In light of the ever-increasing numbers of allergy sufferers, Emer Sugrue finds out where in Dublin caters for our picky friends.
Catering for friends with disparate food needs is a tricky business. A quick flick through your favourite recipes will show that everything you eat is bound to make one of your friends break out in hives. Even without allergies to consider, there are vegetarians, vegans, and those weirdos who won’t eat mushrooms.
Throwing dinner parties can be great fun but with so many competing illnesses and preferences, the research and preparation could take days. While it’s very tempting to relax on, with allergies you really do have to be careful – it spoils the mood somewhat to skip dessert for a trip to the emergency room, or when a friends frantic vomiting drowns out your Belle and Sebastian CD.
All supermarkets these days have an allergy section, but it’s usually quite limited. So unless you have a particular urge to spend hours reading the list of ingredients, going to a restaurant is by far the better option when dealing with picky friends.
This way, you can nod sympathetically when the only thing they can order is green salad without dressing while you chomp your way through a meat feast. With a bit of preparation however, you can find plenty of places in Dublin with something for everyone.
There are several options for takeaway. Indian food is always a good choice; they tend not to specify suitability for coeliacs, but flour is not used in Indian dishes. Once you stay away from the obvious; naan bread, popadoms and the like, you should be fine.
They also have plenty of dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes to choose from. Bombay Pantry is particularly good with information about ingredients, their menu marks which dishes are unsuitable for those with nut allergies and coeliac disease, as well as what can be prepared as vegan. Few restaurants can guarantee there is no contamination however.
Chinese and Thai and Japanese food can be a problem for coeliacs. Apart from the obviously batter or breadcrumb-covered food, soy sauce is made with wheat and is used liberally in all dishes. Wheat free soy sauce is easy to use at home but seems to be unknown in restaurants. Gluten-free food can often be requested – Yamamori and Siam Thai are careful to mark suitable dishes.
Most sushi is fine, just stick to the wasabi rather than the soy and always skip the miso. Vegans and those with seafood allergies should avoid this type of food completely – almost everything contains oyster, prawn or other fish sauce. You can’t even taste it but it is in everything: watch out for this too if you use jars of sauce at home. Nuts are an issue also, as cashews, peanuts and sesame are common ingredients.
Depending on your particular brand of finicky, Italian foods can a blessing or a curse. Pizza and pasta tend to be the staple of vegetarians, particularly the paradoxically vegetable-hating ones, but the prospect is not so good for your lactose intolerant or coeliac guests. Practically everything is packed with wheat and cheese but there are alternatives. There is some vegan and lactose free cheese available in the supermarkets, but you’ll have to stick to tomato-based pasta otherwise.
There are wheat and gluten-free pastas available made from corn and rice flour, and a few options for gluten-free pizza bases. Credo, near Harcourt Street, offers a full gluten-free menu including desserts, with a separate kitchen to guarantee there is no contamination. They deliver both gluten-free and normal pizzas to anywhere in South Dublin so it’s ideal for parties.
If you head into town for a meal, the options open up a bit. As well as the food mentioned above, there are a host of speciality restaurants catering to all sorts of allergies and preferences. Usually once you find one or two allergens mentioned on a menu, you can be confident of a careful and understanding chef who will be happy to make alterations to a dish.
There can be slight problems if you have a server that doesn’t speak English well, but staff tend to be well briefed on these issues, and you can always get the message across in the end. And if all else fails: there is still the green salad without dressing.
While there are many restaurants out there that cater for those with food allergies, here are a few prime examples:
Rustic Stone – Vegetarian, Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free
17 South Great Georges St
(01) 707 9596
Cafe Fresh – Vegan, Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Wheat Free, Raw, Egg Free, Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Yeast Free
South William St
(01) 671 9669
Cornucopia Restaurant – Vegan, Vegetarian, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Yeast Free, Wheat Free, Gluten Free
19/20 Wicklow St
(01) 677 7583
Govinda’s – Vegan, Vegetarian, Egg Free, Garlic Free, Onion Free, Dairy Free
44 Aungier Street
(01) 475 0309
Blazing Salads – Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Yeast Free, Sugar Free, Wheat Free, Nut Free, Organic
42 Drury Street
(01) 671 9552