Do you find travelling with food intolerances difficult? On a recent trip to Port Macquarie it is clear that holidaying in the regions with food intolerances is getting easier but there are still a few areas that need to improve. In this blog you will find some tips for locating friendly restaurants and navigating your way through menus.
First up road food? Depending on where you are travelling you may find it easier to pack your own snacks and lunch or scope out some suitable alternatives. Gluten free options when travelling to the North Coast include chains such as Olivers who stock a range of healthy foods including fresh juices and a good range of gluten free options.
Secondly download Trip Adviser and review the restaurant choices in the area you are visiting. Trip Advisor lets you choose restaurants based on dietary requirements as well as options like online booking. Although during the current coronavirus crisis many restaurants have turned off online booking so that they can take deposits or confirm that you are planning on dining.
Once you have downloaded Trip Adviser its a good idea to search a list of cafes or restaurants which meet your requirements. Going one step further its a good idea to jump onto the menu and make sure that gluten free for example doesn’t just mean we offer gluten free toast.
Reviewing the options in Port Macquarie there were three breakfast options close by to our accomodation which included LV’s , the Pancake Parlour and The Pepperberry. Each had reasonable reviews however our standout favourite was LV’s initially as they had a fabulous Mushroom fungus toast with ham that was delicious and served gluten and dairy free. Staff were also very competent at dealing with requests for changes due to intolerances. The Pancake Parlour had the ability to provide gluten free pancakes for a number of menu options but the quality of the food was a little average. The Pepperberry was a standout for its range of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options including two types of fritters. The Morrocan fritters with corn were excellent, a little spicy and they benefited from the use of besan (chickpea) for a richer taste.
The standout options in Port Macquarie were Bills Fishhouse and Twotriplefour at Cassegrains Wines. We dined at Bills Fishhouse on the Friday night and had emailed to let them know of the various dietary requirements which included one gluten free and one both dairy and gluten free. The waiter was really well prepped and also adjusted the Fish Tasting Special to our requirements, replacing oysters with a delicious Kingfish sashimi with coconut cream. They also offered some interesting options with Kingfish wings ( a bit fattier and tastier than the main fish) as well as a delicious salt and pepper squid.
Having mentioned that we were dining at Twotriplefour the following day for lunch we were really thrilled to see printed menu’s already adjusted for our dietary requirements. It may have triggered a round of over ordering as there were so many options, however we really didn’t need to eat dinner that night so it was worthwhile. We has a delicious entree of warm marinated olives, mushrooms, eggplant and a herb and lettuce salad followed by lamb rump. Twotriplefour also offer hampers for picnicking in the grounds and that may be an option for later trips.
A third tip is to contact the venue in advance either by email or phone and see if they can accomodate your dietary needs. The Bago Maze and Winery offers both salami and cheese platters and can provide gluten free crackers on request. The other venue which had a surprisingly good menu was the cafe at Billabong Zoo which offered a range of salad bowls with gluten free and vegetarian options. Both of these options we were made aware of at the venue and would probably have changed out trip to eat at those venues if we had realised. Regardless make sure both venues are on your list for your trip, Billabong zoo is in sub tropical grounds and has an impressive range of animals. Personally loved being able to feed the wallabies and sneak in a little gentle pat on the back but we would recommend being at the lion enclosure just after 11am as the keeper gets up close and personal with the lions.
Bago Maze is one of the superior hedge mazes from our travels and takes a good hour to really explore and conquer both turrets as well as identifying the many features. For Christmas they had hidden a range of Austalian animals in the maze so it was fun to go down dead ends just to see if you could find the platypus or the wombat.
Perhaps the only criticism to make at this point is that restaurants seem to freely indicate on platforms that they offer dietary options however the menu’s do not always meet these claims. A number of cafes in the area advertised gluten free but then failed the menu test as there were no gluten free items marked. Its also essential that staff recognise the importance of separately preparing gluten free foods, which in most cases these venues did by checking if the diners were coeliac. The other item is to ensure that gluten free options if fried are only prepared in a separate fryer, otherwise you risk trace contamination.
Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist who enjoys eating out and travelling. Clearly this year’s efforts are restricted to NSW. For useful blogs on the subject have a look at Mountain high – adding dietary options to your holiday. and A tea lovers guide to the Blue Mountains . Christine is available for appointments on 02 8084 0081 and can offer online consultations for those not currently based in St Ives, Sydney.