Dietary requirements.

Rachel is a pain in the arse. Or so many restaurants would have her believe. But to her, and many like her, the choice of food has serious consequences.

Imagine a night out that ends in a scrap with Mike Tyson. The following morning you will feel pretty rough. But, imagine that when you wake up you also have a hangover and flu. Your muscles hurt, your head hurts, your joints hurt and your stomach hurts. Essentially, you feel like crap. No one would blame you for not wanting another evening like that, so you would do what you could to avoid it. That is what many people face every day with food.


Dairy free.

Dietary requirements

Eateries vary greatly in their approach to this subject and despite some bold claims on restaurant websites, some people’s idea of catering for dietary requirements is little more than giving the option of: chips, boiled or new; or offering a choice of red and brown sauce.

Some weeks ago we had a family meal at a venue near Crewkerne, Somerset. I am reluctant to name them for fear of encouraging anyone to eat there, but what I will say is, if you have any specific dietary requirements, some sort of ancient mill might not be your best choice for lunch. Despite their claims of:
We are pleased to cater for all dietary requirements – please let us know of any special requirements at the time of booking to enable us to offer all guests a choice of meals…
it can’t be guaranteed that they will pay any attention to those requirements or whether they even know what gluten is, or if butternut squash is dairy free.

Gluten free.

A waitress sidled up to the table and informed us that for ‘the vegan’, the chef was doing Mediterranean vegetables and couscous. Ignoring the fact that the phrase ‘the vegan’ sounded as if we had turned up with someone from a leper colony, our main focus was on the couscous. At this point, the story backtracks to when the table was booked. The woman who answered the phone was unable or unwilling to put the booking into the diary there and then, and insisted that Rachel email the reservation. Having done so, this meant that they had a written list of exactly what ‘the vegan’ couldn’t eat. Wheat, as in the main ingredient of couscous, was on the list.

Having established that the kitchen hadn’t read (or been given) this list, the waitress began scurrying back and forth to the kitchen to ask questions. Is there wheat in this? Is there yeast in that? Eventually becoming disinterested in our cause, the waitress disappeared and a young man was assigned to our table. At last, someone was finally acting attentively. After much discussion, it was decided that roasted vegetables such as pepper and aubergine, would be acceptable, so with his notes in hand, off he went to talk to the chef. Unfortunately, pepper and aubergine wasn’t seen as a guide, it was seen as a recipe. After what felt like forever, Rachel’s meal arrived. It consisted primarily of piece of pepper and a chunk of aubergine, neither of which had been roasted, but merely singed with a blowtorch. Even with the accompanying spoonful of peas and half dozen chips stacked like a game of Jenga it amounted to little more than a disappointing starter never mind a satisfying main course. It is generally not a good sign if your tummy is still rumbling as you leave a restaurant.


Plymouth was a different story.


Worry free.


A couple of weeks later we find ourselves attending another family meal. This time, we are taken to the Clovelly Bay Inn in Turnchapel, a little fishing village on the outskirts of Plymouth. It is a quaint place, where every house is a different colour and looks as though it should be the location of a children’s tv program. The pub itself is a selection of colours rarely seen together and looks as if it has been designed by a child using Lego. With four ales on tap, none of which I had tried before, I was happy. But, what could they do for Rachel. The answer it turns out, is everything they possibly could. The staff went out of their way, making trips back and forth to the kitchen to establish exactly what they could cook for her. At intervals, someone would come out just to double check about an ingredient and whether this-or-that was ok to use. What’s more, in every instance it was accompanied with a smile. Every member of staff gave the impression of wanting to ensure everything was ok. When the food was served, it was attractive, tasty and plentiful. Not bad for a place that doesn’t even mention dietary requirements on its website. (It should.)

Incidentally, for those of you not restricted by what you can eat, I had the Clovelly Bay Beef and it was one of the best meat dishes I have had in a long time.

So, if you are looking for good food, good beer and good service, without being made to feel like a nuisance, I would thoroughly recommend the Clovelly Bay Inn. We might even see you there, because we will definitely be going back.

And to the staff and owners of the Clovelly Inn itself, thank you. It’s nice to encounter someone who doesn’t think Rachel is a pain in the arse.