In the world of politics someone can't simply change their mind without it being called a u-turn. I'm not sure why, I change my mind all the time, particularly when faced with a wonderful sounding menu, and I've never referred to it as a u-turn. So whether you want to call it a u-turn or a simple change of heart someone at Jamie Oliver HQ decided that gluten free pasta was no longer for them. I felt the need to write a blog because I have previously reviewed Jamie's Italian in Glasgow and didn't want to mislead or misinform. I first heard rumours that the chain had stopped doing gluten free pasta on Twitter. I already had a table booked, so I sent a tweet to Jamie's Italian to find out if the rumours were true but got no reply. Others also got no reply from the same question. A quick check on their online menu showed no mention of the gluten free pasta they had been previously proud to shout about. There was now a 'gluten free' section which showed a couple of starters and mains and only a handful of sides. I was less excited about the visit than I had been previously but intrigued to find out more. What had led to the gluten free u-turn?
Around the same time as the decision to remove gluten free pasta from their menus, a number of newspapers ran articles about a coeliac customer being provided with the incorrect meal at Jamie's Italian and suffering as a consequence. She was ultimately awarded damages and the chain admitted it had got things wrong. According to the article 'Environmental health experts visited the premises and an investigation was launched revealing "lamentable failures" over food allergy issues'. I can't comment on the particular case with the limited information provided in newspaper articles, but the timing of the withdrawal of the gluten free pasta appears to coincide with their fine. From the information in the article it clearly caused some suffering, however, I do know people who have been 'glutened' by restaurants in the past and have given feedback without the need to go to court. I'm on the fence as to whether or not raising the failures of the chain through this method was the best way to get a satisfactory outcome or not.
When the day came to visit Norwich's branch of Jamie's Italian I thought I would double check that gluten free pasta was definitely off the menu. I was expecting to hear that it had been taken off while they ensured they had the correct controls in place to ensure customer safety. Instead, our waitress explained that: 'It was not in-keeping with the brand and the fresh pasta they served'. I'm not the only person who appeared to be given the same rationale, with others citing on Twitter that they had been told the same. It's was a slightly alarming and defensive response given the recent press. So gluten free pasta was no longer good enough for the chain?
The meal itself was fine. Interestingly they are willing to adapt some other dishes on the menu so the online 'gluten free' section isn't as limiting as it suggests. I would have expected that there's a greater risk adapting meals than serving gluten free pasta but perhaps their controls have changed. I had one of the planks featured in my original blog which was still great. For main I chose to have a burger without the bun. It looked very sad on a plate by itself. At £10.95 for a burger with a slice of cheese and bacon on it was underwhelming to say the least. A side of apple slaw perked up the plate but the slightly bitter taste left by their gluten free pasta saga remained. I'd love to see gluten free pasta back on the menu with the right controls in place. The high street has leapt forward recently with multiple gluten free offerings, it would be a shame to see more u-turns and a step back for coeliacs.