With under a week to go we’re super excited about Pub In The Park (PITP) as it enters its second year in Marlow, Bucks. For those that haven’t come across it yet, it’s a food festival organised by Tom Kerridge who has the 2 Michelin star restaurant The Hand and Flowers and the Michelin stared restaurant The Coach, both located in the town itself.
Eating out with Dietary requirement can be an anxious event if not prohibiting and when it comes to food festivals, even with published menus, it can often be much worse. Will they have the kit to cater for me? Will there be anything I’m able to/want to eat? Etc…
With that in mind, we thought we’d check out PITP from a dietary point of view to see what the score was. Let’s get into it.
Firstly, we checked the website for their stance and found this in the FAQ
I have a dietary requirement/allergy/intolerance. What can I eat?
There will be options to suit all dietary requirements and these will be available to view on all of the menus at the festival. Please remember to bring cash as only some venders will accept debit cards and you may have to small pay a fee for the cash machines.
Ok, quite generic but it’s there.
Next we looked over the menus and apart from the occasional “v” denoting vegetarian it wasn’t clear about alignment or adaptability to other dietary requirements. So we decided to contact the event organiser directly. They came back super quick and informed us that:
“All allergy/dietary information will be available from each restaurant on site on each menu and also on our free festival guide”
Having the information in a guide is a great idea but we explained that we’d like to know upfront how “friendly” the event is likely to be. “Great idea” they said but they needed to check with Tom’s team. That was last we heard.
If you can’t get it from the organiser then go to source. We set about contacting all the restaurants who have a popup, with the exception of Tom Kerridge’s places as the event team said they’d check with him, so that took us from 12 to 10 to contact, and contact we did and then we waited. In 2.5 weeks since we made contact we received 2 responses. Damn. It’s not a great result but let’s focus on the positive shall we?
First back was the Pony & Trap with:
“We will always accommodate dietary requirements where possible – all our dishes we will be happy to alter if possible.”
Cool, the fact they responded to the question and have an answer is a good sign. Nice one team.
Next it was Paul Ainsworth's team:
“With regards to your questions, we can cater for guests with dietary requirements, allergies and intolerances. The team are very accommodating and we always make sure we find a dish suitable, whether this means adjusting the dish or helping create something they would be able to have. We are constantly catering for a range of different requirements and we ensure each guest has a wonderful experience.
At pub in the park this year we are one of the few establishments who are catering for vegetarians, unfortunately not so much towards vegans, however I have passed this email onto the No.6 kitchen team who said it would be something they would look into”
Nothing for plant based, but a strong attitude. Very promising.
Just to be crystal clear on this point; Do we think every restaurant should cater for plant-based diners? No, just like we wouldn’t expect a plant-based establishment to offer meat. What a restaurant offers is about their brand. Allergy/intolerance on the other hand is not negotiable, oh, and this is as much attitude as it is capability. Just because you “can” deal with it, it’s about the experience you get… the simple fact we got these responses from these two speak volumes about their approach.
Anyway, back to the event! Overall a disappointing response if I'm honest. Am I outraged? No. I don’t think restaurants are purposely dismissive of the issue, running a restaurant is hard work and frankly those of us with dietary issues make up a minority, but still I thought we would get a slightly higher response rate than 20%.
But that said, everyone deserves another chance so if you’re there ask the other restaurants their stance on the matter and let us know how you get on, but more importantly make sure you show Paul Ainsworth and the Pony & Trap some love for their positive attitude on the subject, after all rather than bitch about the bad I think the best way to influence change is to reward to good… this time with kind words and some custom.
If you’re at PITP let us know and come and say hello!
Images courtesy of www.pubintheparkuk.com