Monthly Archives: June 2010

Baby Dines Out has moved….!

Baby Dines Out has moved to www.babydinesout.com

Please come visit me there!

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Galvin La Chapelle, Spital Square, London E1

We first went to Galvin La Chapelle for my fortieth birthday dinner.  And what a place for a special dinner.  The setting is stunning: eglomisé mirrors, dark wood, nickel-coloured metal and some amazing lighting.   The service was impeccable, the wine and the food wonderful.

So, when I discovered that they were launching a family Sunday lunch, I was more than a little excited.   On arrival we couldn’t miss the table on which were set out a wide range of toys and games for kids of all ages.  Whilst Jack loved the cars and puzzles, we saw one family playing a game which involved putting large cards on their foreheads and guessing what was on them.  Now that is parental dedication.

Knowing we were being accompanied by a three and a half year old they had allocated us a banquette table and deliberately kept the table next to us free so he had plenty of space to play while we ordered.  There was a children’s set menu of roast chicken, green beans and creamed potato which was utterly delicious.  The waiter even bothered to check whether we wanted Jack’s food served as soon as it was ready rather than waiting for ours.

Jack’s place was laid with smaller cutlery and a smaller glass (note: a proper glass not a hideous plastic tumbler).  He loved the food and tried bits of what we were eating too and was particularly taken with my asparagus velouté.

On Sundays Fifi La Mer, a french accordion player entertains guests, which adds to the sense that you could be a million miles from the humdrum weekdays.  She even let Jack have a go at playing it, though it was almost as big as him and weighed as much.

There is a spacious (and beautifully decorated) disabled loo with a proper changing unit which is located in the Bistro area – when I asked where it was a waiter insisted on taking us there.  We didn’t have a buggy with us but I noticed others had been careful parked out of the way.

As we made our way back to our table, every single member of staff we passed said hello and made a fuss of Jack.  It is rare that the approach of the owners and Chef is consistently applied throughout, but to the staff at Galvin La Chapelle it appears to come naturally, effortlessly and with warmth.  As well as several other families, with children of varying ages, the restaurant was busy with couples and small groups of diners who all looked like they were having a delightful time.

As it approached 3 pm – we’d barely noticed the time – we managed to drag ourselves from the restaurant for a wander round the redeveloped Spitalfields.

For a chilled, leisurely, but supremely stylish place, for a Sunday lunch with your baby, toddler or older children, there is nowhere better than this.  We vowed to return. Often.

Rating:

Stylishness: 5/5
Friendliness: 5/5
Feeding Facilities: 5/5
Changing Facilities: 5/5
Food: 5/5

Overall rating 25/25  ££-£££

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Filed under ££ - Mid price, £££ - expensive, London, Restaurant

The Wolseley, Piccadilly, London W1

There are few places in London that manage to capture the ambience of L’ancienne Europe like The Wolseley.  One could as easily be in Vienna or Paris as Piccadilly.  When I pitched up with no booking and a weary and hungry Jack one afternoon, I had a sneaking suspicion we would be treated with a Parisian-style hauteur to match.  How wrong I was.

The lady Maitre D (or should that be Maitress?  Or is that something entirely different?) pulled us out of the small queue the moment she saw Jack, seated us in the tea salon and, with a sleight of hand which almost made me gasp, deposited a clipboard with colouring pictures and a pencil case on the table.

Whilst no specific children’s menu was provided, it didn’t matter as there is plenty of straight-forward, comfort food on the menu.  The sight of a neighbouring diner’s enormous coupe dessert prompted Jack to request ice cream from a passing waitress.  I was relieved when it arrived to see that they had automatically served a child-sized version, even though I hadn’t asked for one.  Jack was enchanted with the little silver jug of warm chocolate sauce which came with it.

Having coloured his pictures and devoured the ice cream, Jack decided it was time for a toilet break.  Nurturing his growing confidence, I encouraged him to ask a pretty waitress where the loo was.  When she offered to show him, he was chuffed.  I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck the entire two minutes he was out of my sight.  I needn’t have worried.  She waited with him and brought him straight back afterwards.  He was so pleased with himself and with her he spontaneously gave her an enormous hug.  I melted with pride and she and the other diners were charmed.

If your tot is a little younger than Jack, they do have highchairs and a dedicated baby-changing toilet at the rear of the main restaurant.  They always have a few tables reserved for people who just turn up.  The restaurant and the tea salon were both busy but looked well-staffed and we certainly didn’t have to wait long for our food (or in my case, strong coffee).

If you need a place for tots to run off all that food, Green Park and St James’s Park are a stone’s throw away and provide respite from the crowds on Piccadilly.

Proper food, European style, child-friendly and reasonably priced?  The Wolseley delivers.  With panache.

Rating:

Stylishness: 5/5
Friendliness: 5/5
Feeding Facilities: 4/5
Changing Facilities: 5/5
Food: 4/5

Overall rating 23/25  £-££

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Jamie’s Italian, Canary Wharf, London E14

Over the last few years, Canary Wharf has transformed from a white elephant to a glossy shopping and eating destination.  When I go on my own with my 3 (nearly 4!) year old we get the DLR, which is an event in itself for him. When we go en famille we drive.

We were lured last weekend by the prospect of Waitrose and husband’s need for new sunglasses (yes, he is a metrosexual and proud of it).  After a truly disappointing experience at The Gaucho, we headed for Jamie’s Italian.

The restaurant, modelled on a traditional trattoria, was busy for a Sunday with lots of families.    Jamie Oliver’s infectious enthusiasm for food and experience as a Dad, shines through from beginning to end.   The kids menu comes on one of those toy disc picture viewers so they can choose their own food from the pictures.  It also encourages the waiters to ask the kids what they want to eat rather than their parents – great for giving them independence and confidence.  Crayons and paper, highchairs and small cutlery are all provided.

Jack had brought his new toy shopping trolley with him and insisted on taking it on repeated trips to the bar to ask for straws.  This was handled with amusement and good humour by the staff, if not his parents.

The food is authentically Italian, but with more of a twist than Carluccio’s.   No opportunity to use fragrant herbs is wasted.  Jack ate olives, focaccia and every last mouthful of his spaghetti bolognese and ice cream (as well as the rosemary infused bread and blackened chicken from my salad).

The service was friendly, efficient and speedy.  The changing table is in the disabled loo which is on the same level as the restaurant.  For older tots the toilets are on a mezzanine level.  The bonus is the kids get to see into the buzzing kitchen as you go up the stairs.

Admittedly, one wouldn’t come here for an intimate, romantic lunch, but for an informal lunch out with friends and kids, it comes pretty close to capturing what’s great about the Italian attitude to kids and food.

Afterwards, as we waddled with full bellies round the shops, Dan managed to find new sunglasses and I fell in love with Waitrose.  Clutching our shopping, we paid for the parking, the coins tinkling into the machine, watched by a jovial looking parking attendant.

“If you spend £5 the parking is free, you just have to get a token in the shop” he said with a big grin.

Rating:

Stylishness: 3/5 (only misses out on a 4 because it is essentially informal eating)
Friendliness: 4/5
Feeding Facilities: 5/5
Changing Facilities: 5/5
Food: 4/5

Overall rating 21/25  £-££

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Filed under £ - Cheap and cheerful, ££ - Mid price, London, Outdoor area, Restaurant