Taking a baby/toddler/small person out to eat is a unique experience and one that requires a strong resolve and the 3 P’S: Preparation. Preparation. PREPARATION. Skip this at your peril my friend.
You will need:
1. Plenty of distractions in various shapes and sizes as these will be the main tools that’ll actually enable you to eat as well, albeit at warp speed. Somehow they’re hardwired to, almost without fail, kick off just as your food arrives and when flying solo this poses a whole extra challenge. At this point, I encourage you to hold your nerve. Remember you need sustenance too.
2. Some sort of bib/food proof smock to cloak the kid in so they don’t end up looking like a swamp thing. Personally I like a combo of the two which really speeds up my exit strategy since I can roll most the mess into one big ball and chuck it under the pram (only to be forgotten about until it’s needed next meal time).
3. Fistfuls of wipes so you can clean junior and any surface they’ve been in contact with.
4. Valium and/or Gin. Failing that a great sense of humour and an inner calm worthy of a Buddhist monk
Once you’re packed and primed the next concern is : Where the hell can we actually go that will welcome us with open arms and be speedy enough that we can all eat before my kid goes over the edge? This is where I come in! In my new series, I’ll be hunting out the best places to dine with a baby/toddler/kid and then sharing them with you, hopefully saving you from any painful experiences.
It can be really hard to size up the vibe of a place from appearances alone. It may tick certain boxes but are they really down with the kids? What I mean here is rather than just tolerating small people and all the havoc that comes with them but actually embracing them. You can tell the merit of a place by their reaction to questions you never envisaged yourself asking: ‘How long will it take for the kid’s food to come? Yes, I know I only just ordered but seriously I have a ten minute window here until before he brings the ruckus and none of us wants that.’ or my personal favourite: ‘Do you think you could just warm this milk a little for me please? Not in the microwave but in hot water please. It needs to be warm, not boiling. You know, like body temperature. Thanks. Not boiling yes? OK.” Also, do they go the extra mile to make us sometimes exasperated (who am I kidding? That should read MORE OFTEN THAN NOT) parents feel really welcome and able to dine without judgement?
Now, I found early on that Archie eats better in different surroundings with new and exciting things to gaze at. This quickly becomes a pricey habit. Suddenly you’re no longer able to justify that new pair of kicks you’ve been coveting (Have you checked out my new feature on the latest kicks I’m lusting over? Click here) just so you can ‘treat yourself’ to another peaceful meal without having to cook and wash up for the gazillionth time that day. You can’t put a price on sanity right?
Being a tad fussy about food means I expect a lot. I want to eat something tasty (ideally not a soggy sandwich) in cool surroundings with helpful staff without inciting the rage of fellow diners. There’s nothing worse then making a bad judgment call and having to wolf down your food so you can make a speedy exit resulting in heartburn and a baffled baby. On the other hand, I also find that a lot of places that make kids their sole focus don’t always hit the mark when it comes to options for adults.
Trattoria Sapori is a modern Italian restaurant/café/deli on Newington Green and although kids aren’t their sole focus they really know their market! Nestled at the back behind the kitchen you’ll find an area brimming with toys, reserved for families, allowing the little ones to do their thing without disturbing other diners. It’s a truly safe space where no one bats an eyelid if you kid decides today’s the day to start deliberately throwing stuff on the floor then exclaiming ‘Uh Oh’ repeatedly. In my experience Italian folk always go out of their way to fuss over kids making them feel just as important as adults. Trattoria is a prime example. I regularly take Archie for lunch here, especially on the tough days when nothing I do entices him to eat and I can’t face clearing up any more of my lovingly made food off the floor. His face always lights up when he sees our regular waitress and visa versa. On seeing Archie she’ll makes a beeline for him, one arm brimming with toys, the other with a balloon and high chair. The by-product of this means the pressure’s off me – Happy baby, happy mama.
They have great breakfast options as well as the classic pasta and pizza dishes you’d expect for lunch & dinner on both the kids and grown-up menus. The kid’s meal deal is around the £5 mark for a main and freshly squeezed juice. The portions are big and we tend to take half away with us. Kid’s meals are always speedy and delicious, leaving you free to indulge in the all day brekkie or, if you’re having a particularly tough day, my fave is burrata with ragu to follow and ,maybe even a slice of cake if Arch will sit long enough.
We always leave Trattoria with big good-byes, full tummies and a little bit lighter for a lovely drama free meal that went that bit smoother thanks to the wonderful staff.
Alliance House 44/45
London N16 9QH
Mon-Sat open: 9.30am -12am
If you fancy trying out breakfast one weekend, they open at 9.30am and serve cooked breakfast from 10am – you can get pastries and coffee from 9.30am.