Hotels and dairy free children.

Staying away from home with lactose intolerant children requires planning but can be very easy. We have chosen to split our journey to Cornwall by stopping in Bristol overnight.

Our usual hotel for this trip is the Hampton Inn in Exeter, but as it is full and we wanted a change, we are staying at the Doubletree by Hilton at Cadbury House near Bristol Airport and about 10 minutes from the M5. I have accumulated a bunch of HHonors points from my business travel and so we are staying in adjoining rooms with the kids this time. This hotel also has a gym and swimming pool and a couple of Marco Pierre White franchise restaurants. We have eaten at the MPW diner in Exeter a couple of times and it was fairly easy to eat dairy free, so we did not envisage any issues, but this trip was not as straight forward.

The hotel is pretty good. It is set in lovely grounds, the rooms we are allocated are on the lower ground, accessible level and right next to the car park, which is so easy for us to unload having checked in at the main house first and then driven down.

The rooms are good. As you would expect, clean modern and fairly comfy. The pool is a good way to wear the kids down and build up an expedite after a day of driving and sitting.

We rock up to the restaurant at 6.30pm and wade through a wedding party that has just turned up for an evening wedding. I have never heard of an evening wedding but it seems a pretty convenient way to et hitched – ne need to even take time of work!  Anyway, the restaurant was practically empty at this time and we immediately explain to our server that we need to ensure the kids eat dairy free and ideally NOMooMum is gluten free. I hate to explain that I need dairy free, I know what is likely to be capable of being prepped without cows milk protein and know from bitter experience that if you request the dairy free menu specifically the restaurant will only give you options that are dairy free now, not what they can make dairy free. I prefer to have them design my requested dish in a dairy free way if possible and will offer them solutions that I know will work. The servers are usually none the wiser and I expect the chef to understand what is required. A good chef will have no problem with these requests. 

The waitress disappears and we hear nothing further for ten minutes which immediately riles us. Bear in mind this place is not cheap, the need to be a on top of their game if they are going to charge nearly £30 for a steak. We call another server over and explain our needs and she suggests that going and checking, then lo and behold the original waitress appears having hand written what she believes is dairy free from the kids menu. But when we question the choices she has, she looks unsure, we don’t think the breaded chicken is going to be OK. I suggest she goes and gets ‘the bible’ and she looks confused, so I explain that they must have an allergy folder for every item on the menu. Suddenly she understands, but explains that they do, but it is a poster on their wall of the kitchen. I hold my nerve and luckily we narrow the choice down to fish fingers and pasta and tomato sauce. The kids love pasta and so make their choice, Problem solved. 

This is a fairly typical exchange, it is always better just to tell the server to bring the allergy bible and go away and let us choose. In our experience, most of the kids who are working in restaurants are pretty clueless. Unless they have an allergy or a family member with an allergy, then they engage with the process and are pretty helpful. You can hasten the process of ordering in most chain restaurants by getting the allergy book and figuring out what you should order for the kids from that. It is worth planning the whole meal, so get dessert sorted at the same time. Invariably that means ordering sorbet, but at least you have it nailed and can relax and enjoy your own food. 

It has been a long day. Time for an early night. Join us for a dairy free breakfast in our hotel room tomorrow.

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