If you’re an allergy parent, I don’t need to tell you how stressful eating out can be. After nearly 6 years managing our eldest’s nut allergy, I feel I can quickly gauge how trustworthy a restaurant is. I’m happy to go with my gut and leave if a request for an allergy folder is met with a blank stare, slight panic and a scramble for a forgotten-about, tatty folder, usually handed over with a comment like “but of course we have nuts in the kitchen”.
So I was pleasantly surprised when we stopped at Worcester Park last week on the long drive down to Devon and the staff at the Orchard Cafe were totally switched on.
“Please may I see your allergy folder?”
“Of course, which allergy? Nuts? And a children’s meal? No problem.”
And within minutes the lady returned with a clear allergy folder, open on the page with children’s meals and with her showing me where there are risks.
Then, when I got up to pay, I started chatting to who I assumed to be the manager. A genuinely lovely Northern Irish lady. She showed such insight and empathy – even bringing up how fad diets and personal preferences of some people (like those who order a sausage sandwich with gluten-free bread, but happily eat the sausage which has wheat). When I mentioned how we haven’t even tried eating out with the youngest because he has so many allergies, she said she might have something for him. And voila, she produced a pack of choc chip biscuits by Dove Farm. I had never seen these before, and even though they were expensive for a pack of biscuits at something like £2.50, of course I had to have it (and it helped us have a peaceful meal!).
The big boy had the pasta dish and he was so impressed, he took a picture with his new camera. At the end of the holiday, he even declared it the best meal he had all week (so much for my carefully planned caravan cooking).
I also massively rate the rice bowl I had, with shredded pork, spicy salsa and guacamole. Absolutely delicious, and I wish I’d asked for the recipe now.
Away from the cafe, it was the perfect spot to have a break from the car journey and for little legs to have a run around. The adventure playground was ace, and because it was the school holidays, there were multisports activities dotted around. It took the big boy just minutes to get involved in a cricket match, followed by a football match.
Parking was free and a doddle, considering it was very busy, and the toilets were clean and easily accessible (baby change is in the disabled toilet and I had to wait a few minutes to use it).
I’d say this is the perfect pit stop between the Manchester area and Devon/the south coast. And well done to everyone at Worcester Park!