Sunday, 12 December 2010

Frankie & Bennie's- can you eat gluten-free?

Is it possible to eat safely at Frankie and Bennie's?  I was meeting up with a bunch of family and friends before a play directed by my brother-in-law, and Frankie & Bennie's was chosen because it was close and open early enough.

I looked on the website.  I googled.  I came rapidly to the conclusion that F&B's doesn't have any interest in enabling clients to know what is in the food they are eating.  I had a good lunch, and packed an emergency butternut squash pie from the freezer in my handbag.

I thought I would be met by indifference or confusion when I said I needed gluten-free food and so nothing with any wheat in.  Our waitress was happy to check what was in different items and made some suggestions that she thought might be OK.  The fact that one of these was chicken in soy-sauce, which was very likely to be the usual wheat version, showed she didn't know any details of where wheat was hidden, but at least I could talk to her without feeling she wished I would just leave.

I decided the mozzarella and tomato salad, which said it was dressed with olive oil, would be a safe bet.  They did have a vegetable risotto on the menu, and I asked if she would check the ingredients.  I find a surprising number of restaurants put wheat in their risotto as a substitute for good risotto rice and time to make a thick creamy sauce.  She went to ask what was in it but came back shortly to say they did not know what was in the risotto and had no way of knowing.

The salad was dull, under-ripe tomato, stalky rocket, bland cheese, a few olives.  However, they had remembered not to put the dough balls or garlic bread on the side, and there was no evidence that they had put them on and then taken them off.

I cleaned the table and the cutlery with my wet-wipes as usual, and took precautions to avoid over-enthusiastic garlic-bread sharers.  I have had a few minor symptoms today but nothing drastic, and I would be happy to join a group of friends at a Frankie & Bennie's if that was where they wanted to eat.

My only regret was that I didn't tell them I had just had my fiftieth birthday - another diner was brought a cake covered in candles, all the lights went out, and the sound system and all the diners belted out Happy Birthday' and 'Congratulations'.  OK, so I wouldn't have eaten the cake, but I could have enjoyed the flames.

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