Eating out with an allergy can be hard work and stressful on holiday. Much of the fun of a family meal is sucked out if you feel there's a risk you'll be calling an ambulance.
Here's my personal experience of eating out on the Isle of Wight with a serious peanut allergy in the family, and five places which we have found helpful.
First though, let’s start with a disclaimer.
I cannot guarantee that you will have a positive experience at these restaurants or that you will be able to avoid allergens. I also can't guarantee that you'll enjoy the food or that your children won't argue or belch loudly.
Also, a good allergen menu is only part of what you need to have a relaxing and allergy-safe meal.
We also take a lot of comfort (or otherwise) from the member of staff’s attitude. We always mention the allergy when booking and find that on-the-ball restaurants are handing us an allergen menu before we’ve asked for it. Some people even explain their process for avoiding cross contamination. These people receive the heftiest of tips from us.
Other restaurants provide less reassurance. For example, if the waiter vaguely says “Er, I don’t think there’s any peanuts in that but I wouldn't like to say for sure” then we feel less content and do an about turn.
To get you started, here are five pubs and restaurants which have very clear allergen labelling (at the time of writing):
1. The Sloop Inn, Wootton Creek
My father had a bad carvery at the Sloop Inn in 1993 and started giving it a less polite name. This put me off a little and I avoided it, as the Isle of Wight has a plethora of excellent places to eat with children.
However, when I realised that they are excellent at labelling allergens, we returned, a mere 28 years later.
It is not fine dining but the food was much better than I was expecting. They also have a nice garden overlooking the creek and it’s very family friendly. The inside is a bit gloomy for my liking so we ask for a table with a view of the creek if we’re sitting inside.
The Sloop Inn is one of those Stonehouse Pizza and Carvery restaurants, so you can choose from a carvery, pub grub or pizzas.
We like them because their allergen menu lists ‘may contains’ rather than just ingredients. The allergen list is all done online, which is a little confusing (particularly as I never get a phone signal at The Sloop). However, it does give reassurance that it’s likely to be up to date.
I’ve found the staff to be very helpful too. Shout out to Michelle who has been a big help to us when we’ve visited.
2. Pizza Hut, Newport
I used to enjoy family-owned seaside bistros on holiday rather than American-owned multinational chains.
This gear-change occurred when I saw Pizza Hut's excellent allergen labelling. Much like The Sloop, their menu highlights 'may contains' as well as deliberate ingredients.
Other plus points are that Pizza Hut in Newport is easy to get to, it’s next door to the cinema and it’s got free parking. The downside is that the menu is a bit limited beyond pizza (understandably) and that you usually leave feeling like you’ve eaten too much. Perhaps that's just me.
The Pizza Hut salad bar is a cross contamination nightmare, but you may find that your allergen isn’t present so you can tuck in. In our case, the ice cream machine provides much joy to a child who is normally told they can’t have an ice cream whilst at the seaside.
Pizza Hut prefer you to order on your phone but we usually ask them to do it the old fashioned way so that they can alert the kitchen of the allergy.
These two pubs/restaurants are both run by Whitbread.
The plus side is that they separate different tree nuts on their allergen menu, rather than bundling them all together. They also have a process in place for preparing allergen meals, which they have explained to us before.
The downside is that they don’t label ‘may contains’, they just label actual ingredients.
Beefeater is in Newport and has some nice outdoor eating by the River Medina. Meanwhile, Sandown Cliffs is on the seafront (let’s not worry about the fact that Sandown isn’t known for its cliffs).
Beefeater has much easier parking but Sandown Cliffs is right by the beach, so you can go for a beach wander after your meal.
Greene King is another big chain worth exploring. They've got five pubs on the Isle of Wight including The Hare and Hounds near Robin Hill, Ryde Castle Hotel, The Folly in Whippingham, The Crab in Shanklin and The Fountain in Cowes.
Their website/app has a lot of detail on allergens. However, they don't label may contains so they may not fit the bill for you.
4. Correo Lounge, Newport
Correo Lounge arrived on the Isle of Wight fairly recently, in the nice building which once housed Prezzo and Newport Post Office before that. They’ve also got branches on that mainland.
I’ve not eaten there yet, but we plan to give it a go as their allergen menu is comprehensive. They list ‘may contains’ which is what caught my eye - most restaurants that aren't huge chains don't bother with this level of detail.
From our point of view, it looks hopeful as I can’t see any peanuts on the menu at all. Of course, that may change and they may sell them behind the bar but we shall see.
I will update after our first visit…
Update: October 2022
We gave Correo Lounge in Newport a go in October half term 2022. It was an all-round excellent experience with better-than-average food and on-the-ball-staff who asked if anyone had an allergy before we had taken our coats off.
They confirmed that they have no nuts or peanuts onsite (as of October 2022, please check for yourself) and that they have a process for cooking a meal for someone with an allergy.
Correo Lounge also had Guess Who for the children, which kept them occupied. The main downside was having to pay to park, but I coped admirably with that and only complained to Mrs Guru about it four or five times.
5. McDonalds (Newport and Ryde), KFC (Newport and Lake) and Burger King (Newport)
Ahhhh, the sweet refuge of a big chain selling burgers and chicken.
We dine out at McDonalds far more than we should because we know their allergen menu so well.
KFC and Burger King are less regular outings for us, but both have done the job when plans have fallen through or when we haven’t booked somewhere.
The Newport McDonalds doesn't currently have a drive thru, although there are plans to open one on the edge of the town. We had a debacle last time which meant Mrs Guru didn't get a tomato in her Chicken McCrispy but I'm sure you'll have more luck.
A few other thoughts about outing out with an allergy on the Isle of Wight
As I said, I cannot guarantee you that these restaurants and pubs will fit the bill for you and your allergy.
However, they are a good start in your search for somewhere to eat out with a nut allergy, peanut allergy or another allergy on the Isle of Wight.
Also keep in mind that details change all the time, so this may go out of date pretty quickly.
If you have had a positive experience with eating out with a nut allergy on the Isle of Wight (or another allergy), please leave a comment below.
What about allergy menus at independent restaurants on the Isle of Wight?
You'll have noticed that I've focused on chain restaurants rather than the many excellent independent pubs, restaurants and cafes on the Isle of Wight.
This goes against my natural inclination which is to promote family run businesses. If you have had a good experience with allergies at one of these, please comment below. If you're reading the comments, please remember that the details may be wrong or out of date. Believe it or not, some information you read on the internet isn't true.
The reason for my focus on big brands is that I've generally found that big chains are very on-the-ball when it comes to allergies. They understand that they can't pop to Asda if they run out of an ingredient, because the allergen menu will no longer be accurate. They also tend to offer more detail in their allergen lists, such as including 'may contains' rather than just the main ingredients. I appreciate this may be too big a job for a small family-run restaurant.
Another factor is that independent pubs and restaurants tend to change hands from time to time. I could name a couple of pubs on the Isle of Wight which have given us excellent information about allergens in the past. However, I'm wary of you reading this blog in five years' time and assuming things haven't changed.
Anyway, good luck!
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog