Carluccio’s Milton Keynes – could they cater for my intolerant child?

Carluccio’s Milton Keynes – could they cater for my intolerant child?

Since I started my blog (http://www.feedingmyintolerantchild.com), one of my main gripes has been about how hard it is to eat at restaurants when you have an ‘intolerant child’. I cannot deny things are improving and certain chains are revising their menus, labelling their ingredients very well and even buying in gluten free foods but dairy intolerance is not really even considered.

Last week, I decided to try Carluccio’s, as many of my ‘GF colleagues’ have assured me that they have a gluten free menu and are very considerate around allergies. We went to the one in Central Milton Keynes. As ever, I had a packed lunch for Zac, just in case, as I knew that even if there was one dish he could eat, there was unlikely to be anything to ‘nibble on’ or enjoy as a dessert.

It was a good job I did really. The service was medium to slow and when I ordered his gluten free pasta, I was informed it would take up to 15 minutes to cook. I wish she had told me that when I first asked to see the gluten free menu, as I would have instantly told her what he would like.

Here is a link to the menu.

carluccios.com/static/pdfs/...

As you can see they have just clearly flagged the foods from the main menu that are ‘naturally’ gluten free, which I am sure most could work out anyway. They do have a list of the special pastas but do not have a children’s gluten free menu – which surprises me, as we are all hearing that more and more children are being diagnosed with these problems. So I just asked for a child’s sized (and priced) portion of the pasta in tomato and basil sauce.

I did inform the waitress that he was also highly dairy intolerant and I needed assurance that the tomato sauce had no butter or cheese added. She went back and checked and told me it was fine. So all we had to do was wait! Fifteen minutes feels like a very long time to a hungry and bored three year old boy. Unsurprisingly, Zac got fed up quite quickly, so I let him have a slice of his special bread while he was waiting. He was however quite nicely entertained with the children’s drawing pack, which ironically had lots of words and pictures to do with making bread!

When the food arrived, everyone’s dish apart from Zac’s appeared. The waitress said the chef had made a mistake and right at the last minute put pesto on his pasta – which of course has cheese. I asked her how long it would be and she said another ten minutes but hopefully less. Disaster really. My food intolerant child is also a ‘waiting for anything’ intolerant child and being faced with a table full of other people’s food just irritated him even more. Thank goodness for iPhones, I don’t really like giving it to him, but the promise of a game of Angry Birds distracted him very well.

Thankfully, his meal did come out in less than ten minutes. The waitress apologised again and then asked if he wanted parmesan? I tried not to laugh, I just politely reminded her ‘he can’t eat cheese’. I think it was just habit that made her ask, I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t because she was so ignorant and didn’t understand that cheese is dairy.

But I have to admit I was slightly anxious when he started to eat, because it seems that they were all having a bit of an ‘off’ day in that kitchen and no-one seemed to really get that dairy free means cheese free. I am happy to report he suffered no ill effects, so it must have been dairy free, but that is the thing that makes dining out such an anxious experience, you want the serving staff to emphatically reassure you that nothing is going to get into the sauce that shouldn’t!

Of course, the pasta was steaming hot when it arrived and it was another few minutes before Zac could even start, so I am sorry to say he was a bit ‘over it’ all by then as we had been in the restaurant for about half an hour by that point. So that is the reason I am feeding him in some of the pictures on my blogsite. He was doing his best sulky face to start with and it took some work to get him going, but once he had a few mouthfuls and was confident it was ‘safe’, ‘delicious’ and not too hot, he really got stuck in and enjoyed it very much. I finished what he couldn’t manage and can say that I would recommend it to anyone. It was a perfect gluten free, dairy free dish and if it had been out sooner our whole experience would have been worthy of a ‘big well done’ to Carluccio’s Milton Keynes.

I would definitely go back again. It has a great menu for a gluten free adult, less so for a child and very little for a dairy free child, but it is a step in the right direction. He can and will eat at least one dish on the menu which is more than he can in most places we go to, so eating out is something we may get to enjoy again in the future.

At Carluccio’s Milton Keynes, I would say that all they need is a bit more training for the staff - to think about issues such as waiting time on the cooking of the pasta etc, and basic ingredients information, but apart from that they were very good. Perhaps some more interesting child friendly, GF and DF desserts would be a good addition to the menu. I am a big fan of Carluccio’s (the chain and the chef) and I know we should be grateful to them for taking these first steps, I would just encourage them to continue and make sure everyone else knows about it. I will certainly tell everyone I know that I think it is worth a visit.

3 Replies

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  • Hi,

    I also have a Zac who has CD (not dairy intolerant though thankfully).

    We went to Carluccio's in Chester several months ago where the restaurant was quiet and the srvice was very good. He had GF pasta and pesto which he loved and I was very happy to have found somewhere that could cater for him easily.

    That is until midnight that night when he started being violently sick!

    I wrote a very nice letter to Carluccio's to say what had happened and that it was very good that they do GF, but perhaps they could check their cross contamination measures but I didn't hear anything back from them.

    Needless to say I have not been back!

    Glad that your visit went without repercussions, if not smoothly! Good luck.

    D x

  • Thanks so much for the reply. So sorry to hear about your Zac. How unfortunate. But as we have both discovered, we are placing a lot of faith in the kitchen and waiting staff and it does make you feel anxious. As you say, I don't think much thought is given to the cross contamination aspect. I suspect it is down to lack of information given to the staff. It always amazes me when you ask waiting staff about ingredients in food and they seem to know so little. If a restaurant is going to go to the trouble of buying in the special food, you would think they would go a bit further and ensure the staff understand why they are now selling it and ensure that there are no possible 'accidents'. The implications are far worse than just a little tummy ache. I think we just have to keep making a nuisance of ourselves! Thanks again for contacting me. Best wishes.

  • Hi I also visited a Carlucios in blue water Kent and had a terrible experience. My partner is very sympathetic when we eat out and always trys not to order something I wish I could have. Since being diagnosed with cd I have encounted all the trustrations of eating out safely. That being said I was delighted when I learnt of Carluchios gf menu. I explained how important it was and a little about the condition in the hope I could have confidence in the dish. We both ordered from the gf menu and when it came out was delisious but about half way through I paniked as our dishes looked different. Mine was more watery and the pasta smaller. I immediatly questioned the waitor and was horrified when he responed you only said you couldn't eat it I think you got the right one! We were frurious and spoke to the manager who was very apologetic and left without paying. We later received a voucher and an invitation to go back so they could try and give us a better experience. A few months later we did, it was obvious we were receiving special attention bur I didn't mind, both the service and food was perfect and I had no problems. Lukily the first time around I had eaten the gf dish but we all need to remember to double check! They had no. Right changing my partners dish and as I react so badly there could have been some horrible consiquences. I usually react within half an hour and often black out with the pain. That wouldn't have been a nice experience for me or them so I agree more training should be put in place to ensure we can all eat safely x

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