Back at the beginning of February, shortly after my diagnosis, my boyfriend and I booked a 2 night stay at the BW St Mellons Hotel in Cardiff.
I was very anxious about staying somewhere overnight and having to rely on the hotel meals being gluten free, particularly as this hotel was not particularly near to other venues, although it was quite close to the centre of Cardiff if I did have any problems.
Before booking I contacted the hotel to explain my dietary requirements and received a very quick response saying that they would be able to cater for anyone who is gluten free and I was asked to confirm this on my booking. This made me feel a lot more at ease so I went ahead with the booking and included one night’s 3 course meal in the restaurant in the booking (at a cost of £15 per person). We would then see how that went before committing to a second night’s meal.
Upon arrival at the hotel I reiterated my requirements and they asked me to pop down to reception about 15 minutes before we planned to eat, so that we could go through the menu options.
It turned out that on our first night the restaurant was closed as they were hosting a wedding fayre, so we were unable to choose from the restaurant menu which meant our options were limited to the much cheaper bar menu. We did query this as it was the first night that we’d paid for the 3 course restaurant meal, so we were offered the second night’s meal at the same £15 per person rate, with this meal definitely being served in the restaurant.
The staff were very accommodating to my requirements and we enjoyed a lovely french onion soup as a starter, but after eating my bespoke main meal (a combination of other options combined to make a gluten free one) I felt that something wasn’t reacting well so I queried this with the waitress and asked for clarification that they gravy was definitely gluten free, as this seemed to be the only possible cause. To my embarrassment, the chef then rushed out of the kitchen with the gravy container to prove it was gluten free, so I was probably just feeling over sensitive, but I did feel that this didn’t help my anxieties about eating out for the first time.
The remainder of the meal was a success and I apologised for the confusion upon leaving our table.
The next morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast (included in the price), with gluten free bread but minus sausages, so presumably these contained gluten.
We spent a lovely day in Cardiff and used the leisure facilities within the hotel, before going to the restaurant for our evening meal. This entire meal was amazing and none of the options I chose needed to be bespoke as they were all naturally gluten free anyway.
The following morning, we had our second inclusive breakfast, but confusion seemed to then arise. The first morning the staff seemed fully aware of my requirements and everything was great, but on the second morning I was asked what I would like and said that I’d like the gluten free meal the same as I’d had the day before.
I received my meal, but this time it included bacon, beans, egg, new potatoes (as an alternative to the normal accompaniment) and a sausage. I queried this with the waiter and said that I hadn’t had one the previous day so had assumed they contained gluten. I asked if it was gluten free and the response was ‘no, it’s vegetarian’. Now this utterly bemused me, firstly gluten free and vegetarian are not the same thing and secondly it was on a plate with bacon, so if I was vegetarian I wouldn’t have been impressed anyway.
Unfortunately as this was the last meal we had at the hotel, I did feel that it had dampened the mood as up until this point everyone had been very accommodating and seemed to understand my needs (I must particularly mention Beth as she was brilliant at putting me at ease with my choices and requirements on the first evening).
Upon checkout we had a bit of a shock when we were almost charged double the original online booking cost, as although the second night’s meal had been added, so had extra accommodation charges. This was quickly rectified when I showed my original booking confirmation and explained that only an extra evening’s meals should have been added to this, plus drinks.
All in all, as my first outing on a gluten free diet, I do feel it was successful and I think it was a useful experience for me. There were some shaky moments, but all of the food we ate was very good quality and couldn’t be faulted, it was more the understanding of the term ‘gluten free’, that seemed to be the issue, but I would definitely recommend this hotel and it’s facilities.
For more information on BW St Mellons Hotel please see their website (www.bespokehotels.com/stmellonshotel).