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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December 24th, 2013

Eating Out With Food Allergies in Bruges


If you suffer from a food allergy, it’s always a lottery when you travel. Will there be anything you can eat or will the people serving the food know what the ingredients are and whether it is wheat and gluten or dairy free? When booking for Eurostar, London to Brussels, there was an opportunity to pre-order online either gluten free or dairy free meals, so we ordered two gluten free – one for me and one for my friend, Dot, as well as a dairy free meal for Ray. The dairy free meal arrived promptly – it was sesame chicken with peas and mixed bean salad, followed by pecan and maple syrup pie made by Jeanie Marshal Foods

But only one gluten free meal arrived – salmon with vegetables. It turned out that another passenger had ‘claimed’ the other gluten free meal. I offered to share my meal with Dot, but after much discussion and apology, a business club meal was produced – chicken tikka masala, which was gluten free so it all turned out ok in the end. So the lesson is if you have a food allergy, it’s always advisable to bring your own food or at least a snack – just in case.

From the Eurostar train, we transferred to a local suburban one for the Brussels to Bruges part of the journey. Fortunately there were several people doing the same, so we could ensure we got on the right train. It was a typical Friday night with crowds of commuters anxious to get home. While waiting at Brussels station, we were surprised to see so many trains decorated with creative and colourful graffiti.


As we walked round Bruges, we were impressed by the Flemish gable style of architecture, almost fairytale like, enhanced by the Christmas decorations. We soon discovered that when dining out, food generally costs double what you would pay in London, with main courses starting at around 20 Euros (£20) each.

On our first night, close to the hotel Hotel Ter Reien we visited The Belgian Chicken House, Hoogstraat 15, where we enjoyed chicken and chips at 9 Euros (£9) each. This was our cheapest meal during the entire trip.

On Saturday morning, we visited the various markets. They were selling all manner of merchandise from clothes to food including chicken on rotisseries, olives, figs, but we didn’t see any Belgian specialities. We found a flower market selling small animals. I was assured they were being sold as pets. Round the corner, we found some independent stalls and purchased a block of marzipan – delicious.

Don’t forget to try the Belgian beer. You can buy some to take home (or drink while you’re there) at the Belgian Beer House where we saw the special Hercule Poirot beer, named after Agatha Christie’s famous detective, on sale. Wonder what it tastes like?

Bruges is full of chocolate shops, selling every type of chocolate you could imagine. Ray was pleased as he found a dark chocolate with a vanilla fondant filling that was dairy free. He has been looking for this type of chocolate for many years with little success. We liked Truffelhuisje where we bought some chocolates for our friends. Some chocolate shops display small statues made entirely from chocolate – everything from cats to Santa Claus!

That evening, after a long walk trying to find a restaurant where we would be able to eat, we chanced upon “Passion For Food” Mediterranean restaurant, Philipstockstraat 39,  specialising in cous cous and tagine dishes. When Ray explained that he was unable to eat dairy, the restaurant owner said “You have come to the right place, sir”. I had a delicious cod in sauce while Ray had grilled lamb with cous cous. According to Ray, it was one of the best meals he’d eaten because “it was simple, fresh tasting, marinated meat.”

No visit to Bruges is complete without a visit to the Chocolate Museum Through a series of displays, it relates the history of chocolate and how it is produced from cocoa to chocolate. There’s also a demonstration of how praline is made, as well as a shop where you can buy lots of chocolate!

Bruges had a festive atmosphere because of all the Christmas shops scattered throughout the town. One of the best is De Witte Pelikann Vlamingstraat 23 with the strapline “Christmas all year round”. Its festive merchandise included fantasy musical snow globes, but we thought they were too expensive at 90 Euros (£90) each.

On our last night, one of the best meals we enjoyed – and the most expensive – was at Old Brugge, Vismarket 7. The restaurant has a wonderful vista. As you look out, you can see a reflection of the illuminated buildings in the canal – it resembled a greetings card photograph. When we started explaining our dietary requirements, an English-speaking member of staff appeared to advise us. I enjoyed fish with a gluten free sauce, while Ray chose a chicken stir fry. I also indulged in a local Kwak beer – nothing to do with ducks apparently – delicious.

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