Tag Archives: Canary Wharf

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

Mudchute Kitchen, Mudchute City Farm, London

There are some places I would never have thought of going before I had Jack.  I’m not a particularly outdoorsy type.  I hyperventilate if I’m more than walking distance from a Pret A Manger or Starbucks.  I don’t own a cagoule or a ruck sack.  I do, however, have a 3 year old.

It was after a tip off from another mum that we first ventured to what is the largest city farm in London at Mudchute.  It is now a regular fixture for us, come rain or shine.  The promise of a trip on the DLR is enough to get Jack excited.  The entrance to the park is right opposite the stop and walking up the sheltered, shady path to the farm does not prepare you for the striking optical illusion of Canary Wharf appearing to spring up right from the farm’s main field.

Mudchute Kitchen is right in the middle of the farm.  The food can best be described as an edited menu of wholesome, home cooking.  Strangely, for a place aimed at children, they don’t do child-size portions.  The dishes are heavily garnished with adventurous salads which even the most adventurous of toddler eaters would baulk at.  The cakes are the saving grace – homemade and huge.

It has to be said that the toilets are like farm toilets: cold with concrete floors.  And you can’t avoid the distinctive farmyard smell wherever you go.

You can buy animal feed at the shop by the kitchen, so once you’ve fed and watered the children you can feed the animals. Beware though: the sheep are very scary.  As we entered the open field where they were grazing, their little beady eyes spied Jack’s paper bag of food and they began running towards him, till he was completely surrounded by the woolly, smelly beasts fighting for the food.  I had to beat them off.

Jack loves the place.  And so, on those days when we just have to get out of the house, do I.  I’ve even bought a pair of wellies.

Rating:

Stylishness: 3/5 (be prepared to get muddy…)

Friendliness: 4/5 (and that’s just the sheep)

Feeding Facilities: 3/5

Changing Facilities: 3/5

Food: 3/5

Overall rating: 16/25   £

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Gaucho, Canary Wharf, London E14

On the spur of the moment last weekend we decided to go out for lunch.  As we rang round unsuccessfully trying to get a table, the realisation that it was Valentine’s Day slowly dawned.  Our excuse for our lack of awareness of it being simultaneously the most romantic day of the year and the day you are least likely to get a spur of the moment table at a decent restaurant?  We eschew the crass commercialisation of love…obviously.

We finally got a table at The Gaucho at Canary Wharf – a mere 15 minutes drive from us.  Result.   Chancing upon a restaurant with a free table on such a day really ought to arouse suspicion, however hunger and toddler demands for ‘sausage and mash now’ got the better of us and off we went.

The Gaucho don’t have a children’s menu but we figured that they had mash on the menu and a sausage platter which would fit the bill.  We figured wrong.  Despite offering to pay for the whole platter but just be served the least spicy sausage from it, the waitress said that was not possible.  Jack settled on a burger and mash instead.

The pasta dish which I decided on, was, the waitress informed me, made with a different pasta, but ‘still good’.  Done.

The restaurant is dark.  Not cosy, romantic dark, but dark enough to make it difficult to see your food.  So when my pasta arrived, though I thought it didn’t look quite right it was not until I tasted it that I realised not only was it a different shape pasta, it was a completely different dish to the one on the menu and not a particularly tasty one at that.   My query was met with bemusement by the waitress.  No doubt I was being punished for having the temerity to order pasta in a steak restaurant.

The toilets are cramped but there’s just enough room to get a toddler in with you.  There was a couple with a baby sitting not far from us but I decided not to spoil their meal by informing them that there is no baby changing table, though there is a disabled loo with a floor which would do if they had a changing mat.  They might have thought I was a mad woman.

Rating:

Stylishness: 0/5

Friendliness: 3/5

Feeding Facilities: 2/5

Changing Facilities: 0/5

Food: 2/5

Overall rating: 7/25   ££

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Canteen, Royal Festival Hall, London

If you’re travelling to or from South London via Waterloo Station the revamped area around the Royal Festival Hall is a great place for a pit stop.  Canteen is located round the back of the Festival Hall away from the melee of the riverside, which is a relief if you’ve spent the last few hours fighting your way through crowded streets with a buggy.

I’ve been with Jack several times now, from just before he was  a year old onwards.  The food is always yummy and they will do starter size portions for children.  The vibe is distinctly not that of a children’s restaurant (unlike places like Giraffe, of which more in a later post) since you’re as likely to find trendy 30-somethings working over lunch as you are mums with toddlers.

The staff have always happily found space to park the buggy and magic up a highchair.  The toilets have loads of decent changing space as well as a dedicated disabled loo which has a changing table.

Whilst the service is generally pretty quick – always helpful when you have a hungry toddler –  on one recent occasion when they were, admittedly, very busy we had to ask after the food several times.  This produced an exasperated reaction from the waitress.   The result:  I went from one stressed mum who needed to feed her child to one very angry one.  Not good if you expect a tip.

Don’t let this put you off though, because overall it’s a great place to go with babies and toddlers if you want a more, pleasant, adult experience than you’ll get in a place dedicated solely to feeding kids.  They also have branches in Spitalfields, Baker Street and Canary Wharf

Rating:

Stylishness: 3/5

Friendliness: 4/5

Feeding Facilities: 3/5

Changing Facilities: 4/5

Food: 4/5

Overall rating: 18/25   ££

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Filed under ££ - Mid price, London, Restaurant