Category Archives: £££ – expensive

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

Dean Street Townhouse, Soho, London W1

Birthdays in our house, you’ll not be surprised to learn, are opportunities for eating out.  Last weekend was my husband’s 40-something birthday and we celebrated by having lunch at the Dean Street Townhouse.  As Nick Jones’ (he of Soho House and Babington House fame) latest offering, The Dean Street Townhouse has been getting quite a bit of attention so it was our way of pretending we are entering that fourth decade still as hip and on trend as ever.

It also, we discovered, allowed us to indulge our love of all things New York: as soon as you step inside you could as easily be in SoHo as Soho.   We had booked the table for three but not indicated that our third was in fact a three year old.  The host took this in her stride and a great fuss was made of taking Jack’s coat and seating him in the best spot with a view across the room.

Jack asked for bread and some water before we’d even had a chance to open the menus and was genially indulged.   Whilst no children’s menu was offered, when I ordered the fish and chips for Jack the waiter immediately suggested a children’s version of the adult dish.

The restaurant was almost full but there was no sense that they were over stretched.  Dan’s chicken pie, my salt beef and Jack’s fish and chips arrived just as we’d managed to clock a couple of broadcast journalists and a former Downing Street staffer.  The blackbird steam vent in the chicken pie brought on a rendition by Jack of Four and Twenty Blackbirds which was the cause of some amusement (and thankfully not a hint of annoyance) from the staff and diners around us.

Since it was a birthday celebration we all had dessert.  Ice creams for the boys and sherry triffle for me.  The food is simple but perfectly prepared and presented.

There isn’t a baby changing table but the disabled loo is enormous and absolutely spotless, so as long as you have a good changing mat I wouldn’t let this put you off because this is a great place for a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable lunch.   We left vowing to come back for a more romantic ‘diner a deux’ as soon as we can get a baby sitter…

Rating:

Stylishness: 5/5

Friendliness: 4/5

Feeding Facilities: 4/5

Changing Facilities: 3/5

Food: 4/5

Overall rating: 20/25   ££-£££

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

Claridge’s, Brook Street, London

My pre-baby experience of Claridge’s had been the bar (for business drinks), the Ramsey restaurant (for business lunches) and the Foyer for cocktails and afternoon tea with the girls.   Dan’s desire for a quiet life proved stronger than his initial reservations when I suggested Claridge’s for lunch after Jack’s first trip to see Santa at the Harrods grotto and so it was that we found ourselves in a cab winging our way to Brook Street.

And what a delightful lunch we had.  In the Foyer there were two other couples with toddlers and a man on his own with a baby, as well as a general assortment of elderly, wealthy-looking couples and Americans.  We were offered a highchair but didn’t need one as Jack had already settled himself in one of the green and white silk armchairs.   The table was beautifully laid with no dilution in the service and manner of the waitresses that you sometimes get at posh places when you arrive with a child.  The buggy was whisked away with no fuss at all.

They have a children’s menu with mini versions of the regular, beautifully presented, lunch fare.  The waiting staff were, without exception, friendly and attentive to Jack’s requests, even when, tickled by the novelty, he kept summoning them for the sake of it.   We couldn’t decide whether we had bred a confident three year old or a monster in the making

The attentive staff even noticed when an open door sent a chilly draught in the direction of the chap on his own with a baby and promptly lodged it closed with a chair.  There is a dedicated baby-changing facility in the disabled loo so he would certainly have no problem changing the baby.  The attendant in the Ladies made a fuss of Jack so even a trip to the loo proved entertaining.

As we prepared to make our way back into the chilly street, a waitress helped Jack into his coat and discretely ignored the food that had ended up on the carpet.

In all, a total treat.   Glamorous surroundings, lovely food and children and babies no problem.

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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Filed under £££ - expensive, Hotel, London

Zuma, Knightsbridge, London

Zuma is buzzy with the kind of European crowd you really only find in Knightsbridge, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that they would also benefit from a European attitude to babies and children.

We went at a weekend lunch time, when the place was filled with a great deal of animal print, gold and expensive blond highlights.  We were seated on the outskirts of the room, possibly because the staff were being considerate of other diners as opposed to our particular convenience: an observation rather than a complaint since we were quite comfortable.

Jack was still breast and bottle feeding at the time, so the delights of the Japanese food were ours alone.  Our seating meant that it was easy to feed Jack discretely too.

But, oh my, the changing facilities were dire.   The ladies loo was way too small for a changing mat.  On my request for the disabled loo, I was shown to a toilet jam packed with piled up spare chairs.  There was just about room for me to get in and put a changing mat on top of one of the chairs.

To be fair, the waiter was almost embarrassingly apologetic.  Me, I was glad I just had a baby, who, if push came to shove, I would have braved changing on the tiny floor of the ladies loo.  Heaven knows what I would have done if I’d been disabled.

I do hope they’ve since remedied the situation because for the sheer fun of people watching, tasty food and proximity to Harvey Nichols it is a great place for lunch.

Rating:

Stylishness: 3/5

Friendliness: 4/5

Feeding Facilities: 4/5

Changing Facilities: 0/5

Food: 3/5

Overall rating: 14/25   ££

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Filed under £££ - expensive, London, Restaurant

Locanda Locatelli, Seymour Street, London

One of the first really nice restaurants we took Jack to was Locanda Locatelli.  We’d been for dinner a few times in pre-baby days and loved the relaxed, but glossy feel and the really good food.

We went at lunch time and I was fairly confident that the Italian staff would barely blink an eye at accommodating a baby and I was right.  The staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more relaxed.   We weren’t rushed or made to feel we needed to make way for a baby-free, glossier couple as soon as possible (more on places that do make you feel like this in later posts).

We were seated at a corner table so it was quite easy to discretely breast feed.  The only draw back to what was a really pleasant and relaxed lunch was the location of the toilet an, consequently, the baby-changing area.  The bathrooms are actually reached via a door into the next door hotel, then down some stairs.  When one doesn’t have a baby this doesn’t strike one as a problem.  When you do, however, it presents a niggling annoyance but not an insurmountable challenge.

We took Jack back a few months later, in the company of our good friends Eileen and Alistair.  By this time Jack was on solids and I wondered whether the staff would be as relaxed when he was chucking food all over the table and rather more mobile.   I wasn’t disappointed.  There were no exasperated looks and several offers of stracciatella ice cream for the bambino.

After that, not even the location of the toilets could detract from the warm post-lunch, wine and food induced afternoon glow.

Rating:

Stylishness: 4/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Feeding Facilities: 3/5

Changing Facilities: 1/5

Food: 4/5

Overall rating: 17/25   £££

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Filed under £££ - expensive, London, Restaurant

Fifth Floor Restaurant, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London

I think I must have spent an embarrassingly large proportion of  my time before the arrival of Jack in Harvey Nichols – much of it in the company of my lovely friend Eileen, chatting, browsing and cooing over beautiful things.  So, naturally, as I started to feel more like the pre-pregnancy me, I persuaded my husband to venture into Knightsbridge on a Sunday.   Well, someone needed to look after Jack while I was trying on shoes…

My husband has a particular fondness for nice restaurants.  It’s not the food, but the experience for him.  Whilst I, reluctant to impinge on my precious shopping time, tentatively suggested we grab a sandwich and a coffee, he insisted we eat properly in the Fifth Floor Restaurant.  We pitched up with a baby and no booking.

They couldn’t have been more accomodating.  Jack wasn’t really big enough for a high chair so we kept him in the buggy and parked it at the table, which the staff worked round with aplomb.  They willingly warmed up his bottle of milk – though it came back pretty hot and we had to let it cool down.  There is a pretty good, though snug, baby changing cubical in the Ladies loo next to the restaurant.  It might have been tricky for Dan if he’d been on his own though, as there don’t appear to be any baby changing facilities in the Men’s loo…

The food was lovely, the staff made a fuss of Jack and, though it doesn’t happen often, I did have to concede that my husband was right.

Rating:

Stylishness: 4/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Feeding Facilities: 3/5

Changing Facilities: 4/5

Food: 4/5

Overall rating: 20/25  ££

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Filed under £££ - expensive, Department Store, London, Restaurant

Mercer Hotel, Mercer Street, New York

In our baby-free days we loved the Mercer Hotel in New York’s trendy SoHo.  It has a cool bar and lounge frequented by its celebrity guests.  It’s the sort of hotel celebrities choose because they don’t get hassled – I saw the staff discretely ask an autograph hunter who had approached Clive Owen (who just happened to be sitting at the table right next to us) to leave him in peace.  As I said, we loved it

In the spirit of not going quietly into the dark night of new parenthood, we decided to stay at the Mercer on our first trip to NYC with three month old Jack.   The hip hotel staff took his needs and ours in their stride.   The crib in the room was more beautiful than the one we had at home and was filled with baby toiletries and teddies.

Whilst not strictly a dining out review, I had to include The Mercer because they bent over backwards at mealtimes to accommodate Jack – a high chair was procured, milk warmed and clothes washed and returned beautifully packed.   It’s not cheap, true.  But for sheer style and the way they made Jack feel as welcome as any other celebrity, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Rating:

Stylishness: 5/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Feeding Facilities: 4/5

Changing Facilities: 3/5

Food: 3/5

Overall rating: 20/25  £££

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Filed under £££ - expensive, Hotel, New York