I’ll have the air biryani with a side of O2 bhaji

I went for a curry this evening…..or so I thought. Here’s the story of what happened when I got there.

A group of us were going to belatedly celebrate the new year, and we chose an Indian Restaurant where I’ve eaten many times before and they’ve been really good with my allergies.

When the waiter finally came around, after about an hour of waiting, I gave my order for starter and asked to speak to him about the main because of my allergies. I normally have the lamb lahorei but fancied trying something different. To my astonishment he replied that because I’m allergic to dairy I couldn’t have any curry from the menu as every single one has milk in the sauce base.

I argued my very valid point that I’ve eaten there many times before, and even have written correspondence from the restaurant saying which dishes are suitable. The only thing they could offer was a dry vegetable dish.

This provoked a reaction in me that hasn’t arisen for quite some time, and I’m not proud of it. I was hungry and just wanted to be able eat a nice meal with no problem. So I simply got up, took my coat and bag and left.

I hate it when situations bring this reaction out in me, but I just don’t know what to do. It’s a mixture of frustration, disappointment and shame that once again I’m feeling victimised for having an allergy. So I leave.

I usually come back, feeling slightly sheepish and wondering what was said while I was gone.

This evening I walked out of the door not really sure where I would go. I didn’t really want to get in the car and drive home as I’d miss out on the conversation and fun of a night out with the group. So I did something I’ve never done before. I went into the Indian restaurant next door to see if they could do me a take away (which I thought I could take back into the original restaurant and eat)!! It turns out they couldn’t cater for me either, which really baffles me. I’ve been eating Indian food for 20+ years and I’ve never before experienced an entire menu that I’m allergic to, never mind two menus!

I went back in to the original restaurant and they agreed to make my starter a large portion, so I could have it as a main. It was ok, but not what I wanted.

The restaurant clearly understands about allergies as the waiter knew the difference between allergies, intolerances and people who just don’t like something, so I just don’t get why they do not offer allergy friendly options, particularly when they previously did. I am being discriminated against for being born differently to normal people, and I don’t think this is right. It put a complete downer on my night and that of the people I was with, when it could have been easily resolved. Don’t put the milk in it. Simple.

I feel I should mention the name of the restaurants so other allergy sufferers in the Portsmouth area don’t get caught out. The restaurant we ate at is Massala Room. Interestingly, one of the reviews on their website mentions how well they catered for the reviewer’s Vegan niece. How did they manage this, then, if all the sauces have milk in them? The restaurant next door is Indian Cottage.

I can safely say I won’t be going back any time soon. After all, what’s the point?

Rant over.

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Starter as you mean to go on?

The humble starter. I think Great British Chefs description is good, “A well-chosen starter recipe can set the tone for an entire meal.” So why is the starter often such a disappointment?

I had my Christmas lunch today at work. There was a set menu which was supposed to cater for all tastes and diets, but of course, me being me, it didn’t cater for my weird variety of allergies.

I should get it out there and say that the main was good:

Turkey ✅

Roast potatoes ✅

Sprouts ✅

Carrots ✅

Pigs in blankets ✅

Gravy ✅

The waitress wasn’t sure if I could eat the stuffing, so I went without.

The dessert was the usual fruit salad, but after a big lunch I didn’t mind.

It was the starter that really got my goat, and to be honest the normal people’s one didn’t look great either.

The normals got a big cold tomato filled with guacamole and cream cheese with a little salad garnish and a bread roll.

I got a big cold tomato (I don’t like tomatoes) stuffed with cubes of melon and cold chopped asparagus with a salad garnish and no bread roll. You’ll see from my picture that this was just sad looking, and it tastes no better. It was just weird. I mean, who looks at my allergy list (dairy, egg, nuts, fish, avocado(maybe)) and thinks, “I know just the perfect combination of food. Cold tomato, asparagus and melon!” Why do we not see this classic combination used in Masterchef?! There was a funny little drizzle of something on the plate which I must concede was quite nice. I ate everything (except the tomato), but that was only because I’d paid for it, not because I liked it.

I got into a discussion with my neighbour at the table next to me, as we couldn’t fathom why this odd starter had been chosen in the first place. On a cold wintery day we were expecting something with a little substance. A nice chunky vegetable or lentil soup for instance.

This got me thinking about starters in general and why starters for special diets are always so terrible. Yes, I’m fairly limited in what I can eat, but I would have been happy with melon and cured ham. It’s easy. It’s quick. And it tastes so good.

Generally restaurants (in particular the chain restaurants) have an ok selection of one or two things I can eat. Chicken wings are always a winner, but I’m also partial to bread and olive oil, olives, hummus or a nice meaty terrine. Event caterers really struggle and I normally end up with a plate of melon or some other fruit or something random thing like today’s designer dish. There are so many good recipes out there and these are professional caterers so why is it so difficult?

I love reading food magazines and pinning recipes on Pinterest, and my favourite starter recipe is Good Food’s Ham hock and mustard terrine which is delicious served with a dollop of Mary Berry’s Christmas Chutney and some lovely fresh bread. In fact, this is what Mr Allergy and I are making for Christmas this year. On second thoughts I could be tempted to test out the tomato/melon/asparagus combo on my unsuspecting family and see what they make of it….