Chain Options

In an ideal world, I'd have unlimited time and money so that I could cook every meal for myself and my friends (and Phil). But there are occasions when you want a meal out. And sometimes you want that meal to just be cheap - of course it would be nice to stick to the independent bistro allll the time, but that's not realistic. There are quite a few decent chain restaurants in the UK with several branches around London - and with 2 for 1 vouchers constantly floating around, it seems silly not to take advantage every once in a while.

I recently went to see a movie and got a voucher for pizza express. I don't think I've ever eaten there before, but it's pretty hard to miss one. There's even one on our little high street. So Phil and I decided to eat there for a bit of a change. Of course, he has plenty of options at a pizza place - he eats cheese and eggs and soy all he likes - but I was a bit wary of what they might have to offer a particular eater like me!

To start with, we shared little dishes of olives and roasted tomatoes. No problems there! They were nicely marinated in a herby vinaigrette and were a nice start to the meal.

Then I ordered the Vitabella pizza leggera (this is a new thing they are heavily promoting - a thin crust pizza with a hole in the middle, where a bunch of salad leaves sit - just in time for the new year's resolutions girls). The waitress had no problem with me substituting the mozzarella for goat cheese. Here's what my little massive plate of joy looked like:

Hard to believe there's no pizza crust under all that salad, right?

You can't tell from this blurry photo I took really, but the salad was drizzled with a creamy salad dressing - luckily it wasn't drenched. I removed the tainted leaves and put them in the top right corner - see?

Other than that, it was a decent option! I'm feeling fine today (knock on wood) and pleased that there is something I could order again if I found myself at another Pizza Express.

HOWEVER.

I just looked on their website, and luckily they have an allergen information PDF that you can download which gives a "yes or no" answer to a whole list of allergens for each item on their menu. Seems helpful, right? I have a problem with it. It says that all the Leggera pizzas contain egg (and dairy AND soy). Now, obviously the dairy comes from the mozzarella. The soy could be a tiny bit of lecithin in the dough, or it could be more than that. And the egg... my only guess is the salad dressing.

I sent them an email asking more about it, so I'll let you know if and when I hear back. But that's my issue with restaurants having information like this. It's nice of them to do so, but isn't specific enough. I'd rather just ask when I get there - at least you can make substitutions once you know what's on the actual dish. This PDF doesn't give you a list of ingredients. I think that would be far more helpful. Yes, it might be a VERY long document to read, but for those of us who need to know what goes into our bodies at every meal, we're pretty much used to reading ingredients at this point. It ain't a big deal!

It's time like this when I'm grateful that I don't have a really serious food allergy.

Anyway - happy Friday everyone! I hope the fact that it's mid-January doesn't take away from your weekend. I'm personally looking forward to mine - going to see a movie with some friends tonight, and off to a gig at wembley arena tomorrow night. There's a strong chance that me and my friend Suzanne will be the oldest girls there. Very strong. But we'll still have a ridiculously good time - kids at heart.

If you've got food intolerances like me, and are curious about eating at chains in the UK, the following restaurants are particular tested, Molly approved (i.e. have menu options that don't involve eggs/dairy/soy):

And restaurants that don't pass the test (yet?):

Anyone want to contribute to this list? Any other experiences you'd like to share when it comes to dining out at chains?

***UPDATE***

I got the following email back from Pizza Express' customer service department:

I can confirm that the Customer Suitability Sheet states that our Leggera Pizzas contain egg because there is egg in our salad dressing. These pizzas are made to order and can be ordered without the salad dressing.

Our pizza bases are completely free of soya, however, Carlo the oil used to lubricate the pans prior to cooking does contain Soya. You are able to request that your pizza is made without the use of Carlo however in this situation we are unable to guarantee a Soya free environment.

We do advise that you speak to the manager on duty and inform them of your dietary requirements before ordering your meal. So there you have it! I'm very impressed how quickly they got back to me and how helpful they are. This is good stuff to know - looks like we can eat there again after all :)