Since I last blogged, we have moved house. The new house needs a lot of work and we don’t really have what I’d call a proper kitchen. So we are eating out a lot more than normal. It’s not cheap but then neither is gas, electric or fresh ingredients, so in my head we are probably not that much worse off! My husband might disagree.
We are fans of Zizzi and since the move in April have visited several. We had a particularly good experience at St Katharine’s Dock in London and when they ‘created’ gluten free bread sticks for Zac. He gets sick of limp carrots and cucumber as his kids starter so I thought I’d ask if they could create something that looked like the ‘normal’ kids dough sticks.
We had a very obliging waiter, so I took the unusually bold step of making a special request. I suggested they just cook a plain gluten free pizza base, rub a bit of garlic on it, smear on a bit of the tomato pizza sauce, bake it, slice it and serve it up in the same way as they do the ‘normal’ starter. The restaurant had just opened for the evening and was very quiet, so perhaps that’s why they said yes – I was so surprised. I understand it is a pain to fulfil special requests so was very grateful when they granted our wish. It might not seem much to some but that was a really special moment in the eating out career of my little boy and became a treasured memory.
When we had a family celebration coming up recently Zac’s first choice was Zizzi. As many grumpy chefs and restaurant owners didn’t realise when the new food regs came in, it is the allergy sufferer who often dictates the choice of a large party of diners and we are no different. If you want our business, you need to put something on the menu that is free from wheat, dairy and nice for Zac. We go back to places that cater well and we tell our friends to as well.
This time we decided to try Zizzi Bankside. Closer to our train home and on a sunny afternoon, there’s no place nicer in London to hang out than the South Bank. There were ten of us, so I booked online the day before. We had four kids in the party – aged 3, 6, 7 and 8, so went for a 5pm slot. Good job. We were seated easily but by 5.30pm people were lined up out of the door and back down the stairs. So my advice is – get to this one early if you want to get a table or better still book online.
A busy restaurant faced with a giant table is likely to struggle with service/delivery of the food and sadly that did happen – despite me running through our issues and looking at the allergen menu on arrival. Zac has wheat and dairy allergy, and as usual, he ordered a gluten free, dairy free ham pizza. My nephew ordered a ‘normal’ ham and olive pizza. Unfortunately this got muddled. Zac got gluten free with ham and olives and my nephew got nothing. So both had to wait a little longer to get any food. Good job there was so much ‘theatre’ going on to keep the kids occupied. This restaurant is under the arches beside the bridge with amazing views across the river. It was a beautiful day and there was so many boats going up and down the Thames. The building felt very old and full of character and there was plenty to going on in the open kitchen so the kids had plenty to look at as they waited very patiently for their food.
Risotto is a favourite gluten free choice of mine for days when I don’t fancy pizza or pasta. I chose the chicken one but it wasn’t great. The rice was a bit undercooked and they could have been more generous with the chicken – I only counted four pieces. We’d also ordered Zac some gluten free pasta with bolognese sauce – just in case he was still hungry after his pizza ‘starter’. He wasn’t, so we all shared it and it was delicious. Just one tip though. Do check the allergen listing. The bolognese sauce for kids is dairy free but the one for adults is not. So if you’re a dairy free grown up be sure to ask for the kids sauce – it’s really nice – and safe!
As ever Zac had the only dairy free dessert option – sorbet, but he loves it so is never disappointed. I just think all the chains could work harder on that one. Fruit and sorbet are dull. Gluten free brownies aren’t good enough either. More kids are dairy free than gluten free, so get some dairy free ice cream in! It’s widely available these days, not that much more expensive than ‘normal’ and way more delicious.
So the lessons learned from this excursion. Get there early or reserve your table online. Be prepared for mix ups – especially if you are a large party and ALWAYS check the allergen listing before ordering.
The main highlight, apart from the beautiful setting and distracting views, were that despite the hiccups, our waiter was excellent. He was very polite and couldn’t do more for us. He kept his smile despite the constant challenges we threw his way – allergen menu questions and complicated dish requests all on an incredibly busy Saturday afternoon/evening. I was half expecting a tantrum at some point. We have had some pretty rough treatment over the years but this guy was a credit to himself and Zizzi. So we will be back.
PS – If you want to find more safe places to eat out don’t forget to look at http://www.canIeatthere.co.uk – the super easy to use restaurant directory that launched earlier this year. People like me leave their reviews and experiences and you can use it to look up the restaurants in your area, check menus and find out more about eating out safely with your allergy friends and family.