Refuel Restaurant, The Soho Hotel, Firmdale Hotels, London
Now this is the hotel that does a gluten-free/dairy-free afternoon tea so brilliant all superlatives seem pale and insufficient. I wanted to love their a la carte restaurant as much too and treated my other half to a surprise dinner on Saturday.
I had roast duck breast with orange glazed carrots for starter and then pot-roasted chicken, butternut squash, bacon and chestnut mushrooms with hand-cut chips. What can I say, it was a comfort-food night. I had pre-informed them of my dietary requirements, told the maitre’d and the waiter on arrival too. Whilst I don’t want a fuss I do want it clearly explained to me what I can have and this just didn’t happen. When I asked if I could have these dishes the waiter said he would check with the chef and I made a specific comment about the chip oil. He never returned, so I assumed all was well and then the food arrived.
The duck was succulent if a little tough to cut and the chicken stock was delicious with the main. However, it may have helped if I’d been able to see what I was eating. Whilst I appreciate the bar is right next to the restaurant and requires a certain dark mood (this is Soho after all), I like to have a clear idea of what is on my knife and fork.
All was continuing to go well, though I did feel a little underwhelmed by the food, especially given the prices. It took an hour to receive our bill and it was then that I started to get a stomach ache. Great. Didn’t think much of it. Then the spasms started to get worse and I was wracking my brains thinking if I had eaten anything possibly gluten- or dairy-contaminated the day before/earlier in the day because I still had total faith this kitchen knew exactly what it was doing.
At this point I was in so much pain I just had to leave. I still had to get the tube and train home and felt sick and shaky with huge stomach cramps. Obviously I have eaten things accidentally in my time that contain wheat or gluten or cow’s milk so I know the symptoms, but I just didn’t want it to be this dinner. I couldn’t even speak on the journey home, I was just concentrating on not vomiting (on those late trains known as the vomit comets, how apt). My other half was so livid he complained straightaway.
Now I don’t know how hard it is going to be trying to work out what it was. I’m thinking perhaps the frying oil for the chips or the chicken (at one point I think I was eating stuffing, but I might as well have been blindfolded in that darkness so who knows).
I don’t mean to take this out solely on the Soho Hotel who, I am sure, are a good restaurant overall; I am just so tired of feeling like it is such a big deal to want to know what is in my food. I want to have relaxed and fun eating experiences with my partner, friends and family. Is it really that hard? What would happen if a piece of bacon worked its way into a vegetarian meal, hmm?
Additionally, the offer for my dessert? A FRUIT PLATTER. Now if it’s summer and you’re outside and you fancy a healthy snack perhaps this is acceptable. When you know this very same kitchen produces beautiful gf and df scones, flapjacks, choc honeycomb, pavlova etc, it’s a sad-face-inducing disappointment. So if I didn’t get the message across enough, don’t ever offer me a fruit platter, that ain’t no sweet treat 😉
So all started well, but did not end so-ho well. I’m off to get my heatpad and cleanse my system with lots of fresh veg and ‘clean’ food today. Updates to come!