Adventures of Allergy Girl en España: Part 1

I recently spent a few days in the resort of Pineda de Mar, which is located several miles outside of Barcelona.  Pineda is a small resort, and we used it as a base camp for IRONMAN Barcelona, which Mr Allergy was competing in.

On route from Barcelona to Pineda we stopped for lunch at a small beach cafe in Mataro. There were a number of eating establishments along the main drag, but most were fish restaurants, which I had to avoid unless I wanted to end up resembling a puffer fish! 

The menu had a good selection of hot and cold bocadillos (sandwiches), and was printed in Spanish and English. I have a little bit of Spanish, so can usually get by, but what I found really useful was that this menu showed the allergen symbols for each item.  Many restaurants in the UK don’t have this, so I was astounded to see it in a small Catalonian beach cafe. Brilliant!!! 

I enjoyed a lomo (pork loin) boccy, which was served in warm crusty bread, spread with tomatoey garlicy olive oily stuff that went really well with the pork.  

To top it all there was a fabulous view and warm sunshine ☀️
I just wish I could remember the name of the restaurant! 

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Cream tea or not cream tea, that is the question? 

I’ve spent the last week trying to organise a cream tea with friends.  This ought to be a straightforward task, but it has proven challenging to say the least!

I stumbled upon Gracie-Ann’s Tea Room whilst trying to find somewhere for lunch with the girls.  Located at Port Solent in Portsmouth I was excited to find a local small business amongst the chain restaurants that dominate Port Solent.  Situated on the first floor of The Trading Post, this little tea room has a lovely view of the marina. 

What really drew me to Gracie-Ann’s is that they advertise on their website that they cater for allergies. I previously contacted two other tea rooms in the area.  One said they couldn’t cater for me and the other didn’t even bother to respond.

I always like to discuss my allergies in advance with a new venue.  This gives the venue ample warning and gives me confidence in the venue. I initially contacted Gracie-Ann’s through their Facebook page, and they quickly responded asking me to call to discuss the booking.

I called the same day on my commute home, but found that my phone signal kept cutting out and the conversation just wasn’t working.  I was in and out of meetings and a round of telephone tennis ensued over the next few days, until I finally spoke to someone on the Friday to confirm my booking for the Saturday.  Five minutes later she called back to say that unfortunately the gluten and dairy free scones we’d discussed had an egg wash and they were unable to make just one eggless scone. I was disappointed but I thanked her for letting me know. Suddenly I heard another voice in the background and she announced that they could cater for me after all as the kitchen could do a Vegan scone! Excellent! I made my booking but made a backup plan just in case the Vegan scone wasn’t available.

I was thrilled that upon arrival the waiting staff had been prepped about my allergies and I was served the biggest fruit scone I’ve ever seen, with strawberry jam and dairy free spread on the side. The scone was warm and unctuous, and was washed down nicely with a pot of tea with soya milk. 

As an aside, Gracie-Ann’s also does a beautiful range of herbal/floral teas which look simply stunning, although these aren’t included in the cream tea.

I only have one criticism, which is that the tearoom was very noisy, to the point where I was struggling to hear my friends and was almost having to shout to be heard. I’m used to tearooms being quiet and peaceful places, but unfortunately there was a large hen party which increased the volume.

Will I go back? Definitely! 

If you’re looking to make your own Vegan scones, try this recipe that I found on Pinterest: Vegan Scones


Photo credit: Wallflower Kitchen 

Tried and tested: Creative Nature Superfoods Raw Cacao flapjack 

Hooray!!! A raw energy bar that doesn’t have nuts in it!!! 

I found this little beauty at the counter of Vital Ingredient, and couldn’t resist trying it out.
I was feeling a little peckish before my kickboxing class yesterday so saw this as the perfect opportunity to try it.  

The texture is good. It’s not dry like some raw energy bars, which makes it easy to eat before and during exercise.  The cacao nibs give it a nice little crunch.  It’s not too sweet, as there is no added sugar, just the sweetness from the dates and cacao.  

I’d like to try this on a long run before I say for sure that’s it’s a good energy bar for me, but in terms of an Allergy Girl-friendly snack it ticks all the boxes! 

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the bar itself, I’d already hoovered it up before I remembered to get a picture! 

The Wine Cellar Bar & Bistro, Chelmsford 

I had a fantastic lunch today at The Wine Cellar in Chelmsford town centre.  

Hidden off the main road, down a little alley near the church, you wouldn’t immediately know it’s there. A slightly tricky climb down the narrow staircase brings you into a gorgeous quaint, cozy cellar.
I ordered a pulled pork panini from the extensive pick and mix sandwich menu, which is brilliant for people with allergies.  The panini was delicious and filled with BBQ sauce, caramelised onions and soft, meaty pulled pork. Mmm. 

I also ordered a portion of onion rings “for the table.” The chef made some special onion rings with lemonade batter as I’m allergic to the usual batter he uses (which has egg in the recipe). 

The waitress was attentive and completely understood my allergies.  If I’m ever back in Chelmsford I would definitely eat here again.  Highly recommended!! 

Tried and tested: Itsu Coconut Crush

As someone that is ridiculously allergic to fish, egg and nuts, Itsu wouldn’t be my first choice for lunch. It seems that nearly everything they sell has salmon, egg or peanuts in it (apart from the Teriyaki chicken rice, which is delicious, must must be avoided when on a low carb diet).  This is a shame, as there is an Itsu right by my office, and the food always looks so fresh and tasty.

I happened to find myself mooching around my local branch one lunchtime, as I often like to see if there are any new Allergy Girl friendly options. A few items caught my eye, especially the Coconut Collaborative Little Chocolate Pots which I do like to indulge in from time to time.

Now, I don’t usually venture near to the counter unless I’ve committed to purchasing something.  There are always these interesting looking items to tempt the purchaser to add to their order, but I never feel like I have the time to browse these items and check the ingredients, as there’s usually a queue of hangry (hungry/angry) people behind me. 

I was in luck and there was no queue, so I had a rummage through the treats on offer, and stumbled across this little green box.  My eyes were immediately drawn to the words “dairy free” and “Vegan.”  My expectations were low as I assumed this would mean there were nuts in the recipe – a lot of Vegan recipes use nut butters or almond flour.  I picked up the little box and scanned the ingredients on the back.  No nuts!! Yay!!!


As per usual I waited until my train ride home to test this little morsel. I like the packaging, it perfectly shows off the chocolate inside and (for someone who isn’t often allowed to eat nice things) feels like a gift boxed treat. 

The packaging is easy to open, but getting the chocolate out wasn’t the easiest feat. If I had a napkin or plate it would be fine, but trying to avoid dropping it on the scummy plastic tray table on the commuter train was tricky, as the chocolate was slightly melted, and the filling wasn’t that firm. It was a warm day, and it wasn’t kept in the fridge (although Itsu don’t display them in the fridge, so one would assume they don’t need refrigeration).  If I purchased this again I’d definitely keep it in the fridge instead of my handbag. 

The chocolate is nice, just a thin layer that isn’t too bitter or too sweet. The coconut matcha filling is soft and slightly creamy, which is nice as desiccated coconut can often be too dry and crumbly.  I’m not sure if the matcha gives mucha to the flavour, but it’s supposed to be good for me, so I won’t complain.  

At around £2 a portion (depending on whether you buy in store or have it delivered) this is possibly slightly overpriced.  Compared to the Protein Haus Vegan Bounty bar I tried a few weeks ago it is better value for money (but does contain more sugar, so if you’re avoiding sugar I’d go for the Protein Haus one). 

In terms of a convenient, healthy(ish) snack, this is a winner. Will I buy it again?  Definitely!! 

Tried and tested: Hemsley + Hemsley bean and bacon hash

I recently treated Mr Allergy and I to some new cooking books by Hemsley + Hemsley. 


The recipes always look so nice, and they’re good for you, so that ticks several boxes.  As with all recipe books I buy there are probably only about 30% of the recipes that I’m not allergic to, and others I can tweak. This particular brunch recipe didn’t need tweaking, so I thought I’d give it a go.


The best thing about this recipe is that there are no fussy or difficult to find ingredients. I either already had them at home or picked them up at Tesco.  It doesn’t take a huge amount of prep and is pretty quick to cook.

The ingredients suggest an onion or a leek, but I decided to use both to give it extra bulk and add one more of my 5 a day! Had a bit of an accident whilst chopping the onion but I can’t blame the Hemsley sisters for my own stupidity.  I can safely say I won’t be doing that again!


I used a small tin of chopped tomatoes, but next time I make this I probably won’t use them.  They tasted good, but they made the hash slightly soggy. I would prefer it a bit more bubble and squeak-like.

I was quite happy with the overall result though, and Mr Allergy was grateful for a filling, healthy meal after just having completed a middle distance triathlon. I’d say it’s a winner!

Tried and tested: Ombar Centres Coconut and Vanilla

Growing up, my earliest memory of dairy free chocolate was a carob Easter egg that my mum bought at Holland and Barrett. It was nice, but very plain compared with the fabulous Cadbury’s and Nestle eggs I saw in the shops.  At Christmas, Allergy Boy and I would hunt through the tin of Roses trying to find the Bournevilles, which we didn’t really like (they were too bitter), but ate anyway because we didn’t want to be left out.

When we got a little bit older we found that we could eat After Eights and Fry’s Peppermint Cream, so it was lucky we liked mint! 

Dairy free chocolate has come on leaps and bounds since the 1980s.  Dark chocolate has never been more popular, and with the recent craze for clean eating and raw foods, cacao and coconut milk are adding another dimension to my chocolate experience (not to mention inches to my waistline)!

Grabbing a dairy free salad-to-go from Vital Ingredient in Trump St, City of London, I couldn’t resist trying one of these Ombars.  Dairy free, no refined sugar, raw chocolate, coconut and vanilla, no nuts – perfect for Allergy Girl!


So I’m sat on my commute home trying to forget about the inconvenience of the Waterloo upgrade by testing this little chocolate bar, and it’s a dream! 

It’s been in my bag, so it’s a bit squidgy to touch and probably could have done with spending some time in the fridge, but that doesn’t deter me. I break off a chunk and find a gooey, creamy centre. On first appearance the centre doesn’t seem overly generous but it’s so rich and creamy that it’s plenty.


The chocolate itself is creamy, the coconut flavour not overpowering as it can sometimes be.  The hint of vanilla comes through, but if I didn’t know it was there I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you it was vanilla.  That aside, I can’t complain other than to say damn you Ombar, I could be easily tempted to go back for more! 

P.s. While writing this I discovered that Ombar autocorrects to zombie on my iPhone!