When Jessica Harris’ son was diagnosed with food allergies, she was overwhelmed with the wealth of conflicting and confusing advice made available to her. As he got older and Jessica was searching for convenient yet healthy snacks which Jonah could eat, the choice was limited and as a parent, she worried that come birthday parties and hanging out with his buddies he would start to feel excluded at mealtimes. Jessica decided it was time to shake up the snack market for kids with food allergies and intolerances and Little Bandits was born.
With the ambition that food should be fun and never more so than when you’re young, Little Bandits coconut yogurts are not only dairy and soya free but also vegan friendly and laden with fruit. With more products set to satisfy hungry kids (suitable for 2 to 9 year olds) and allergy aware mamas in the offing, we can’t wait to follow the exciting journey of Little Bandits.
Between taste testing new Little Bandits culinary creations and educating fellow parents on how best to handle living with tots with allergies, Jessica joined us for a Table Talk to share her favourite special-diet dishes in Sussex which will not only sate small appetites but the whole family…
1. I’d like a table for….
Two and a half – for myself, my partner and our little boy Jonah. Ideally in a water side location hearing the lively chitter chatter and play of kids. Nothing too formal these days. Since having Jonah nothing gives me more joy than seeing Jonah making friends and us all enjoying the food and experience of where we are dining. But being by water is my happy place.
2. Early-birds catch the coffee…
My partner and I are strange in that neither of us drink tea or coffee! But I do love the smell of fresh coffee and when I want to escape the isolation of working from home, I love hitting the Trading Post Coffee Roasters in Lewes early to nab the best table with a yummy oat milk hot chocolate. They also have a great vegan brunch menu that I sometimes like to indulge in. Other parents have reliably informed me that Ground in Lewes and Brighton also does great coffee, it’s certainly always busy!
3. Best brunch with kids?
Jonah loves nothing more than a bacon sandwich! Honestly he is such a little meat eater. We often eat brunch at home as otherwise we usually have to take our margarine and bread to be sure it’s safe for him. In the past we have had reasonable brunch at Bills or Trading Post Coffee Roasters but I have to give a massive shout out to one of my favourite places in Sussex, Wilderness Woods. They have a gorgeous little rustic café with wood burning stove and mud kitchens hidden in Sussex woodland. The mothers day brunch they made for us this year was AMAZING! They really went the extra mile to cater for Jonahs allergies and we had the BEST dairy free brunch ever – generous portions of bacon, fresh sourdough bread, blueberry muffins and almond yogurt just for us. It was delicious and we were stuffed! They also have the most wonderful forest school there and regular activities for kids of all ages. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough and we’re very likely to have Jonah’s next birthday party there.
4. Children’s menu must-visits?
We have THE best independent shop and kid friendly café – Wickle. Its just wonderful – it has gorgeous clothing and homeware but also sells really unique and beautiful kids toys and clothes. The café is incredibly child friendly with a play kitchen and train table to entertain the little ones whilst the mums catch up. They have a great and simple lunch menu for kids – with ever popular options such as hummus, sweet potato falafel, wraps and fresh soups.
5. Where do you grab a bit with mums en masse?
In reality anywhere that has decent food and wine – we’re not fussy! Probably the local pizza place or local pub.
6. Hidden gem for treating tiny ones?
I have to say Wickle again, they have an amazing range of dairy free treats and we are there every Wednesday after our music class for their delicious warm banana bread and nut butter. They know us so well and will let us know when of any recipe changes that make something safe for us – totally brilliant to have a place like that on our doorstep. However if you visit, be warned you’ll most likely end up buying more than just lunch. It’s the best place to pick up unusual birthday presents.
7. Best piece of advice for dining out with kids?
Eating out can be stressful if your child has allergies so our tips might be a little different than most parents. We’ve learnt how to minimise that stress to ensure the most enjoyable experience for the whole family and kids. Of course we bring pens/pencils, magazines, toys (and even the occasional tablet) to keep Jonah entertained but my best tip for eating out is all about preparation. We call ahead, check they can cater for us, then double check when we get there. We do sometimes bring bread and dairy free spread with us if we’re not sure where we might end up eating lunch as they are the most common food items that either contain our allergens or that restaurants/cafes are unsure about as they buy it in.
8. Date night – takeaway or take me out?
Oooo take me out! We do have takeaways and they are lovely but getting out, just the two of us is more of a rarity. We don’t have family living close by so when we do get around to organising a baby sitter we tend to go for drinks and dinner somewhere nice. To treat ourselves we would probably go to Limetree Kitchen – a small and intimate local restaurant that offers a small menu of quality dishes. I’m trying to eat more plant based and they always have a variety of dishes on offer and also are great at adapting dishes to suit my diary free lifestyle. We also like their emphasis on the local provenance of ingredients, highest animal welfare and taking pride in minimal wastage with their ‘nose to tail’ philosophy. We also love Erawan, our local bring-your-own Thai, delicious food and my favourite cuisine.
9. My earliest food memory….
I’ve always loved food! My dad is from New York and my earliest memories are probably of my Dads legendary all American breakfasts with the bacon, American pancakes, maple syrup. To this day my friends still reminisce sleepovers and my Dads pancakes at breakfast the next day. Equally memorable were our very English all-weather picnics – we were a day tripping family and that has rubbed off. Another favourite was Butterscotch Angel Delight – oh my, even as an adult I could still demolish a whole bowlful before I went dairy free.
10. Five mums, one table – who’s joining you?
Hmm I really had to think hard on this one and you know I couldn’t come up with any ‘celebrity’ mums. I’m sure they are doing an awesome job but really I’d love to have dinner with some of my awesome mummy mates – we really don’t get the opportunity to let her hair down much. I’d also most definitely include my sister in that group. She is an amazing mum. I can only hope that I have the kind of relationship she has with her daughters with my Jonah. It would be a fun night!
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