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  • Writer's pictureAli


The staff are friendly and go out of their way to check if something’s gluten-free but then the chef cross-contaminates the food in front of you and the waitress asks if you want (gluten-filled) gravy. What do you do?

What I mean is, how do you follow up the experience?


Write to them & make your fears known. Contact Environmental Health. All food establishments should know about allergens and their staff should be more clued up. Do nothing. After all, they were very nice. It’s a toughie. I’m asking someone who’s Coeliac what they’d do. In other words, someone who’ll get ill with just a crumb of gluten working its way into their food (for those who wish to know how big that crumb has to be, imagine 1/50th of a slice of bread).

You’re probably wondering what happened. I went to a carvery at a lovely place in Bristol overlooking the river. It was manned by 2 members of staff. The chef was carving the meats and giving out yorkshire puddings. The waitress was handling the veg and the gravy.

The thing I love about carveries is that you can see exactly what you’re getting and it’s all cooked naked, as it were. There are no hidden sauces. You can watch as the food is put onto your plate and know you’re getting something gluten-free.

That is, unless the potatoes have been cooked in semolina. Or the gravy’s been made with wheat flour. Or there’s a yorkshire pudding in sight.

But these are things I’m accustomed to looking out for. I can always check with the staff before the food goes on my plate.

It’s just unfortunate on this occasion the staff didn’t seem to be listening. I made it clear I was Coeliac and therefore needed gluten-free. The chef nodded and cut me some slices of pork. We had a chat about the way things were cooked and he reassured me the meat hadn’t come into contact with gluten. He then reached for a yorkshire pudding.

“NO!” I yelped, just in time. He apologised. I then realised he handled both the meat and the yorkshire puddings with his (albeit gloved) hands. I asked about cross-contamination. He assured me there couldn’t possibly be gluten on the meat. I sighed inwardly and moved on to the vegetables.

“Do you know if the potatoes are gluten-free?” I asked. “Are they cooked in flour or semolina?”

The waitress looked dumbfounded.

Another waitress stepped in. “We had this question yesterday!” she said cheerfully. “They’re okay for you.”

“You’re sure?” I said, now a little hesitant.

She ran off to check. Thankfully, she came back with a bag of polenta they used to coat the potatoes. The ingredients were simply maize.

Relieved, I asked for potatoes and the waitress complied. Then she picked up a jug. “Gravy?” she asked.

I wondered if she’d listened to the number of times I repeated I mustn’t have gluten. I sighed again. So the upshot is that the staff didn’t seem to know much about gluten or cross-contamination but they did go out of their way to check for me.

What slightly upsets me is that they didn’t know beforehand what they were serving. Surely it’s pretty easy to serve up a carvery and know the allergens that are in it? After all, the only ones present were gluten (and possibly an inability to guarantee anything was nut-free because of it not being a nut-free environment).

So I ask you again. What would you do? Would you simply leave it or would you make sure they were better informed?

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