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.

20121016-065606.jpg

20121016-065626.jpg

20121016-065640.jpg

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.