Since being diagnosed with a cows milk allergy, eating out has become extremely stressful. I have noticed restaurants aren’t as eager to help you out and your requests become a big hassle to them. The reality is though, that I didn’t ask for this allergy!
Some restaurants are fantastic. The Firehouse in Ringwood would have to be the perfect example of this. We had a birthday party to go to there and it was a $50 set menu, so I called up early to inform them of my allergy and was assured that they would look after me. And that they did! I got my own tapas to start the meal off, they let me know which mains I could have and they even made me a dairy free dessert that was tastier than what everyone else got! They are the perfect example of making people with allergies feel welcome, accepted and as if they are not a big inconvenience.
Unfortunately on the weekend, I had one of the worst allergy experiences I have had since my diagnosis. Now in saying this, I know not every restaurant is prepared for people with allergies. However, this particular one claims it is!
We had a family dinner booked at Enrik’s in Blackburn on Saturday night and at the front of their menu in big bold letters is “Dairy and Gluten Free Menu Available” so I dutifully asked for a menu and chose a pumpkin risotto off the menu.
10 minutes later a waitress comes back to tell me that the risotto I have chosen cannot be made dairy free. No worries I said, can I have a menu? Well, the waitress went off for 10 minutes and finally came back with the normal menu and I said “Sorry, there is actually a dairy free menu. Can I have that one?” She apologised and said she was new, and went off to find it. 10 minutes after that, her and another waitress go off to argue with the chef, and then finally someone comes over and says “Oh since it was on the dairy free menu the chef says he will have to make it” and walked away.
I felt extremely embarassed, like it was MY fault they put something on their dairy free menu that they shouldnt have. Not only that, they kept the entire family waiting and watching them as they argued with the chef in full view of us and we had bets on whether or not what I got would actually be dairy free.
What came out was not a risotto, but more of a pilaf… unfortunately for the chef someone else at the table had ordered the same dairy version of the risotto and we had different vegetables in there and a completely different looking dish. Now I understand that without cheese, a risotto is slightly difficult to make but I have made many a successful one without it! What I had to eat was dry, the rice was chewy and it had very little flavour. I picked the vegetables out and left it at that.
I just have to say – restaurants, if you are going to claim to serve dairy free and gluten free options, you had better make sure you can back it up. One wrong ingredient and you will have that person in an awful lot of pain. Don’t make the person with the allergy feel as if they are a giant hassle because they already know they are! We don’t want to go to your restaurant and say “Hey, I cant eat this this or this, what can you feed me?” We would LOVE to walk in and just eat whatever we feel like eating.
So people, who knows a restaurant that is great with allergies?