Since becoming dairy free around two months ago, I’ve had hit and miss experiences when eating out. My first dairy free encounter was extremely positive but sadly this hasn’t been the norm everywhere so I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting George’s Great British Kitchen in Leeds yesterday evening. I’d heard good things (from ‘normal’ intolerance-free friends) so thought it would be worth giving it a try as a birthday surprise for my boyfriend.
I’m very big on first impressions so I was pleasantly surprised when we walked into the restaurant. The decor was really well thought out with nice touches such as make shift beach huts named after seaside resorts for tables and menus styled as newspapers. We were greeted by a very polite girl (granted she looked extremely young but I know that’s just a sign that I’m not as young as I think I am as opposed to anything else!) who showed us to our table with a smile and explained that our waitress would be over shortly to take our drinks order.
Still forgetting to practice what I preach, I didn’t ask the hostess if they had an allergen guide straight away so I avoided opening the menu and setting my heart on something before I knew if I could have it or not.
This is where I was really impressed (apologies to all my colleagues who I’ve bored with this today, I appreciate it’s not quite as interesting to you if you don’t have dietary restrictions!). Normally I am given a few laminated pieces of paper (spot the awkward diner) which I have to try to decipher only to discover that I’m left with one or two dishes to choose from. But not in George’s, no, no, no. I was presented with a discreet A5 filofax of information which actually looked like it had been properly thought through and instantly gave me confidence that they take allergies and intolerances seriously.
The filofax actually started with a card which is aimed at staff of George’s. This is smart. Very smart. It instantly gave me the impression (rightly or wrongly) that this actually forms part of their training when they join the company. And if the written content wasn’t enough, the images really solidify this impression…
Good start, right? Well it gets better.
Turn the page and George’s Great British Kitchen has actually done the deciphering for you! You don’t have to marry up the ‘similar but not quite the same’ name of the dishes on the allergen sheet with the main menu, they’ve actually given suggestions of meal choices for four of the most common allergies; gluten, eggs, dairy and nuts! I get that this won’t help people with more than one food allergy or intolerance but they can’t give all different combinations so I thought this was a really good touch.
Think that brings me to the end of my rant about the filofax allergens menu? Think again (told you I bored my colleagues).
For those who aren’t affected by a food intolerance, you might not be aware that usually you get a matrix of dish names with a tick or a cross next to them against each potential allergy. For someone with a dairy intolerance, this tends to be around 90% of menu items due to the fact that a lot of dishes are cooked in butter or there might be a sauce which includes yoghurt or cream. At George’s, I was so impressed to see each dish broken down into it’s component parts (or ingredients some might say) so that, if you really fancied something which was dairy free all except for the sauce, you could simply ask for it without the offending item. Sounds so simple but it makes such a difference. I was amazed at how much of the menu I could have actually had!
So that actually does conclude my rant on the allergens list. Would be pretty disappointing if I told you the food wasn’t up to scratch now, wouldn’t it. Well, there’s no fear there. I was in food heaven!
My boyfriend asked me to share the Chicken Katsu strips with him (totally dairy free) for starter of which I reluctantly agreed to ;). Unfortunately, these looked and tasted so good that we’d actually demolished the plate before I realised I hadn’t taken a photo of it, apologies.
For main course, I went for the charcoal grilled seabass with cauliflower and mushroom balti (I remembered to take a photo of it before I devoured it this time). It was absolutely delicious, so tasty. Plus, every main comes with twice cooked chip proper chippy chips (not the healthiest but it was a special occasion so I’m pretty sure they don’t count).
All in all, George’s Great British Kitchen delivered on all fronts: great decor, great service, great allergen guide and great food! You have no idea how much willpower it’s taking me not to finish this post with a really cheesy pun…