On July 20th, I went to Home Sweet Home in the Northern Quarter, it was a hot day and I was going to Madlab to play werewolf. I asked for some food to take away, as I was going across the road to play werewolf with others. Take away was fine but when I showed my allergy sheet, there was the usual shuffle from the server saying they needed to talk to the manager.
I stood there while the manager came over and she looked at my allergy sheet, taking it away to run past the chef. I explained trace was fine and I have eaten there many times including 3 weeks ago with no problems. The chef had advised that I have my chicken non-breaded as the fryer was used for fish, everything was great.
However this time around I was given back my sheet and told by the manager, they could not serve me anything on the menu. I questioned this with total disbelief, surely there is something I can eat on the menu, even a salad? No I was told, our policy has changed and we can serve anything to you. Changed in the last 3 weeks? She told me yes, and asked me to leave.
To be frank I was so upset and pissed off that I thought, I’m leaving and screw Home sweet home! They lost a customer and I only stopped short of tweeting about it because I knew there was a good chance on the July 22nd, I’ll be at the Home Sweet Home in the great northern. I wanted to see how the same company could justify its self, by hiding behind some piece of policy.
July 22nd came, I walked to Home Sweet Home in the great northern, met up with work colleagues. Ordered a cocktail and some food, showing them my allergy sheet. Server calls the manager, manager shows the chef the sheet. This time the manager comes back and recommends a few options with a couple changes. She recommends some kind of chicken salad and I said ok, not expecting much. What came out was incredible (wish I took a picture of it). It was chicken, salad, cheese, peppers and some other bits. It was positioned on the plate nicely and looked/tasted incredible. It was so obvious the chef had taken the creative challenge and jumped at it. It was amazing…
I later explained how I was turned away from Home Sweet Home in the Northern Quarter only 2 days earlier due to a policy change. The manager knew nothing about this policy change and apologised for the northern quarter restaurant. I made sure to give an extra large tip that evening, and told the manager and server to please tell the chef thank you very much for making a plain sounding salad, look and taste so great.
I do understand the stress someone with an allergy can bring to a restaurant but turning them away and refusing to even bother is just shocking, especially since the EU brought in strict guidelines (why are we leaving the EU?). It’s not like I had gone to a fish bar and expected to be served. Home sweet home is (their words) the home of the legendary cheeseburger toastie. I’ve eaten there many times and it just happens that it wasn’t long before too (under a month!)
My allergies are long but not so bad, there are many people far worst than myself. I tend to avoid vegetarian and vegan food because of the nuts, peas and beans. Heck if I can survive Japan with only one allergic reaction, home sweet home I can find something on the menu which I can eat! I’m very tempted to go back to the northern quarter one and see the reaction this time around!
Shame on the northern quarter for such a shocking response… Being turned away from eating is just bad news! Not even trying and almost being pushed out the door is just terrible!
Since I wrote this blog last year, a lot has happened. Someone in the social media team picked up on this blog post and got in touch with the owner. The owner (Marie) then got in touch with me and we met one morning in the Home Sweet Home at the great northern. We talked through things and she explained the Northern Quarter kitchen is a lot smaller, the chief may not have felt comfortable with cooking for me; but none of that was an excuse for being turned away. Especially since I was happy to take the risk after everything was explained to me by the manager on the day.
She brought along the current allergy menu (as things change every few months) and I went through it with her and a couple chief’s (I wasn’t quite sure if one of them was from each restaurant or not) to see what I could and couldn’t have. After the exchange, I dashed off to work with a copy of the allergy menu. We then kept in touch over email and we double checked different foods for allergies. I was very confident about what would be fine.
I had always planned to revisit home sweet home after our exchange but with the winter holidays, etc, didn’t quite make it. I also got into the habit of making a big salad from bits from the supermarket on the way to werewolf at Madlab. However this month I arrived back from Liverpool early and decided I’ll finally test Home sweet home again.
— Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) February 15, 2017
This time I was shown to a single table and I asked for the allergy menu. I was asked about my allergies and I produced the allergy card. This was passed on to the manager who took my order and warned me about cross contamination. I said it was fine and she went away. She came back pretty soon afterwards and told me the beans are obviously a problem but what would I like instead? I laughed I would love halloumi instead, she said not a problem and went away.
It took a while, which is fine as I had time on my side. The Wifi was a little bit of a pain as I had to register for it. But generally I sat and drank my cocktail. Then the moment came, chicken fajitas with halloumi. It was very nice and came with dips which I wasn’t sure about, so left them as it was great without them
— Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) February 15, 2017
I paid when I finished and gave quite a big tip for a cocktail and main, but I was impressed not to be turned away again and was happy with the service.
This blog post had certainly helped and I’ll be back at Home Sweet Home more often now.
Thanks Marie and the team!