Eating out with the kids in London
We’ve all been there – visiting London with children has its own particular challenges. Visit the Science Museum and your child will want to see the Dinosaurs next door; try the London Dungeons and they’ll want to be at the Trocadero. Dare to suggest shopping and you’ll get yawns and grimaces. And then they get hungry. A hungry child is a miserable child but the last thing you want is to end up feeding them junk food, or worse still, blowing the day’s budget on something gourmet that they just don’t want to eat. London is full of great places to take your kids to eat. Are you looking for a destination restaurant geared around the younger generation? Or do you want to find healthy food that will still appeal? Perhaps you need something close to a particular attraction, or you have a little one still in a pushchair. There’s nothing worse than going in somewhere to find they don’t like kids, or even being told that they don’t allow children at all. Well, here's my guide to the best spots for a kid-friendly bite to eat; places I think you'll like too.
Places to entertain
Best known is probably the Rainforest Café on Shaftesbury Avenue. While you dine in a recreated jungle your kids should be entertained by the Disney-style theme park setting. It does tend to be busy though, and is perhaps best for the under-tens. For older kids, there’s Bounce in Holborn or All Stars Lane (three venues across London), where everyone can enjoy a game of Ping-Pong or Ten Pin Bowling alongside eating well. All Stars even has a kids menu, and offers a game of bowling with a meal for £15 per child. Perfect for rainy afternoon entertainment, play for under-16s stops at 6pm.
Grown-up joints with kid appeal
If you're lucky, you might just find that your little terrors have the same bucket list as you. London has its own set of quirky places to eat that have a special appeal to both old and young. Hard Rock Café is one of the best known and works for all generations, and ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Sticky Fingers restaurant just off High Street Kensington offers a great Tex-Mex menu. Smollensky’s on the Strand and in Canary Wharf sometimes has magicians and face-painting at the weekend, as well as special promotions so kids get to eat for free on Saturdays..
Chains and groups
Some chain restaurants have remarkably good menus for children. I particularly like Carluccio’s Cafés where staff seem to be hired for their love of kids. Giraffe is another popular group offering a kids menu that includes pizza -tyle omelettes, fish and chips and a beef hot-dog. Or there’s Leon – their menu follows the Children’s Food Trust to ensure the food is nutritionally balanced and one of the founders was actually hired by the government to improve school meals (don’t let that put you off, but perhaps don’t tell your kids). Finally GBK* offers a short but appealing menu for kids, priced at under £6 for a main course, lolly and soft drink.
Best of British
While a pub or brasserie sounds like a good choice, they are not always child friendly. Sam’s Brasserie and Harrison’s (in Chiswick and Balham) are both excellent at catering for the younger generation and offer a quirky kids menu which includes burgers, pasta and seasonal dishes. Watch out for Benugo – a small group of cafés, near or in attractions like Westminster Abbey and the Museum of Childhood. They offer great value, healthy and modern British food and are usually available in half-portion sizes for kids. Pubs can be more of a challenge – my recommendation is to check out the Geronimo Inns website for the nearest one. Although each of their pubs is different, they consistently serve good quality, child-friendly British grub.
Too late for lunch? Try afternoon tea
The tradition of afternoon tea can make a great alternative to lunch, with sandwiches, savories and cakes to follow a filling meal. And now, some of the nicest hotels in London offer specially tailored teas for kids. How about the Superhero's tea at St Ermin’s with kryptonite strips and superhero cocktails? Then there’s the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tea at One Aldwych complete with candyfloss and mini milkshakes (and an all-inclusive package with theatre tickets too). Finally, at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, the special children’s afternoon tea comes complete with wild elderflower lemonade, pastries, ice-cream and a ‘Grover’ (bulldog) cuddly toy to take home afterwards!