is a pizza restaurant!

But most exciting of all, there’s a new addition on the menu, a dairy, egg and nut-free raspberry sorbet. My girls hardly ever get to eat a pudding in a restaurant so this new development is hugely exciting, and the sorbet tastes gorgeous too! Although must admit we only actually ate it on third attempt as it had sold out the first two times we went, but that’s another story.

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The Oyster Catcher Pub, Polzeath, North Cornwall

So last Monday night we ate out at The Oyster Catcher pub in Polzeath, Cornwall. It’s a St Austell Brewery pub in a stunning cliff top location in North Cornwall. To be honest it was our choice simply because it was incredibly convenient to where we were staying. The menu is basic pub fare with an emphasis on burgers – I guess that’s what surfers like to eat after a day catching waves.

Since The Oyster Catcher is a standard UK pub the veggie options were limited. Either a blue cheese, walnut and pear salad or a butter bean and chickpea burger. I opted for the burger which was tasty enough but suffered from the pub tendency of serving portions that are far too big.

The kids menu is short and consists of exactly what you would expect. However, it was the staff’s treatment of us, as a family with allergies, that really stands out. The barman was lovely and took all our concerns seriously, getting back up from the chef at every opportunity. Little S was very happy with her (safe) freshly battered fish, chips and peas (classic British seaside fare after all!). Big S was rather disappointed that she couldn’t have a burger or chicken goujons, but relented to having fish too. The barman must have noticed Big S’s disappointment and came back a few minutes later with the offer that the chef could batter the chicken instead of using breadcrumbs to make if safe for us – how nice is that? The food wasn’t amazing but both girls loved having supper out in a pub, and we felt comfortable and relaxed thanks to the the staff’s sympathetic treatment of us.

So all in all a successful family meal out for all of us.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that should you be on holiday in Polzeath with a dairy allergy, the small local Spar sells Provamel soya puddings, yogurts and ‘milks’ – a godsend if you’re holidaying in the area.

Eating Out

I’m kinda hoping that this section gives us an excuse to eat out more and be more adventurous when we do dine away from home. Brief reviews will follow…

I’m sure eating out has its difficulties for all families, but for the family with allergies it can be a stressful nightmare. There are certainly not many of those ‘oh we just happen to be out, let’s grab some lunch’ occasions. Any meal out has to be pre-vetted via the internet or simplest, most allergy friendly fare must be available. Even so, we spend the whole meal time vigilantly checking for possible signs of hives, wheezyness and other symptoms, hardly taking a moment off to eat our food, let alone relax!

Some chains have always been excellent with providing for our needs, notably Nando’s (and surely everyone loves Nando’s), Giraffe and Pizza Express. But you don’t always want to eat in a chain restaurant

Ironically, while hardly gourmet, most pubs seem to be able to offer something – ham, chips and peas are normally available and usually safe (although always check for possible coatings on chips, butter on the peas and allergens present on the ham!) – although this is hardly exciting or particularly nutritional. Throw a pesky veggie (me) into the mix and pubs really aren’t the best place to eat unless you fancy yet another frozen veggie lasagne or goats cheese and red onion tart!

Vegetarian/Vegan cafes would certainly appeal to me but fail as a family destination due to the presence of nuts and seeds. Besides, its very important to be aware that vegan isn’t necessarily suitable for a completely dairy-free diet – it seems that ‘may contain traces of milk’ are acceptable in a vegan diet but certainly not for the dairy allergic (in my experience).

Anyway, we’re off on holiday to Cornwall for a few days. The weather looks like it’ll be shockingly bad, but we’re looking forward to some family fun. Hopefully we’ll  eat out at least once – I am hoping for a Rick Stein establishment in Padstow – I’ll report back with a review.