Tag Archives: British Food

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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Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey

I’m delighted to have a guest review from the fabulous Mummy In a Hurry:

If you fancy an afternoon in the country, but feel like getting there might be a bit too much effort, then look no further than a trip to Petersham Nurseries, nestled in the heart of the tiny village of Petersham, just outside Richmond, between the Thames and Richmond Park.

To access the nurseries you need to either walk along a small footpath from River Road, or turn off the Petersham Road onto a muddy track (look closely or you’ll miss it).  If the weather is pleasant enough, you can wander along the river from Richmond.

Stepping into the nurseries is like taking a step back it time, and just how I imagine a Victorian secret garden might be. The main seating area is in a huge, old fashioned glass conservatory, decorated with rugs hanging from the ceiling, old fashioned screens, and as you would expect in a nursery, a vibrant mix of greenery,  The furniture is an eclectic mix of shabby chic tables and chairs, some wooden, some with distressed paintwork and rusting wrought iron garden furniture. Perfect for those with children, as they cant really damage it.

The floors are made from compacted mud, so there’s no need to worry about the occasional spilt drink or dropped cake.   There are high chairs available for the teenies and toddlers.

On the day of my visit, I took my 6 year old niece, my mother, and my two children David (nearly 4) and Annabel (2). The food is prepared under the watchful eye of acclaimed chef Skye Gyngell. We didn’t eat at the main restaurant, instead, favouring tea and cake. The drawback if you have a pram, is that the food is served from a charming but raised wooden hut, so you will need a hand to lift the buggy up the steps which are a little steep.

We opted for coffee cake, carrot and walnut cake (popular with the kids), a Claudia Roden style orange and almond cake, and a lemon poppy seed cake with a crunchy drizzle icing.

There is only one toilet that is suitable for changing, next to the tea hut in what looks like an old stable block. As toilets go, it is as nice as you could find. Flagstone floors and framed pictures on the walls. It is clean, and well equipped with a changing table, the only disappointment being the slightly grubby looking changing mat. Its a unisex toilet, so Dads can do the changing too.

On the day we went, almost everyone there had children in tow. Although on this occasion I had another adult to lend a hand, when I have been there on my own, the staff have been only too happy to carry the food to the table for me.

When you have finished looking around, you can visit the cows, then wander across the road to a playground just inside Richmond Park, or pay a visit to Ham House.

Rating:

Stylishness: 5/5 The epitome of country garden chic
Friendliness: 4/5
Feeding Facilities: 4/5
Changing Facilities: 4/5
Food: 4/5

Overall rating 21/25  £-££

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

Victoria and Albert Museum Cafe, Cromwell Road, London

I had a morning off this week to go to the Grace Kelly exhibition at the V&A (which, incidently, I would highly recommend if you are a fan) with my friend Clementine.  Clem is a regular at the V&A with her two and a half year old and swears by the place as a great summer retreat with toddlers.

She’s got a point.  The indoor café has plenty of space and some great food (half price for children).  The nearby toilets are an absolute dream for baby changing: the ladies has a changing table, there is a dedicated separate baby changing cubicle and – amazingly – even the gents has a baby changing table.

If your tot isn’t ready for a whole meal there are certainly options which you could share.  Having recently seen a genius device called the wean machine it strikes me that this would be the perfect outing for it as you could order one dish and cleverly mash what you need for a child on solids but not ready for proper food.

The absolute cream on the cake in the summer is the Garden Café area.  Clem’s little girl adores the fountains which tots can play in.  We took Jack last summer and he too adored the fountains.  A great way for little ones to cool down – just remember a change of clothes!  If you can, go during the week when it is likely to be slightly quieter.

And Clem’s top tip? If your tot still has a nap, you can let them run around in the fountains till they flake out, then push them round the exhibition whilst they sleep soundly in the buggy and you get to take in a bit of culture in peace and quiet.  That, dear readers, seems like a win-win situation to me.

Rating:

Stylishness: 5/5 (It is a cultural paradise, for goodness’ sake…!)

Friendliness: 4/5

Feeding Facilities: 4/5

Changing Facilities: 5/5

Food: 4/5

Overall rating: 22/25   £-££

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

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

Village East, Bermondsey Street, London

The Saturday morning we were due to visit our friends in Bermondsey dawned as wet as a very wet thing. It was definitely a bad sign.

Bermondsey is home to a cool mixture of creative and NYLON types and sits cheek by jowl with Borough. The plan was to drop by and see our friends, exchange belated Christmas presents for their 4 month old and our 3 year old, then wander over to Roast in Borough Market for a nice lunch.

The rain put paid to the second half of the plan. Village East on Bermondsey Street was a mere stone’s throw away. That, and it’s claim to be in the style of New York warehouse dining, sealed the deal.

It certainly looks the part. We were seated in the ‘canteen’ area which was busy but not full. Jack, doing his best impression of mummy and daddy ordering from the menu, asked the waiter for chicken and chips. Both were on the menu but in separate dishes. The waiter: ‘er, I don’t know about that, not sure we can…‘ Me: ‘But you have chicken and you have chips?’ Waiter: ‘Yes. I will check with the kitchen.‘

He didn’t come back so we crossed our fingers and hoped that something approximating chicken and chips would appear. The relief was palpable when it did – particularly as Jack was approaching hunger meltdown by that point We had ordered from the brunch menu and it is fair to say it was all delicious. The waiter warmed slightly once he realised we were pleased with the food.

Another little group with a child, who could not have been more than two, arrived and a high chair appeared. They looked like they were having a good time and I started to think I might have judged the waiter too harshly.

Sadly, that was shortlived. There is barely enough room to get a toddler in the toilet cubicles, let alone find space to change a baby. On asking if they had a disabled toilet I was met with a very sheepish ‘um, yes, but we use it as our cloakroom…‘

As if that wasn’t enough, we got absolutely drenched walking back to the car and smelt like damp sheep all the way home.

Rating:

Stylishness: 3/5

Friendliness: 2/5

Feeding Facilities: 3/5

Changing Facilities: 0/5

Food: 3/5

Overall rating: 11/25   ££

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Shillibeers, Carpenter’s Mews, London, N6

Friends of ours had invited us to join them and Adelie, their two year old, on a trip to the Pleasance Theatre to see a production of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Room on The Broom.  It was Jack’s first trip to a proper theatre and he was transfixed.

After all that excitement the children (not to mention their parents) were ready for some lunch.  The Pleasance Theatre is tucked in Carpenter’s Mews off Caledonian Road and hungry tummies dictated the nearest eaterie had better be up to the job.

Thankfully, Shillibeers, which is right next to the theatre, was already playing host to a number of children and families with the same thought – a good sign.   Shillibeers feels like a relaxed gastro pub (of the Islington variety!) and has a menu to match.

The young staff took the demands of our toddlers in their stride.  Whilst they didn’t always get it right the first time (Jack’s water arrived in a huge glass filled to the top and which would have ended up on the floor within seconds), they were more than happy to rectify things with the minimum of fuss.

The place is so large and the staff so relaxed that after a delicious lunch of sausage and mash followed by ice cream the kids had space to run around without causing either disturbance or annoyance.

The one disappointment is that their baby changing table (which is located in the disabled loo) was broken.  However, if, like us, you happen to have made the trek to the Pleasance Theatre with  your toddler (rather than a baby), Shillibeers is a great way to round off the event before you head home.

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 £ - Cheap and cheerful, gastro pub, London

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