Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Eating Giraffe Food

It was a traditional British Bank Holiday Monday - wet. 

"Why dont we go to Milton Keynes?" said The Hub. I didn't take long to agree - my jobs could wait (again). After all, we live in quite a small space so we needed to get out - for Baby's sake. So off we went. On arrival it was lunchtime and busy, so although The Hub had scoped out the eating places on line and decided on our usual, once we spotted the queues, we thought, 'Perhaps not!'. Then we saw Giraffe. We'd not tried Giraffe before, and as the queues were slightly shorter, and we'd heard that they could cater for certain allergies, we decided to go somewhere different for a change.

First impressions: 
Busy! Funky artwork all over the wall. Urban chic? The staff gave the impression of being efficient and friendly. I didn't get to test their food knowledge, however, as The Hub had been busy perusing the online menu, whilst we were queuing outside. 

It would probably have been better to have followed my own advice and prepared ourselves in advance. I wouldn't advise doing what we did, if you have multiple allergies - viewing the online allergies menu on a smart phone screen. If you do, make sure you access the main website rather than the mobile one as the mobile one doesn't appear to have links to the allergy information. That said, I liked the online allergy menu - it was clearly laid out and easy to read as long as you're not using a smartphone! 

We were given a normal menu whilst we were waiting to be seated which indicated which dishes were gluten free but didn't indicate other dietary needs except vegetarian. I could have asked for allergy information and grilled the staff, but Baby had just woken up and she isn't known for her patience when she's hungry! Not knowing how long it would take for the food to arrive, I thought we'd better just get on with it. 

In fact, once ordered, we didn't have to wait long for our food to appear at all and in the meantime, Baby was kept entertained by the noise of the bell - dinging from the service hatch whenever food was ready to go out. Oh, and the colourful activity mat and pot of crayons (decent ones at that).

Our Choice
Baby's lunch
There wasn't a huge amount of choice for dairy free children. Basically, apart from a hot dog or steak, you could have anything that came with mash, but with fries or rice instead. So for Baby we chose chicken fingers and fries (bearing in mind she had rice for dinner the night before). 

Baby's crispy chicken fingers had a nice crunchy coating (according to the Hub - Baby was too busy tucking into the fries). It was at this point that I reflected that it's a good job we don't eat out all that often as otherwise Baby might only ever eat fries. 

Fortunately, having dispatched her fries and generously redistributed her 'leaves' (salad to you and me) in Daddy's direction, she decided to turn her attention to the chicken. She grabbed one of her generously sized chicken fingers in both hands and munched quite happily away. Although, at one point she wanted to dip in Daddy's pot of sauce (not dairy free as far as we knew). Battle was avoided, by supplying her with a decent splodge of ketchup.

The Hub's Choice - Chicken Burger
The Hub likes a good burger from time to time; he selected the 'Rodeo Chicken Burger'. It came with a cute little pot of some dip. It wasn't a huge burger but a reasonable size. The Hub enjoyed it and there was enough, together with the Sweet Potato Fries that he ordered, to keep him going throughout the afternoon.

My choice was the 'Simply Grilled Salmon'. Funnily enough, requiring food which is both gluten and dairy free, I usually end up with salmon. This salmon came with a salsa which gave a gentle kick to the beautifully grilled fish. I could have had fries 'with skins' or salad, but chose the sweet potato fries instead. It cost an extra pound to do so, but I fancied something a little bit different. They which were light, crispy and probably saturated with cooking fat, but they were tasty!

My Choice - Simply Grilled Salmon
There were starters and a desert menu, but we don't usually have any room for these, so we gave them a miss. There were several suitable starter options, from which I could have chosen but don't expect any desert of the dairy free kind, unless you like sorbet.

There was a reasonably varied drinks menu - a mix of different kinds of hot, cold and alcoholic drinks. I wasn't wild about the choice of non-alcoholic cold drinks - there seemed to be an awful lot of smoothies and cranberry and pomegranate on the menu. I just wanted a good old-fashioned Sprite or lemonade to quench my thirst.

What about the price?
The prices, pretty standard for a chain restaurant, were as follows: 

  • Simply Grilled Salmon £12.95 + £1 extra for ordering the Sweet Potato Fries (rather than  having their standard fries)
  • Rodeo Chicken Burger £10.95 + £1 extra for ordering the Sweet Potato Fries (rather than  having their standard fries)
  • Freshly Breaded Chicken Fingers £4.95
  • Luscombe Cranberry Organic Crush £2.95
  • Diet Coke £2.25
Be warned! Whether you like it or not (I personally don't - even though we tip, I don't like to feel that it's expected) service charges are automatically added to the total bill - it's an opt-out, rather than an opt-in arrangement.

Anything else to add?
It's great that Giraffe is a chain which has branches all over the UK, as it means that I know know that I can access food that I know I can safely eat, more or less wherever I go.  However, as per usual, it would be nice to have a bit more choice available. 

Also, I noted that cow's milk was available, at Giraffe, as a children's drink. On the adult menu you can order a 'Soya Capp'  as an alternative to a cappucino. I couldn't help thinking how nice it would be, if they were to offer soya milk or even soya milkshakes (as an alternative to cow's milk) on the children's drinks menu.

On a more general restaurant rant, it would be fantastic, if chain restaurants offered gluten free bread. They must have a fairly decent footfall and I believe they'd get custom from doing so. It wouldn't even have to be baked by them. Genius make some pretty good gluten free pitta bread  right now - their tomato and herb flavoured pittas would be perfect for dipping and can be stored in a freezer. 

Pushing the boat out a little bit more, it would be so nice to see something else on a restaurant dessert menu (suitable for those with milk allergy) other than fruit or sorbet. If they can keep sorbet in the fridge, why not dairy free ice cream? It's just a thought! And, as they say, it's the thought that counts!!

Have you been to Giraffe? What did you think?

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