Last week I spent a wonderful few days in Centre Parcs at Woburn Forest – highlights included a spa day, rapids in the pool at sunset, and a zip wire over the lake – lots of fun and time for relaxation too.
We chose to go for a hotel room rather than a lodge, and took the brave decision (for a coeliac anyway!) to not have the self-catering option. I’ve visited Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest for a weekend in the past and found gluten free options and had done a bit of research so I was prepared (and had a bag of emergency gluten free food just in case!). I thought it would be useful to share my experience for anyone else thinking about going to Centre Parcs.
I had initially drafted this as one blog post but soon realised I was over 1000 words in and only about halfway through the week! I’ve instead decided to give my overall opinion in this post and split the rest into a series of posts which I’ll publish over the next few days – one for each of the different places I ate at. I’ll be publishing posts about:
- Dexter’s Kitchen
- The Shearing House
- Dining In (takeaway)
- Aqua Sana Spa
- Rajinda Pradesh
- The Pancake House
I also ate at Starbucks and Cafe Rouge, both for breakfast. At Starbucks I had a Raw Raspberry and Nut bar (which are great, I’ll definitely be having more of these!), and at Cafe Rouge I had Scrambled Egg and Speck Ham.
There were also gluten free meal options at both Starbucks and Cafe Rouge, but we chose to visit the Center Parcs specific restaurants instead. There was also a Strada which had gluten free options but we didn’t visit here.
Center Parcs has a supermarket (ParcMarket) which is very useful for those who are self catering. I checked out the gluten free sections in the supermarket. Obviously this wasn’t much good for us as we didn’t have kitchen facilities, but if you hire a lodge or a self-catering hotel room you might want to use these. We did have a mini fridge in our hotel room so I bought some yoghurts from the supermarket and had those some mornings for breakfast with granola portions I brought with me in my emergency pack! I was pleased to see quite a good variety of gluten free items in the supermarket including gluten free cereals (and my favourite Natures Path Granola!), gluten free breads, gluten free pasta and pasta sauce, as well as treats such as biscuits and cakes. There were even gluten free sausages for those wanting a barbecue (most lodges have one). We pigged out on a Toblerone cake one night whilst watching The Great British Bake Off on iPlayed in our hotel room one evening. Oh yes, that’s how we roll!
I found my gluten free experience at Center Parcs very mixed. There were some things I was really impressed with – some lovely desserts and pancakes, and some excellent customer service. But overall I felt the options were more suited to the occasional treat rather than regular meals. I guess this is because most people at Center Parcs are self catered and cook their own meals, but in order to offer non-self catered options like we went for I’d like to have seen more variety (both gluten free and regular to be honest, but particularly for gluten free guests). I would have loved to have been able to have some soup, or a jacket potato, or a wrap. We came home craving some less greasy options with more colour and flavour!
As always, there is of course the risk of cross contamination when eating out. I was impressed with how most of the places I ate at were aware of this and made efforts to reduce the chance of this happening. However, I didn’t feel so great the first couple of days – but I’m not sure if this is down to being glutened or just because of the change in diet to some seriously unhealthy food!
Overall it is possible to follow a gluten free diet at Center Parcs with all places I visited having something I could eat. If I was to do it again though I’d be tempted to go self-catering to enable me to add a bit more variety to my diet. Another thing to note is that most places were expensive so it’s not a cheap way to do a break!
Do you have any recommendations of coeliac-friendly places (in the UK or further afield) to visit for a break?
If you’re interested in the posts on specific places in Center Parcs, make sure to subscribe to my blog (links to subscribe by email or RSS are both at the top of the right hand column), or you can follow the Gluten Free Joeyanne Facebook page or follow me on Twitter – either way you’ll receive details of them over the next few days.