Monday, 23 June 2014

Eating out dairy free and gluten free? Just ASK!!

I first came across ASK Italian years and years ago, when I was in my first teaching post. Somehow the teaching staff went out for a meal together (can't remember why - it could have been one of our 'Escape Committee' get-togethers). 

In those days, the 'ASK' chain was new, interesting and a bit on the funky side.  

My key memory was devouring a piece of their Banoffee Pie - I thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted!! I mean... what's not to love about caramel and cream??

Scroll on a few years and due to 'Baby's' milk allergy, I'm dairy free all of a sudden!! And then gluten free as well. Surely, one of the last places I'd be looking to eat is an Italian-style restaurant. Y'know pasta, cheese sauce, etc. etc.



Interestingly, I'd heard a few whispers, on Twitter, that they were able to provide gluten free pasta. SO we looked into it and they could!! AND, looking at their menus online (see here), it seemed, to The Hub, that they could do dairy free too! 

SO, on our wedding anniversary, with 'Baby' in tow we thought that whilst we were hanging out for the day, in the historic city of Winchester, we'd give them a try!!

Winchester High Street

We indulged in a bit of meandering at first. 

Winchester's ancient West Gate

I love Winchester. It's a gorgeous place to be, on a sunny day.

ASK Italian's restaurant in Winchester is pretty gorgeous too! When I was a student in Winchester, it used to be a very nice tea shop, but the building itself obviously dates back further than that!

A building with a history!

Somehow they've manged to fuse the ancient and modern within the interior really well.

A Tudor building with some modern twists

I love the scattering of knick knacks too:

Anyone for coffee??

As is our custom, we skip the starters - we're only here for lunch, anyway.

Baby's meal is a simple Spaghetti Al Pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce), embellished with a few of The Hub's chips.

Pasta and chips!

Okay, so it's not the most nutritional meal, but then that seems nigh on impossible if you're a child eating out anyway - particularly if you're dairy free - so many places serve Spaghetti Bolognese made with milk!

'Baby' seems happy enough with what she'd got though!

Meanwhile, for once, I have a choice!! There's more than one thing on the menu that's suitable for me!!

Gluten free options are marked 'NGCI' or 'Non Gluten Containing Ingredients'. This isn't always acceptable to the gluten free, but this restaurant chain appears to be approved by Coeliac UK - according to a sign by the door.


I select the Linguine con Frutti di Mare. I've often watched The Hub eat something like this, with envy.

Gluten free pasta - deep joy!!

As they serve gluten free pasta (okay it's not linguine, it's fusili, but at least it's a pasta I CAN eat), it's no longer off limits, but all mine!! If you're able to eat ordinary pasta, you won't know how good this feels. It's such a simple thing and I don't understand why more places don't serve it - in it's dried form, it can easily be stored in the cupboard for ages (if it's not called for), without going off!

It's satisfying and tasty. I'm happy!

Who needs a dessert?

Well 'Baby' apparently!!

We note that one of the children's options - the Strawberry Meringue Stack - is basically hazelnut meringue with strawberries and ice cream and wonder, if we ask nicely, if they'd be so obliging as to serve it without the ice cream...

It appears they will!!  

'Baby's' dessert - just to warn you - different restaurants present it diffidently!

'Baby's' turn for deep joy!! And we, who've watched her miss out on dessert on so many occasions... enjoy her delight... over our coffee. 

And good coffee it is too :)

Since then, we've visited ASK Italians in other towns and cities. It's become our favourite place to eat - just because 'Baby' can have a dessert.

We've also discovered that if we're hungry enough we can have a starter too:

Spot the 'NGCI'!

I try out Insalata Ottima - a nice little salad with chicken.

It's actually quite generous!

I like it... but unused as I am to having a starter I feel a little stuffed, by the time my main course appears!

'Baby' it seems can have garlic bread strips (we ask for it minus the garlic butter and dip) along with some vegetable crudites. Okay, they're a bit like posh bread sticks, but enough to keep her happy, whilst we wait for the mains.

Ho hum! Don't think 'Baby' will be eating the veg!  :(

Along with one or two or The Hub's Panzerottini Pancetta. They're dairy free too, apparently, so The Hub orders some, just in case! I can't have them, of course, as they're basically balls of dough.

It also seems that 'Baby's' not the only one who can have dessert. I can too - a gelato. Not all the gelatos are dairy free, but my choice - Raspberry Sorbetti is! Okay, so it's not the Banoffee Pie of my distant memory, but it is light, fruity and refreshing.

I may not order it every time, but it's certainly nice to have the option!

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