London's best restaurants and cafÃ©s for kids
Time Out's Sue Webster reveals the high-end restaurants giving kids a gastronomic experience
Inn the Park
‘I don’t blame the schools, I blame the parents,’ says London restaurateur and TV celeb Oliver Peyton. He’s talking about children and food. Restaurants have a tough time trying to please all age groups. Establishments that offer children’s menus characterised by chicken nuggets and chips are merely following the path of least resistance. Irish-born Peyton, whose restaurants include the child-friendly Meals (at Heal’s department store), the National Dining Rooms and Café (at the National Gallery) and Inn the Park (in St James’s Park), among more grown-up establishments, doesn’t offer children chicken nuggets. He doesn’t ‘believe in bad food’ and he doesn’t want children to have it. On the kids’ brunch menu at Meals, therefore, you will find ‘organic boiled eggs and soldiers’ and ‘macaroni cheese’ but also ‘steamed cod fillet, broccoli and new potatoes’ and ‘roasted corn-fed chicken, roast potatoes, green beans and gravy’. Such dishes cost £5 to £6.
This will be music to the ears of all sane parents who feel they must battle against the sheer convenience and cost advantages of junk food when they go out. Look around, however, and it’s clear that good food is available – at a fair price – in the most unexpected places.
Meals at Heal's
French chef and new father, Alexis Gaulthier, was shocked to discover the British divide between adult and child eating habits. ‘I went to lunch at a friend’s house and was disappointed not only that all the children were seated at a separate table, but that the food they were given was so boring,’ he says. ‘After about ten minutes they all went upstairs to play computer games.’ Gaulthier has since instituted a children’s menu at his rather grand, award-winning restaurant, Roussillon. Entitled ‘Mini-gastronomes’, it offers seven courses of such delights as ‘Jerusalem artichoke soup, truffle ravioli, warm camomile tea’ and ‘smoked eel, scrambled eggs, almond milk’. It costs £15 per child, but on the first and third Wednesday lunchtimes of every month – mon Dieu! – it is free. Too ambitious? So far, say waiting staff, the experiment is going well, probably because the little gourmands are suitably impressed with the sense of occasion.
These offers are remarkable, it must be said. But parents who bother to eat with their children at home, teaching them good manners and acceptance of a wide variety of flavours, are in a great position to take them out to eat. And since children are hungry for supper around 6pm, and many London restaurants offer great deals (also known as pre-theatre menus) before 7.30pm, this could work out less expensive than you might think. Pay £20 for a night’s babysitting, or order two children’s meals? The choice is yours.
Meals at Heal’s
196 Tottenham Court Rd W1T (020 7580 2522/www.heals.co.uk/stry/healcafe) Goodge St tube. Open Mon-Wed 10am-6pm; Thur 10am-8pm; Fri 10am-6.30pm; Sat 9.30am-6.30pm; Sun 12noon-6pm. Lunch for two with drinks and service: around £45.
16 St Barnabas St, SW1W (020 7730 5550/www.roussillon.co.uk). Sloane Square tube. Lunch served noon-2.30pm Mon-Fri. Dinner served 6.30-10.30pm Mon-Sat. Set lunch £35 for three courses incl half bottle of wine, coffee. Set dinner £48 for three courses. Set meal £60-£70 tasting menu. ‘Mini-gastronomes’, menu offers seven courses and costs £15 per child, but on the first and third Wednesday lunchtimes of every month it is free.
Park foodMore ideas for relaxed family meals
Set in the beautiful surroundings of Kenwood House, the Brew House is a self-service café with fabulous cakes and a sunny, outdoor seating area.
Kenwood, Hampstead Lane, Hampstead Heath, NW3 (020 8341 5384) 210, 214 buses. Open 9am-6pm daily. Main courses £14-£17.
A shady patio overlooks a cricket ground. It’s a great place to relax with a sandwich, savoury tart or a few cakes. Inside there are comfy sofas and a play area with toys. Indulge in a beer while you tempt kids with a babycino and a fairy cake.
Wandsworth Common, off Dorlcote Road, SW18 (020 8874 9386) Wandsworth Common rail. Open Tue-Fri 9am-5.15pm; Sat, Sun 10am-5.15pm. Main courses £3.50-£9.
This café – part restaurant, part service-counter offering sandwiches and salads – has a smashing location in the middle of Regents Park. Ice-cream comes from the estimable Marine Ices, or there are cakes aplenty.
Inner Circle, Regents Park, NW1 (020 7935 5729/www.thegardencafe.co.uk) Baker St or Regents Park tube. Open 10am-dusk daily. Main courses £4.25-£12.95.
Inn The Park
A positive idyll near Duck Island. The classic British food is locally sourced, with a children’s menu of roast chicken leg and chunky chips, sausage and mash or fish cake with veg (£7.50). The place is the brainchild of foodie du jour Oliver Peyton.
St James’s Park, SW1 (020 7451 9999/www.innthepark.com) St James’s Park tube. Open Mon-Fri 8am-11pm, Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 9am-10pm. Main courses £15.00-£23.00.
Pavilion Tea House
This lovely lunch place is sited by the Royal Observatory. A big draw is the enclosed lawn, with its fab views over Docklands. Hot food has a British bent with plenty of options for children.
Greenwich Park, Blackheath Gate, SE10 (020 8858 9695) Blackheath rail or Greenwich rail/DLR. Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri; 9am-6pm Sat, Sun. Main courses £4.95-£8.50.