On the recent Easter bank holiday weekend, in the absence of a luxury spa break, I decided to go on cooking strike and spend the long weekend enjoying the sights of London with my family and eating well. Having a child shouldn’t mean you’re stuck with a Happy Meal so here are my top tips and reviews of London restaurants for foodie parents:
Just a short stroll from Hackney City Farm where urban tots can experience the country life admiring the animals, secret garden, and “funny smells” is The Richmond – a “neighbourhood bar and restaurant offering a hand-picked selection of natural wines, classic cocktails and traditional, locally sourced comfort food”.
We arrived early for our 6pm booking and the early bird clearly catches the worm as we caught the ‘oyster happy hour’ – a range of oysters with 50% off. With a choice of 5 different British oysters – from a bargainous £1 – the seafood bar at the Richmond is the best seat in town pre 6pm.
In the restaurant we enjoyed a meal of Doddington cheese puffs (devoured by the child); devilled mussels on wild garlic toast; roasted alliums with ‘talaggio fondue’; roasted cod and best end of lamb.
After our waitress had been so sweet with the ankle-biter (and since he was crashed out in the very comfortable banquet seating) it would be rude to leave without ordering dessert: a decadent chocolate ganache, coffee ice cream & salted caramel and panna cotta, strawberries & crumble.
Side note – The Richmond’s Instagram account is worth a look if you like your #foodporn with a side of retro interior design.
A trip to the West-End to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory resulted in an over-stimulated, over-sugared, over-everything-ed 4 year old. Add to this a torrential downpour, 2 hungry parents and no dinner reservations. Luckily, being in the notoriously bookings-adverse Soho, we found a cosy table for three in Bocca di Lupo on Archer Street, without a reservation.
Arriving drenched and with the child in tow didn’t phase the lovely staff and we shared between us all a delicious meal of Italian small plates, including home cured beef, pecorino & rocket; saffron, bone marrow & gremolata arancino; tortellini stuffed with pork & prosciutto and gnudi with lamb ragú. The tot managed to stay awake long enough to devour a pistachio gelato while we had strong espressos to keep us going for the long-haul back to E17 carrying a sleeping child.
After spending the day with friends we decided to hit a trusty family-friendly E17 favourite: The Castle pub on Wingfield Road which does reliably great food, beers, wine and cocktails and, being in the family-hub that is Walthamstow village, is not adverse to small people ruling the roost. Roast beef, burgers and fish and chips were the order of the day while the kids entertained each other with the toys provided.
After reading the recent 5* TimeOut review of new Islington neighbourhood restaurant Salut it went straight to the top of my ‘must visit’ list. We booked for 6pm so the restaurant was quiet when we arrived and again we were lucky to bag a banquet seat in the corner so the small person could put his feet up when the mood took him. Salut describes itself as “Fusing Nordic and French flavours with some German influences … Salut offers a relaxed take on modern-European food.” Then there was the ‘open kitchen’ – which is an understatement – if I’d leaned back in my seat I could have helped them plate up – and I mean that in the best possible way!
Salut is run by brothers Martin and Christoph Lange who head up the front of house and kitchen respectively. Every element of the food, service and atmosphere feels personal, intimate and a real labour of love. Gravadlax; salad of Nordic marinated pork, rack of lamb and roasted cod were presented likes works of art and tasted just as good. They graciously suggested a half portion of the cod for the little one, which he devoured before collapsing asleep on that banquet and missing dessert – hazlenut chocolates and poached pears.
Having a four year old in tow needn’t stop foodie parents from enjoying some of the best restaurants and pubs the city has to offer – simply follow my top tips for fuss-free, child-friendly eats in town:
1)Try to get a banquet or booth so the small people can crash out while you enjoy the meal.
2)Eat early: pre 7pm restaurants are quieter and staff more tolerant of your little cherubs.
3)Forget kids menus – the current small plates trend is perfect for families to share dishes and kids get to eat ‘grown-up food’.
4)Pack some colouring-in or other absorbing, table-based activity.
In summary: arrive early, bag a banquet and spend what you would have paid a babysitter on cocktails. Quality family time never tasted so good!