Family lifestyle: family-friendly eating out

Hello readers!

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to blog. To be perfectly honest, this ‘family lifestyle’ blogger is feeling like her lifestyle is work, run around after a toddler, cook, housework, crash in front of the TV, sleep, more work… And repeat. Daily. That’s not to say I don’t LOVE being a mum to a busy, energetic, happy toddler – I really, really do – it just doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like painting my nails, or catching-up with friends, or blogging. But I’ve missed it, so here I am, avoiding housework and writing!

One subject that I’ve been wanting to write about for an age is options for eating out with a little one in tow. It’s something we don’t do that often, and so when we do take Freddie out we like to know it’s going to be a success. Here are some of our favourite family-friendly restaurants and cafés.

Wagamama

We took Freddie to our local Wagamama on his first birthday after hearing good things about their kids menu, and we were not disappointed. Six months later, I’m yet to be as impressed by children’s menu offerings as I was at Wagamama – not only are the options a bit different from the normal sausages and pasta, it’s great value (all the main courses are less than £5) and it’s all healthy. I really liked that the elements of the dish were separated, with the sauce on the side, and Freddie had 3 vegetables to pick at – something I’ve never seen in any other restaurant. A huge plus also came from the way the waiter didn’t even bat an eyelid when he saw the pile of sweetcorn and rice on the floor. We’ll be back.

The Volunteer Tavern, Bristol

The best Sunday lunch we’ve had since Freddie was born was at the Volunteer Tavern in Bristol, which we visited with my best friend and her husband a few months ago. Despite being a pretty ‘hip’ place, the young staff instantly took a shining to our son who was bopping away to the reggae they had on and happily produced a toddler-sized portion of their chicken roast for about £4. Highly recommended. 

M&S café

In our town we are blessed with a multitude of excellent independent cafés, serving delicious coffee and homemade cake (our favourite will always be Corleone, if you’re visiting), but they are often too busy to find a space for us all or even get the pushchair in – never mind nab a highchair. If I’m meeting fellow mums for a drink and snack, both of us with little ones in tow, I always suggest the Marks and Spencer café. My husband always mocks me for this brand loyalty, but sometimes you just need to know that there will be highchairs in abundance, clean toilets with changing facilities nearby, toddler-friendly snack options (Freddie particularly likes the cheese scones) and space for two pushchairs. Plus there are usually a few friendly pensioners ready to coo over your well-behaved child (excuse me while I fall off my chair laughing…). I save the tiny, cute cafes with the free newspapers and coffee in easy-for-little-hands-to-grab cups for solo trips.

See also, John Lewis cafés.

Woody’s, Kingston-Upon-Thames

Walking around Kingston with friends on a particularly hot day this summer, we realised we’d forgotten to bring anything for Freddie and so grabbed a table outside Woody’s at about 11.45. After a quick look at the menu we realised we’d discovered a gem. A box of lego, a healthy carrot and dip starter, delicious main course and refreshing fresh melon for desert (all for around £6) later, we were hooked. The staff were busy, but friendly and welcoming and brought the bill instantly when Freddie decided he’d rather chase dogs than stick around.

My tips for a successful family meal out

  • Do your homework. Book ahead for the best tables at the busiest places and always have a back-up plan if you haven’t. Make sure the place has a toilet and a highchair available.
  • Go early and order the kids’ food straight away. I liked this line from this article: “the child prepared to patiently wait half an hour for a plate of chips hasn’t been born yet.” Very true.
  • Be confident and go with it, but be prepared to leave quickly if you need to. The few times we’ve gone out for lunch or an early dinner with a larger group and Freddie I’ll admit I’ve been anxious that he’ll ruin it for everyone and we’d have to leave not having eaten anything. But when I’ve given into him wanting to sit under the table and zoom his cars over the chairs we’ve all had a better time.
  • If all else fails, order a jacket potato with beans. Never fails.
I’d love to hear your favourite independent family eateries. As for chains, I’ve heard good things about Pizza Express and Giraffe for toddlers – anyone taken their little one?

Love, Esme.

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or on Twitter @Real_Married

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