Kids generally hate queueing, so it’s worth booking ahead to avoid any potential tantrums at this branch of the hot-ticket Taiwanese Bao chain. While most little‘uns will turn their noses up at outré items such as beef short-rib with egg emulsion and fermented cucumber, the fried bao filled with Horlicks ice cream is a guaranteed winner.
Don’t be fazed by the Michelin star: London’s best tapas joint is still approachable. Sit next to your little one at the counter and watch the chefs preparing all manner of snack-sized Spanish delicacies – their famed tortilla is a safe bet, even for nervous kids.
Youngsters can imagine they’re by the seaside at this dinky cockle-warmer, where the jaunty maritime-themed decor is matched by a menu of flappingly fresh fish from British waters. Come here for fastidiously prepared and ding-dong delicious small plates, classic battered haddock and other treats from old Blighty. Expect something similar at Bonnie Gull in Fitzrovia.
Want to prove that you can still manage a hip meal out, even with kids in tow? Staff treat little ones like regular diners at this Bethnal Green institution, so tuck into comfort-food brunch dishes and maybe even sink a daytime cocktail – just like old times.
Cheese and Marmite straws; fish-finger sarnies; chocolate custard – the repertoire at this quintessentially British bistro could have been dreamed up for kids. Young ones also have their own mini menu (carrot sticks, mac ’n’ cheese, breaded cod and chips, ice cream), plus fruity, juicy drinks.
If Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred Murano is altogether too fancy and too pricey, take the children to this casual but classy offshoot in Covent Garden. The kids’ menu allows little‘uns to choose from four kinds of fresh pasta and four different sauces, with ice cream or fruit salad for afters – and all for a tenner. Also try Café Murano in St James’s.
Caravan’s all-day menu is a whirlwind of worldwide flavours – the jamón croquetas with saffron mayo are irresistible to humans of all sizes, but just about everything will suit small but curious appetites. Staff are as loveable as characters from ‘Balamory’, and kids will adore the fountains on Granary Square. Caravan’s other branches are also child-friendly.
Undeniably cool, but casual enough for kids, this Soho-townhouse-turned-Peruvian-rendezvous comes from the team behind Ceviche. There are plenty of tasty and colourful options on the menu, from carrot fritters and corn cakes to chocolate and chia brownies. Families should call in at lunchtime, when the vibe is serene and relaxed (ask for a table on the first floor).
The jazzy soundtrack, cool interior, sizzling steaks and sustainably sourced fish might scream ‘grown-up’ but this London Bridge offshoot of Brighton’s Coal Shed also does the business for kids, with a mini menu that’s free for under-sevens before 7pm. Otherwise, £10 pays for a minute steak, grilled fish and chips or mac ‘n’ cheese, plus doughnuts or ice cream to finish.
Venue says Celebrate the festive season with our delicious Christmas menus
If you’re sightseeing the St Paul’s area with your kids and fancy a change from Pret, join the queue outside this London outpost of the French salad and sandwich chain. On offer is an express menu of healthy baguettes, clean-living bowls, curry pots, cakes, fruit crumbles and yoghurt-based desserts. To drink? Juices, of course. There are branches in Mayfair and Chancery Lane.
Treat the kids to a three-cheese toastie or avo on sourdough for breakfast at this minimalist Spitalfields café/restaurant from the people behind the Lundenwic coffee house near Holborn. Otherwise, share the good stuff from one of their ‘lunch bowls’ (perhaps coconut dhal or Tuscan ribollita stew topped with grilled chicken). In the evening, it’s all about skilfully cooked grown-up modern food.
A kid-friendly winner for brunch on the water, these two barges on the Grand Union Canal look like floating pieces of art. With owners from Down Under, it’s no surprise that there are flat whites and slices of banana bread for breakfast, plus a daytime menu of fair dinkum Aussie-inspired dishes. Bag a spot on the upper deck if the sun’s shining.
If your kids like dim sum, they’ll also like the dumplings and regional street food served at this Covent Garden outpost of a world-famous Taiwanese chain. Din Tai Fung is a cult phenomenon – so expect to queue (even if the children protest). It’s more expensive and more fashionable than Chinatown, but the food is worth it: don’t miss the signature xiao long baos (delicate soup dumplings).
Unrefined, GM-free, sustainable and seasonal are the watchwords at this clean-lined minimalist diner, and the food’s also healthy without ramming the ethos down everyone’s throat. Farmstand’s colourful salad boxes, bowls and trays should appeal to clued-up youngsters, likewise the choice of fruity cold-pressed juices. Cautious parents should note that they serve filtered water too. There’s a branch in Canary Wharf.
Venue says Fast, fresh and delicious evening dining. A menu of small plates & sharing dishes, botanical cocktails & a short list of organic wines.
The big attraction at this all-day diner next to the Park Plaza Waterloo is the full English with a huge fried ostrich egg (a seasonal treat that’s big enough for six people), but you can scale things down by ordering any number of different egg riffs for breakfast or lunch here. Otherwise, go for the kid-friendly flatbreads, salads, pasta, burgers and other crowd-pleasing platefuls.
Ideally placed for a pre-matinée Italian in theatreland, this marble-hued outpost of the San Carlo group provides highchairs for little ones during the day, and is happy to serve cicchetti plates, pastas and pizzas to mini gourmets. At night, the place morphs into a fancy-pants cocktail haunt and late lounge populated by beautiful people – you’ve been warned.
Venue says Fumo is a new concept cocktail bar, all day restaurant and late lounge, part of the San Carlo Group.
The King’s Cross outpost of Bill Granger's all-day Aussie eatery is just dandy for a family brunch – just remember you can’t book. Intriguing child-friendly options abound, from ricotta hotcakes to colourful pastas, salads and stimulating ideas such as crispy chicken with miso buttermilk dressing. This spot has the added bonus of alfresco tables on a quiet piazza. Branches in Notting Hill, Clerkenwell and Chelsea.
They may have fancy-sounding names, but Herman Ze German’s dogs are some of the best ‘wursts’ in London – a world away from your average kids’ party or back-garden BBQ. Youngsters love ‘em, especially when they’re liberally smothered in ketchup, mustard, mayo or curry sauce. Also check out Herman’s Charing Cross branch for a quick breakfast fill-up.
Mark Hix believes children’s dishes should be as much of a treat as mum and dad’s, and he proves the point at Hixter – a relaxed open-plan venue where kids have their own selection and under-tens can eat for free from the grown-up menu (weekdays 4pm-6pm, weekends noon-6pm).
Loud, informal, bustling and tailor-made for kids in town for a treat, Homeslice serves up ginormous 20-inch pizzas for sharing at the table – although they provide individual slices too (ideal for picky youngsters who don’t want to play ball) – and they’ll even let you have more than one choice from the toppings selection if you ask nicely. Branches in Fitzrovia, Shoreditch, City and White City.
Modest and hugely popular, this super-cute Middle Eastern café is known for its friendly vibe and incredible falafel – although finding a spare table at short notice can be a problem.
Those falafels are perfect for young appetites (as are the lamb meatballs), while grown-ups can rejoice in the likes of roasted aubergine with BBQ tahini crust and jewelled rice salad.
There’s nothing scary about a ‘hopper’, especially when it has an egg in it. These Sri Lankan baskets of batter are decidedly kid-friendly, so spice things up with a sprinkle of sambal, a scoop of curry and (hopefully) a pickle or two.
Parents be warned: it’s all about roll-your-sleeves-up DIY at this branch of Kintan, a bargain-priced Japanese yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant in a basement off Oxford Circus. Smoky, thick-ridged grills are built into each table and the fully illustrated medley ranges from USDA kalbi short-rib to excellent pre-marinated spicy pork. Wipe-clean menus are splashed with red-sticker deals, making it even more of a bargain for families.
A completely different kettle of salt cod to the original Morito in Clerkenwell, this Spanish/North African hybrid is an expansive, concrete-chic space with high ceilings. It is civilised and minimalist, with a menu of sassy small plates that are perfect for curious kids who like to pick, nibble and experiment (anyone for cheese fritters with Cretan thyme honey?). Note that Morito is vegan-only on Mondays.
Kids may be familiar with ‘growing patches’ at school, but this all-day British brasserie gives them a first-hand taste of ‘farm to table’ dining – thanks to seasonal produce from the owners’ family enterprise in Sussex. Who knows, your picky darlings may even come to love salad. Nutbourne is also a handy ticket for Saturday breakfast and Sunday lunch in Battersea.
Go Danish with the kids at this London outpost of the renowned Scandi bakery chain – a sophisticated super-slick set-up dealing in perfect nibbles for small hands including open sandwiches, blueberry swirls, cinnamon buns etc., plus the odd plate of savoury stuff for lunch. Get a ticket from the machine at the door and wait for your number to be called. There’s a branch in Victoria.
Bang-on if you’re taking the kids to a show, this stablemate of Salt Yard offers a tasty mix of Italian/Spanish small plates in the cosy surrounds of a former theatreland pub. The famous stuffed courgette flowers drizzled with honey are a must-try for any budding foodie.
Breakfast at Ottolenghi’s Islington branch – the one with the on-table toasters – is a rite of passage for posh kids who live locally. Evenings are more grown up, although small people will easily be won over by the colourful counter displays – plus cakes for the journey home.
Head to this counter-only joint straight after school, and you’ll be rewarded with London’s favourite plate of pasta in no time. But be warned: your kids may love this dinky-portioned, soft ’n’ squiggly comfort food so much, they’ll turn up their noses at supermarket pesto.
Relive that famous father-and-son lunchtime moment from the movie ‘Bicycle Thieves’ by ordering a fried mozzarella sandwich for your little boy (or girl) at Pastaio – chef Stevie Parle’s artisan pasta joint in Soho. Bowls of the glistening hand-made stuff also come in small-sized servings for kids in need of carbs. Eating inside is fun, although alfresco tables are like gold dust.
‘Family eating’ is second nature to the Chinese, so it’s no surprise that this palatial rendezvous, located just a stroll from Madame Tussauds, is good with the kids. Sit with your little’uns at one of the big circular tables and share the spoils from some superior dim sum – ideal finger food for youngsters who haven’t yet mastered the art of chopsticks.
From the folks behind Casse-Croûte, this quirky mock-Tudor pavilion on the edge of Tanner Street Park is affably French, right down to its untranslated old-school menu. Flavours are traditional to the core, with the kids’ menu promising rotisserie chicken plus potatoes and ice cream for £10. The terrace is a big bonus and youngsters can let off steam in the park afterwards.
We guarantee your kids won’t feel embarrassed eating pizza with mum and dad at this ultra-hip, jam-packed eatery – there’s nothing like feeling part of the ‘in’ crowd, especially if you don’t have to be on your best behaviour. There are plenty of child-friendly flavours here, right down to the cinnamon doughnuts for afters. Parents should bookmark brunch for weekends and school hols. Also try Pizza East in Kentish Town.
Poppies’ pick ‘n’ mix assortment of British kitsch (a jukebox, newspaper cuttings, model aeroplanes, wartime memorabilia) makes it look like some nostalgic fantasy trip, but eating here is still a treat for young and old alike – they even have a dedicated children’s menu (cod bites, fishcakes or sausages, all with chips for £6.50). Soak up the nostalgia, just don’t mention the war!
It seems like every third customer at this friendly Italian in south-west London’s Nappy Valley is a child, and the lovely staff manage to fuss over all of them. The menu of trad trattoria classics is kiddie-appropriate, as is the casual, bustling atmosphere.
When the suits vacate Canary Wharf, this slick Japanese rolls out the red carpet for residents. Family brunch is a blast: under-tens can choose from a three-course menu and run riot in the play area. Helpful staff also mix excellent cocktails for parents.
Bite-sized dim sum is brilliant for children, and Royal China’s distinctive black-and-gold restaurants are old hands at welcoming families – Chinese or otherwise. Challenge your offspring with chewy chicken’s feet, squid balls and glutinous rice or keep them sweet with delicious dumplings, char sui buns, crispy spring rolls and luscious custard tarts. Either way, they’ll be fascinated by the whole experience.
This pizza outfit puts real heart into its traditional Neapolitan offering and ticks all the boxes for families with kids: prices are honest, flavours are true, there are plenty of vegan options for young converts and you can book in advance. Owners Angelo and Pasquale also specialise in premium toppings – try the san giuseppe with smoked mozzarella, rare-breed Yorkshire sausage and wild broccoli. Branches in Ealing and Fitzrovia.
It’s not quite Old MacDonald’s farm, but kids will love the barnyard vibe at this playful British eatery. The menu keeps it small, with lots of ‘mouthfuls’ for curious little ’uns – mushroom Marmite and egg confit eclair, followed by a honeycomb crunchie, Johnny?
If Hamleys did restaurants, it would probably be a bit like this Chinese hotpot specialist, where dining is an edible construction challenge. Help your kids pick their favourite ingredients from the conveyor belt and dunk them into your own personal soup concoction (tip: it works best if it’s just you and one youngster). This is the sort of gloriously messy eating that kids adore – although their grown-up handlers are issued with bibs too.
Venue says Latest of our hot pot signature series with Somsaa collaboration. Kiao tiew ruea, or simply pork boat noodle. £10.50 for the set menu.
A tapas bar from the kings of imported Spanish provisions, Brindisa’s Soho canteen blends superb ingredients with impressively refined cooking. Just add an easy-going vibe, reasonable prices, inventive child-friendly finger food and sophisticated Iberian wines to keep the grown-ups on side. Unlike Brindisa’s original outlet on Borough Market, the Rupert Street outlet takes bookings – ie. no queues.
This Japanese café in Haggerston gets top rating from young customers thanks to its toy-filled playroom and canalside location. There’s no pressure to spend and scarper: while away the afternoon with as many matcha lattes as you can handle.
Marcus Wareing’s casual venture is formal enough for a special family meal, but also pro-youngsters – offering a seven-course tasting deal for adventurous ‘culinary kids’ alongside the regular children’s menu. Armed with the recipes, wannabe Junior MasterChefs can even try out the dishes at home.
The relaxed ground floor of this cosy pub suits families refuelling after a runaround on Hampstead Heath. Little ones can point out doggy visitors from their high chairs, older kids can get stuck into the communal board games. The gastro grub, in adult and child’s portions, is spot-on.
Your kids don’t have to wait till Shrove Tuesday comes around for their pancake fix – thanks to this bright, buzzy venue squeezed into one corner of Flat Iron Square. Sweet and savoury buttermilk varieties abound, from 1,000 baby greens to banana with praline and marshmallow. Eat in the airy, pastel-walled dining room or alfresco at one of the plain wooden tables outside.
Venue says A not so traditional pancake house serving good, honest sweet and savoury food and beautiful craft ciders.
After gazing at the fossilised fish and piscine rarities in the Natural History Museum, your kids can sample the real thing at this branch of the Wright Brothers’ seafood chain. Slurping fresh oysters straight from the shell is probably not a good idea for the little ones, although fail-safes such as smoked haddock croquettes or good old fish pie should keep them happy.
If you’re after a quick off-the-cuff lunch with the kids, head down an old Soho passageway to this dinky purveyor of ‘Beirut street food’ – a jam-packed haunt popular for its takeaway wraps (order the spicy sucuk sausage version with some Arabic bread, olives and pickles). Otherwise, sit at one of faux-rustic tables and share the spoils from the all-day mezze menu. Also try Yalla Yalla in Fitzrovia and Shoreditch.
Impress your children by taking them to the lo-fi neighbourhood pizza place where ‘Home Alone’ star Macaulay Culkin’s band ‘The Pizza Underground’ once played impromptu. Food-wise, Yard Sale deals in double-fermented stone-baked pizzas (12-inch or 18-inch whoppers) with left field toppings and punning names such as Cour Blimey (courgette ribbons, pancetta and black pepper). And there are scoops of Nonna’s gelato to finish.
Like the original on Holloway Road, the Hammersmith branch of Zia Lucia is a family-friendly joint with the emphasis firmly on delectable wood-fired pizzas. Choose from four 48-hour fermented doughs (nutty wholemeal, vegetable charcoal, gluten-free etc.) and pick from a host of classic and new toppings. Kids will also love the pizza dessert (Nutella, custard, fresh fruit and honey).
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