Eating Out With Food Allergies in Whitstable
We recently visited Whitstable, the popular seaside town in Kent. En route, we stopped off at Clacket Lane motorway services on the M25 http://motorwayservicesonline.co.uk/Clacket_Lane
There wasn’t much in the way of gluten free or dairy free food, although we were lucky in Costa Coffee www.costa.co.uk where we enjoyed our usual gluten free and dairy free bakewell tarts with our cup of tea. Fortunately they were serving soya milk, although we had taken the precaution of filling two 100ml plastic bottles from Muji www.muji.eu with Alpro soya milk www.alpro.com
We always travel with food just in case – our staples are Nairns gluten free oatcakes www.nairns-oatcakes.com and Nak’d bars www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk (both dairy free and gluten free)
Unable to find a room in central Whitstable, we stayed at The Crescent Turner Hotel http://crescentturner.co.uk/ in Wraik Hill, Whitstable, about a ten minute drive outside the town, an idyllic spot with beautiful views of the Kent coastline. We had contacted them in advance to tell them I was gluten free and Ray was dairy free. They did show us the dinner menu for that evening, but we felt it would be very challenging to find gluten free and dairy free choices, so decided to eat in the town.
Having parked the car in the long stay car park by the Harbour Market, Whitstable http://harbourmarketwhitstable.co.uk/ we wandered round the food stalls to see if we could find anything to eat, as well as browsing the arts and crafts stalls and listening to a busker playing hotclub guitar. The stalls were a disappointment, but we chanced upon a vegan and gluten free food stand, run by Jane Chubb from Compassion Cakes http://compassioncakes.wixsite.com/vegan
Ray opted for the gluten free and vegan Cornish pie made of soya mice, potatoes and carrots while I had the gluten free baked sweet potato with spiced roasted chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, red onion and parsley with hummus dressing. Both dishes were scrumptious, especially the Cornish pie – the pastry was crisp and melted in THE mouth. Gluten free pastry can be very dry and flaky, but this pastry was moist. We will be checking her web site to see where she will be next.
We spent the afternoon exploring the eclectic, quirky Whitstable high street, full of interesting independent shops including our favourite bookshop. This is Oxford Street Bookshop http://www.oxfordstreetbooks.com/ on two levels, with all sorts of books from popular fiction, historical, children’s to collectibles. Downstairs there’s an art deco style sitting room where you can sit on the sofa, while browsing the books. Long may they continue. We returned here a couple of times during our stay.
That evening, we dined at the Continental Hotel http://www.hotelcontinental.co.uk/ with its fabulous views of the beach. This is a good place for oyster fans as they serve Whitstable oysters from their own beds either rock oysters all year round or the family native oysters when they’re in season, fished wild from their boat “Melissa E” the last wooden boat to be built in Whitstable.
Sadly we don’t eat oysters, so instead I chose fish of the day – plaice, accompanied by new potatoes and cabbage. After checking that there was no milk in the batter, Ray opted for the more unusual Local Cod Fishfinger Sandwich. They told us the batter is made from only beer and flour and the focaccia contained no dairy.
Breakfast was at our hotel The Crescent Turner Hotel where they served soya milk and gluten free toast. On the first morning, the gluten free toast was in its own rack, but on the second day it shared a rack with Ray’s toast – this could be a problem for other gluten free diners and needs to be pointed out. Not being able to eat cooked eggs, I opted for smoked salmon on gluten free toast followed by fresh fruit salad from the buffet. Ray explained to them what he was able to eat; they said they would check with the chef as to whether the beans were Heinz (other brands may contain milk) and if the sausage contained dairy. Happily both were ok, so he was served with bacon, sausage and baked beans with toast.
The next day we visited Canterbury and spent some time at The Works www.theworks.co.uk bookshop, which seems to be selling fewer books and more crafts, games and toys than previously. We did try to go inside the Cathedral, but the queue was rather too lengthy. Next time perhaps.
For lunch, we decided to try Eat www.eat.co.uk where Ray bought a Turkey Slaw sandwich in malted granary bread – turkey, spinach and mayonnaise, but crucially no butter. All the ingredients are prominently labelled for each product and you can see at a glance what allergens they contain. Not much choice for the gluten free diner so I chose a Tuna Nicoise Salad.
On our last night in Whitstable, we wanted to try somewhere new so I googled for a restaurant serving gluten free and dairy free options and came up with Samphire, High Street, Whitstable www.samphirewhitstable.co.uk and decided to book a table, which is a good idea as it was virtually full when we arrived. It won the Kent Dining Pub/Bistro of the Year in the Taste of Kent Awards. The menu is written on a blackboard and didn’t mark any dishes as vegan or gluten free. This didn’t matter as the staff were very understanding because as soon as we told them what our allergies were, they immediately made suggestions. It was impressive that the waiting staff could make recommendations without having to go and check with the chef, which is what usually happens. Ray opted for the Rump of Kentish Lamb with smoked potatoes, vegetables and wild garlic and nettle pesto. I enjoyed halibut with onion and potato hash – delicious, accompanied by a glass of locally produced Chapel Down white wine. We were too full for dessert, which was just as well as there wasn’t anything we could eat! We did enjoy the whole dining experience here and will return.
On the journey home, we decided to have a break at Clacket Services on the M25 as before. At Costa Coffee, apart from the gluten free bakewell tarts, there was nothing we could eat. Ray decided to try his luck at the Chozen Noodle concession www.chozen.co.uk with his dairy free chicken katsu curry with rice, which he said was very tasty. I went to the stall called “Fresh Food Taste” and ordered a jacket potato with tuna, which was inedible. To be avoided at all costs.