I've just come back from a family holiday in Dorset and whilst we were there, we stumbled upon a little cafe/bar called Taste where we had lunch.

Now, I know it’s really coma inducingly dull when people come back from their holidays and won’t shut up about how lovely it was and I’m also aware this may be the electronic version of inflicting readers with my ‘slides’.

Plus, I’ve noticed that I appear to be obsessed with food and pubs as this is the third blog to mention those subjects – but bear with me please.

I was with my husband,19-year-old son, two 15-year-olds, a five-year-old and a 20-month-old so eating out at the best of times is notoriously difficult not just because of the logistics of keeping the youngest members of the party happy but also because son number one is vegetarian and I am vegan.

Even in decent quality restaurants, vegetarians and especially vegans, usually get the raw end of the deal with manky old jacket potatoes and beans normally being the best option we can hope for.

One recent exchange in a Leigh cafe went something like this:

Me: "Is there anything on the menu suitable for vegans?"

Waitress: "Er, well we've got quiche, omelette, jacket potatoes or pasta in cheese sauce."

Me: "Thanks but I'm vegan so don't eat eggs or cheese"

Waitress looks bewildered but brilliantly suggests: "how about two egg omelette instead of the usual three egg one?"

Me: "Erm, no thanks, I'll just have the jacket spud then shall I?"

I kid you not - this conversation actually took place! It reminded me of the Royal Family's wonderful Grandma who helpfully wondered whether Anthony's vegetarian girlfriend could maybe just have one slice of "wafer thin ham?"

In my experience, the bulk of children’s menus are all too often disappointing, though this is not exclusive to Leigh.

Most places continue to offer food that, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, has long since been struck off any self respecting school menu (thank goodness).

Greasy old sausages, burgers and disgusting chicken nuggets are still deemed appropriate kid’s fare and 9 times out of 10, there is no vegetarian option for non carnivore children.

It’s for this reason that I was SO knocked out by TASTE in Dorchester. The children’s menu was out of this world and there wasn’t a chicken nugget to be seen!

Here’s just a small taster of the pretty extensive small person’s menu.


Organic, home made soup and choice of fresh bread

Pot of humus and bread

Pot of olives

Mixed salad

Garlic bread

Platters (these arrived on small wooden board which spun round – great fun for the kids)

All platters served with fresh bread, tomato and cucumber and a choice of three of the following –

Ham, bacon, salami, grated cheese, mozzarella, brie, avocado, humus, prawns, grapes, tuna, crispy croutons, apple, banana or olives.

Pasta (penne, corm or tagliatelle) with a choice of –

Olive oil

Sesame oil

Home made organic tomato, vegetable, bolognese or cheese sauce

Home made, organic herby pork sausage, prime beef burger, fish cake or veggie mushroom burger with either mash potato, home made fried or rice with a pot of homemade tomato sauce of mayo.


Organic fruit salad with yogurt and honey

Mini cheese board

Homemade organic flapjacks with Green and Blacks choc pieces.

Organic Ice cream with fresh fruit puree

Mini banana split

Apples, bananas, grapes and pears

Not only is this one of the best children’s menus I’ve ever seen, but not one item on the main course cost more than £3.95 and the puddings were all under £2.50. If none of the kid’s options appealed, every single item on the adult menu (more than 40 choices) was also available ‘kidsize’ for half the price of the adult version.

And the place was packed –and not with poncy darling Tarquins and Tallulahs but with regular, ordinary families who like me, have had enough of being offered second rate food for their children!

The icing on the cake was a ‘reading area’ which contained a sweet little child size three piece suite complete with pouffes and a large books of books, (all of which were in very good condition). A small rug with roads on and a bucket of wooden cars kept the boys occupied too.

This is the type of food and environment that should be available to families in every town. With the exception of the Oasis Coffee House which has an entire room dedicated to families, there is nothing like this in our town. Leigh On Sea café and restaurant owners please take note!

Leigh is a wonderful, caring community.

I must say a huge thank you to Belfairs School and Fives records in Leigh who so generously donated time and facilities for a very special little girl called Hayley Okines at the beginning of the summer.

Hayley Okines is eight-years-old and has progeria - a rare, fatal genetic condition characterized by an appearance of accelerated aging in children. There are 44 cases of progeria around the world and only 4 in the UK.

All children with progeria die of the same heart disease that affects millions of normal aging adults (atherosclerosis), but instead of suffering at 60 or 70 years of age, these children may suffer strokes and heart attacks at five or six years of age.

Remarkably, the intellect of children with progeria is unaffected, and despite startling physical changes in their young bodies, these extraordinary children are intelligent, funny, and full of life Hayley is certainly all those things and more!

The average lifespan of children with progeria is about 13 and at present there is no cure.

Earlier this year, producer Mark Street and I, wrote a song called Voices of Tomorrow to help raise awareness and funds for research into this condition.

The track was recorded by the Kids Choir 2000 and launched at a big concert at Belfairs High School where little Hayley joined the choir on stage to perform.

Channel 5 news filmed and broadcasted the event and a few weeks later, Hayley came back to Leigh to do a very successful CD singing campaign at Fives records in the Leigh Road.

Neither Belfairs School or Fives records were connected with Hayley in any way, yet gladly extended their help to us during this campaign.

It was really touching and heartening to know how much schools and shops in our town care and really want to ‘do the right’ thing.

You can learn more about Hayley, progeria and watch the video of her recording the single at http://www.myspace.com/song4progeria