Hospital food

I suppose it’s not the kind of thing that any food lover wants to have happen, but severe ulcerative colitis seems to just happen according to the gastroenterologist. He says maybe there’s a genetic component to it, but it’s not terribly well understood.

Thankfully my employer provides medical cover, so for a week of steroid infusions to reduce the inflammation along with a blood transfusion, I’m treated to a 7th floor room overlooking Kingston and the Surrey hills of Reigate in the far distance. There are certainly worse places to be.

I was despondent at the prospect of hospital food for a week just when late spring is turfing out a stream of delicious raw ingredients. I suspect hospital food is always going to have a poor reputation as cost cuts bite the NHS. Being chatty and curious though, I’ve been interested in finding out how the kitchens work in hospital. Does the food all come from the same place, and is it the same that is served in the restaurants, private ward food and the regular ward food?

NHS Ward menu

NHS ward lunch menu

As you’d expect, the NHS ward hot food is pre-made frozen fare, with cold salads and sandwiches. The menu is far more varied than I thought though. Soups and sandwiches for lunch, pies, bakes and gratins for dinner. Deserts are largely sponges & custards, cold yoghurts or whips. ‘Celebrity chefs dishes’ show up in blue, but no chef has put their name to them. I gather that you have to choose your food the day before, which kind of removes the have what you fancy, but is probably necessary to keep the costs down. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the food. The fish days tend to stink the wards out & veggie sausages aren’t very good, but the cheese & potato pies and lasagnes are well liked. So it’s not all bad.

Private Ward menu

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On the private ward, menus are brought for a leisurely consideration at breakfast, with the crunch of decision time coming as the plates are cleared. The food for 22 rooms is prepared from scratch in the same kitchens as the NHS and restaurant food and is brought up to the ward kitchen and served to each room.

The food has been pretty impressive. The chef here excels in hot fruit crumbles. She also likes ramekins with gratins and pies. Best ramekin dishes so far have been salmon and potato gratin and beef moussaka.

beef moussakabr />
chocolate pudding

blackberry and apple crumble

Basil & lemon chickpeas with smoked mackerel is one of the nicest dishes I’ve eaten recently. I want the recipe! The chick peas were roughly mashed with basil and lemon into a thick sauce which worked beautifully with the mackerel and the side of fennel gratin and creamy mash. So good that I didn’t get a chance to photograph it.

Some dishes have been flops. The beef and salsa burger would have made Hamburger Me throw a fit. The haloumi and tomato pitta was a baffling few slices of tomato and haloumi grilled on the surface of a pitta. But these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

So in my opinion, if your employer offers a private healthcare benefit, it’s worth taking the tax hit to get the extra quality healthcare and food.

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