As a gardener, a foodie and someone who loves exploring new ideas the Eden Project is perfect for me. As a small family we have visited many times over the last few years. I didn't visit when it was first opened fearing it would be too young to offer the horticultural wow factor that I crave. As I grow older I wish I had been in the early years so that I had seen the transformation over the years. Now coming into its 10th year The Eden Project always delights me no matter what the season (10th-birthday-timeline)
My love of the place is supported, and made possible, by the excellent service I have received when ordering freefrom food. Most attractions are far too busy to cater for the freefrom customer. You are most likely to find an expensive glutenfree brownie looking sad in tightly wrapped cellophane. Or if you prefer savoury there is always the good old dry jacket potato. Jesting can be pushed aside at Eden. I have successfully eaten three course meals several times at Eden, see this post from January 2013.
This summer they have the exciting Dinosaurs Unleashed event. Surely a must for children and adults alike. We couldn't miss out on hunting for dinosaurs, digging for bones and examining fossils. A courteous email enquiry a week before we were due to visit put my mind at ease that once again myself and my little boy could eat lunch with Daddy in the new Med Terrace nestled beautifully within the Mediterranean Biome. We spoke to the Head Chef who offered several options for each course, choice - something that is almost unheard for the freefrom customer. We also were reassured that staff members were aware of the issues surrounding allergies, intolerance and atopic illness. With everything in place we packed the essential food items for back up and set off.
We queued to be seated just like every one else. Once greeted by the waiter I mentioned we had spoken to the Chef by email. The waiter immediately knew about our requirements and took us to our table. We were allocated our own waitress, Jessica, and instantly assured that the kitchen and staff knew of our allergies. Jessica was friendly, attentive and professional. She explained that she has a wheat allergy and avoids other foods too so completely understood our needs and concerns. This was a fabulously reassuring detail from the Eden Project and started the meal perfectly. We ordered our food and drinks and sat back to enjoy the surroundings in the same way anyone else could.
Our drinks then starters were served quickly and efficiently and we tucked in to the Eden Anti Pasti and glutenfree bread. While munching away on a generous variety of flavoursome and delightful olives, bread and oil, stuffed vine leaves, balsamic onions, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes I reflected. A reserved table, a dedicated waitress, a confident and relaxed attitude to serving people with food allergies all create the perfect meal for a customer with a specialist diet. In fact everybody in the cafe appeared to be enjoying their food tucking in with appreciative noises and complimentary comments.
Our waitress checked we were happy with our starters and only took them away when we were completely finished. Main course for our little boy was plain penne pasta with ham, perfect for a boy who can recite "Mummy I don't like tomatoes, olives or mushrooms" without any need! He tucked in with a smile while I enjoyed a thin and crispy glutenfree pizza base topped with a peppery tomato sauce, red peppers, artichoke hearts, olives and green salad leaves. Other toppings were available but this suited me perfectly. Accompanied by a locally produced traditional lemonade the balance of flavours was a refreshing change to the meals I make at home. Daddy had a Spanish paella with a side of foccacia that contained both dairy and gluten. Interestingly I didn't have a single pang of jealousy as I was too busy chomping my own tasty lunch. The pizza base, Jessica informed me, is made locally by a specialist glutenfree producer making it freefrom cross contamination and full of passion required for getting the base just right. It was thin, crispy and oily almost pancake like. This worked beautifully. There was no dry and crumbliness or deep and chewy squeukiness so often found with glutenfree pizza.
To be honest with you there was no room for pudding. Having a difficult stomach means over eating and under eating make life very uncomfortable even when you avoid the foods that cause problems. However, it was my birthday and I was enjoying eating fabulous food prepared for me by someone else and there would be no washing up!
There is some discussion over freefrom pud, #fruitisnotapudding #notanotherglutenfreebrownie
In my opinion pudding should be sweet, impressive and satisfying. If everyone around you ordered chocolate sponge and ice cream would you still want a fruit salad? The trouble with freefrom pudding is it is very difficult to cater for different allergies and provide choice that is also manageable alongside a regular menu. Summer in the South West means ice cream and having a young boy who can't eat lactose could be problematic. Fortunately we can make ice cream at home fairly easily. This year we have even made Moo Free Chocolate Banana Bar ice cream. Eden came up trumps once again. A huge colourful bowl of fruit salad complimented by strawberry sorbet was greeted by a huge grin. It would have been great for me too but I had a more sophisticated plate of honey and lime roasted peaches with vanilla "Chantilly" coconut cream. This was delightful and the cream would also make a fabulous base for a dairy free ice cream.
Once we had wobbled out of the biome full of food we were able to enjoy the dinosaur hunt, planting and flowers, barefoot walk, gift shops and tractor ride back to the top. If you look carefully you can also find sorbet in the ice cream stall, soya coffee or herbal tea in the cafes and Montezumas chocolate in the gift shops. The prices are comparable with freefrom food bought elsewhere and in the case of our main meal the same price as the standard menu.
I could continue to sing the praises of the Eden Project, however, it would be much better to simply say visit whenever you can, email ahead with your requirements and enjoy.
Thank you to Tony, Mike, Jessica and all the staff serving food and drinks with a smile on a busy Saturday 16th August 2014