When you have kids going out to eat as a family usually starts in a “why don’t we go out today and eat someplace new, I really want Chinese / Italian / whatever” and ends up with a “why don’t we go to McDonald’s?” because, as any parent knows, good food is wasted on kids. Also wasted on kids are fancy restaurants, where you have to worry about them breaking something / spilling something / interrupting anyone. On the other hand McDonald’s has Happy Meal Toys, it (usually) has somewhere the kids can play, it is full of screaming kids and tired parents so you fit right in, it’s fast (and when dealing with hungry kids it’s a very big plus) and it’s cheap. Really cheap. That is why, at any given moment, if you have the chance, you will find yourself rushing to the nearest McDonalds. But sometimes there isn’t a near McDonald’s. Sometimes you need (heaven forbid) to take the kids somewhere else. What would you do then?
Pizza Express – We love Pizza express. If we need to go to a restaurant with the kids, it will be Pizza Express. First of all, because they love pizza & pasta. Second because they are really, truly child friendly. We’ve tried 3 branches (1 in Gibraltar and 2 it London) by now, and it was true for all of them.
The food is very nice, the service is good, and the child friendliness is super. I mean, last time we were there Yon broke a glass of water. They were so cool, nice and efficient about it.
The kids menu is great, it is very varied and the kids love their food choices and the actual food (and the tiny desserts they get).
We always find their food to be really nice also (except the desserts. Not really big on that), I mean, it’s obviously not gourmet food, but it’s also not pretending that it is. It does exactly what it advertise. Bottom line, for us it’s a foolproof place to enjoy a meal outside with the kids.
Giraffe – I know, everyone says Giraffe is such a child friendly place, but I don’t get it. I mean, fine you can draw while waiting for the food, but you have to wait a long time for it to be served. And you have a booth, so you have enough space to fit everyone, assuming of course you survived the half hour queue. But the most important thing in a restaurant is the food right? And their food, while nice enough for us grownups (even though it was low on the vegetarian options), was totally un-child-friendly. It took ages to find something both kids would eat, and in the end they really didn’t like it. I don’t reccomend it, though like I said above, I know a lot of people see it a good option with kids. For us it ended up being a lot of money for very little in return.
Angos Steak House – We got there on a midweek evening and it was quite full, but still had a place for us (we were 4 adults and 4 kids). The restaurant is quite dark, and the tables are somewhat crowded (it was very hard to move between them and we kept fearing the kids will bump into other people). I don’t know about the condition of the toilets, but nobody complained.
As a vegetarian my options were (very) limited, and I ended up having the risotto, which was better than excepted I have to say. We also shared the sweet potato sticks that were quite good. The meat eaters loved all their meat dishes. The kids menue was good, and the kids ate everything off their plates :). The one BIG problem I had with them was the service. It was so so so so so so slow. It took ages for the waiter to reach us, for the food to reach us, for the extra juice to reach us and finally for the bill to reach us. It’s not a good thing when you have young children (and hungry adults) around.
Jaime’s Italian – We went there without reservations (after a long day at the Zoo), and they were very nice and still did everything they could to find us a table. The restaurant’s decor is really light and airy (but not really private or romantic), and the toilet are super clean (very important). Our table was nice and our waiter was friendly and helpful. The food itself was very delicious for the grownups, and for Hidai & I, we would probably return (and order the magnificent chocolate brownie again). BUT, the restaurant isn’t really child friendly – the tables are too close to each other, there wasn’t any other child there when we ate there, it took the food a long while to reach us and the kids were on edge by the time we finally got it, and for the kids menu the whole “healthy” trend just doesn’t work for us. There wasn’t one dish on the kids menu that was a simple kid friendly dish. Even the chips were “special”. Even the juice is flavoured water.
I know everyone should eat healthier, and I know that’s what Jaimie Oliver is all about, but the thing is, when going to a restaurant with my kids what I really want is for them to be able to eat so that I would be able to eat. I don’t like it when someone decides for me that my kids’ eating habits are his responsibility to fix. That being said, Ron was fine with the pasta dish, the flavoured water and the ice-cream, but Yon was a bit lost with the chicken lollipops and weird chips, wouldn’t touch the water and doesn’t like ice-cream (which is the only dessert option for kids). Bottom line – great food for parents, not really child friendly.
Pret-A-Manger – As a rule, coffee in London is, well, how do we say it politely? If you want a good cup of coffee, get a Nespresso machine, and drink your coffee at home. But the mocha is usually good. And the “special” drinks. And the hot chocolate. But if you’re at Pret what you really want is the food – the sandwiches, the yogurts, etc. It’s always a cheap, easy and tasty way to have something to eat. We tried so many Prets all over town, and they were always good, the food was always fresh, the service was always nice, and last time Yon got a chocolate from the manager just because.
Starbucks – Everyone knows Starbucks right? So I just have one thing to say – Don’t. Touch. The. Coffee. Whatever you do, don’t drink their coffee. Drink their Frappucino. Drink their Mocha. Drink their Caramel Macchiato. Just don’t drink the coffee. But anyway you go to Starbucks for the muffins (Yon can’t go near a Starbucks sign without trying his luck with getting a chocolate muffin), the giant chocolate chip cookie and the cinnamon swirl. Don’t go there for the sandwiches. One more thing, if you are in London near Christmas time, go to Starbucks as often as you can, the seasonal drinks & food are soooo good.
Gail’s – We’ve been to Gail’s only twice, the first time because the kids & I wanted a good proper Challa for Friday night and we couldn’t be bothered to go all the way to Golders Green. Apart from the very condescending salesperson the Challa itself and the cookies we bought with it were terrific. The second time we were there was with my parents for breakfast, which wasn’t all we excepted. We were with no kids at the time, and I strongly recommend not bringing kids there, it’s just not suitable. Don’t get me wrong, we love Gail’s breads – we order them from Ocado on a regular basis (the olives one is so yummy), and the chocolate cookies are heavenly (cost a fortune, and are worth it) – but the cafe itself was a bit of a let-down unfortunately
Ottolenghi’s – After 3 times at Ottolenghi’s for breakfast (with my parents, with Hidai and with my friend from Israel), it is safe to say that it’s my favourite fancy breakfast place. Everything was good (except the Shakshuka that I found to be too hot), the atmosphere is always so relaxed-breakfast-fitting, and though the service could be better, it’s usually good enough. I absolutely adore the french-toast and the bread board. The coffee’s good also. Just don’t bring the kids, it’s all so hush-hush and grownupsy, and noisy kids are frowned upon.
Ladurée – No Kids! No Kids! No Kids! Everything in this tiny french cafe is, well, tiny and french. So no kids. This place makes you feel like a giant in a doll house, an elephant in a china shop, you get my drift. No kids. The waiter looked down at us. We felt like we are going to break something any minute, we felt very wrong there. The table is too low, the space too tiny, everything too delicate. But then the food came. And God it was good. We ordered the breakfast tray. The brioche was perfection. The bread was fresh, warm and tasty. you know me, I am very critical about my baked goods, but these ones were really very good. Worth the whole elephant feeling 🙂 We finished with a plate of macaroons, which I don’t really get, but were also very tasty. For a romantic coffee date – totally recommended.
Like always – my opinion & experience only, feel free to agree or disagree. Nobody paid me to eat anywhere or write about it (in fact I paid to eat everywhere. Still searching for someone to offer to buy my opinions 🙂 ).