I went to Up Front restaurant in London, Ontario’s Covent Garden Market yesterday. Normally I don’t report on my day to day dining experiences, but this lunch was remarkable in a few ways.
I called for a reservation, and both a male and female employee answered the phone. When they heard each other’s voices, they both hung up! I called back , the male answered, he heard his own fax line in the background and declared “it’s a fax”, and then hung up on me again. My next call was greeting with a busy signal (presumably because the fax had turned on), and I finally got through to the female employee on my next call. She took my reservation for two people without asking for my name or what time I’d like to come in. It struck me that the owner would not handle the phone line in that manner.
I want to alert my readers not only to the very large number of lunch menu items that contain peanuts or tree nuts, but to the unusual items that contain them. Their caesar salad contains almonds! There are almonds in the Neopolitan dip which are not disclosed in the description of the dish online, peanuts in the Santa Fe salad dressing, the market salad contains pecans, and the duck club house sandwich is served on pecan bread. There’s also almond containing pesto, ravioli made with chestnuts, and both the basil fettucini and the Venetian pizza have almonds and almond pesto in them. I expect that all of the bread is made in a facility that has peanuts and nuts in it, which makes almost every dish on the lunch menu of concern to peanut or nut allergic guests.
I found the service disinterested. When I arrived, I needed to wait for my friend, but I was starving. I asked the waitress if they bring a bread basket at lunch, and she said they don’t, but she that she would bring me a couple of slices. I thought she forgot about this, since it didn’t arrive until about 30 minutes later with my main course. Our waiter walked away from us as he asked if we’d like coffee, and he took our coffee order looking back over his shoulder from about ten feet away from our table.
The risotto balls I had were fair: They would be better stuffed with mozarella than havarti, and the marinara sauce they came with was a tiny portion and very thin. The beet chip garnish tasted only of fryer oil. I had been eager to try the desserts, and my friend and I both ordered the molten lava cake. He is gluten free and was assured that the cake is gluten free, but it was served with a gluten containing cookie pierced right through it. Our waiter, who delivered both the desserts to us, advised that he hadn’t noticed the cookies and didn’t know why our desserts were presented that way. The house made ice cream it was to be served with was not on either plate and there was a raspberry sauce on the cakes, which was not disclosed on the menu. Since it was soaked into the cake, I only knew it was there once I tasted the cake. I’m actually slightly intolerant to raspberries, and I felt some symptoms from this.
I asked if they can accommodate peanut or nut allergic guests and was told that the staff change gloves and work in an entirely separate area. Given the huge number of nut containing dishes, the carelessness of the table service, and the ingredient additions that were made by the kitchen staff without notice, I do not recommend Up Front At The Market as a destination for allergic or gluten intolerant diners.
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