Eating out with food allergiesBanana pancakes


About Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a journalist and public relations consultant with over fifteen years' experience. She works with small businesses and charities providing PR services.

With a background as a features writer in the media, Jackie has worked on national newspapers, websites, consumer magazines, trade publications and radio stations all over the UK. For some years, she worked abroad - in Australia, Hong Kong and New York. After returning to London, she worked as an account director at several major London agencies.

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September 14th, 2014

Eating Out with a food allergy in South Devon

Self catering in the UK is ideal if you suffer from a food allergy or intolerance because you know exactly what you're eating and can take your favourite products with you. The only down side is if you can't find "free from" provisions at local supermarkets. Thankfully that wasn't a problem for Ray and I when we stayed at The Annexe, Higher Norton Farm, East Allington, Devon This is near Kingsbridge, Dartmouth and Totnes, a town famed for its "free from" vegetarian and vegan cafes and restaurants. We foound a Sainsbury's superstore and Lidl outside Dartmouth, as well as a Morrisons on the outskirts of Kingsbridge and Totnes. Compared to Sainsbury's, the Morrisons' "free from" section isn't as extensive, but you can find the basics.

The other advantage of self catering is you can have meals when you want them rather than be confined to certain times, especially for breakfast.

Our welcome pack at Higher Norton Farm included Warburtons Newburn Bakehouse gluten free and wheat free bread, a new brand for me, which we found tasty especially when toasted. Also in the pack was our favourite dairyfree margarine Pure sunflower margarine, which can be used not only for spreading on bread and toast, but also for cooking

We visited Darmouth during the Dartmouth Regatta (28 to 30 August) so the town was really buzzing with people and attractions. We met our friends at the 26 Cafe & Bistro where I indulged in a gluten free scone with jam and cream. Truly scrumptious. Ray was disappointed they weren't dairy free, but contented himself with toast and honey!

In the harbour we watched the tug of war between two boats - highly entertaining. Later in the day we were enthralled with the air displays with two spitfires and a RAF Chinook. The programme said that two Lancasters were going to join the display, but they didn't materialise.

Later in the day I enjoyed a gluten free brownie at Bayards Cove Inn Dartmouth has a food festival 24 to 26 October

The weather was glorious on Sunday so we visited Greenway the summer home of Agatha Christie. The best way to arrive is by water so we took a small ferry boat from Dittisham, although there are ferries available from Dartmouth, Totnes, Brixham and Torquay.

If you fancy arriving by train, the steam railway between Paignton and Kingswear has also started stopping at Greenway - at the aptly named Greenway Halt stop - although you have to ask for this stop and not all the trains stop there, so check before you travel.

At Greenway, scaffolding covered the exterior of the house, but inside provides a glimpse into the family life of Agatha Christie. The house is set in the 1950s when Agatha and family would spend summer and Christmas holidays with friends. The family were great collectors so there are fabulous displays of silver, botanical china and of course books! Don't miss the walled gardens, home to the restored peach house and vinery or the boathouse, scene of crime in "Dead Man's Folly".

In the past, Ray and I have found the National Trust restaurants and cafes offered an extensive choice of dairy free and gluten free choices, but not at Greenway.

Ray discovered the pasties didn't contain dairy and were glazed with egg (which he cat eat) so he enjoyed a traditional lamb pasty. At the Barn Gallery cafe there was a pitiful selection of gluten free food. The menu did have symbols indicating what was gluten free although there were only two options! When I asked whether they had gluten free bread I was told there was only a roll which is served with the soup, but that wasn't gluten free. Even the jacket potato fillings were out of bounds apart from West Country mature cheese (£5.95). Come on National Trust, you can do better than this!

In Plymouth, where we indulged in retail therapy as I had to buy a wedding outfit, we visited one of our favourite chains Yo Sushi! in the Drake Circus Shopping Mall. When I asked what the gluten and dairy free options were, we were told that most dishes were dairy free and immediately handed me a nutritional and allergen information book so I could look up each dish and see whether it contained gluten or wheat. We love the "theatre" of Yo Sushi watching the tiny dishes revolve round the conveyor belt and identifying what they are and then picking the dishes of our choice off the belt. Each dish has a different colour round the rim indicating the price. It was "Blue Monday" (special promotion 1st to 19th September) so there was a choice of 50 dishes on blue rimmed dishes, all £2.50 each. Apart from the conveyor belt, you can order off a menu - especially if there is a certain dish you would like which you can't see on the belt.

Ray ordered Beef Tsukune sausages which were dairy free but contained gluten. We both enjoyed a mug of miso soup which contains soybean and Kaiso Salad, sesame marinated Japanese seaweed, edaname and carrot. New for me was the wheat, gluten and dairy free Salmon and Avocado Seaweed Cone with rice, salmon and avocado. (It does contain eggs, fish, sesame and soybeans).

We do recommend taking a steam railway journey with the Dart Valley Railway We drove to Paignton, parked in the station and took the train to Kingswear, then the ferry to Dartmouth. The railway journey offers breathtaking views of the Devonshire countryside and beaches.

Totnes is always worth a visit for its eclectic mix of independent shops and cafes. You won't find many chains here and in fact the local community was successful in "saying no to Costa". My favourite vegetarian restaurant is Willow, 87 High Street, Totnes 01803 862605

Its chalkboard menu includes gluten free, vegan and organic choices. Ray and I both chose potatoes, mushrooms and cashew casserole with salad (vegan and gluten free) - delicious. Willow also has an excellent array of gluten free and vegan cakes. Ray opted for date and stem ginger vegan cake which he said was fabulous.

Later on the day we indulged in a dairy free and gluten free carrot cake at Thrive Cafe, 47 Fore Street, Totnes complete with icing which was light, feathery with a delicious citrus taste. What's more, the tea served is loose leaf from local producer Tea's Me

We tried to buy some, but they had out sold - you can buy it online.

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