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.
Stylishness: 5/5 (It is a cultural paradise, for goodness’ sake…!)
Feeding Facilities: 4/5
Changing Facilities: 5/5
Overall rating: 22/25 £-££
For a while after Jack was born I had my hair cut by the beloved-of-fashion-and-beauty-journalists Hari of Hari’s in Brompton Road. It was an incredible indulgence since it involved (not only expense but also) a Saturday morning trek from Blackheath to Knightsbridge, often accompanied by my husband who was charged with looking after Jack whilst I got pampered, followed by lunch and then the trek home.
That was how we first discovered the Brompton Quarter Brasserie. Initially I was lured by the cakes and pastries which are so beautifully and mouthwateringly visible from the street, then it became a regular part of the haircut routine.
The Brasserie is always busy and there isn’t room to keep a buggy by your table but they do have high chairs and space by the door to park several buggies. Despite how busy the cafe is, the staff always had time to make a fuss of Jack and indulge our requests for bottle warming, and, later, child size portions. We found the sharing dishes a great way of introducing Jack to foods he hadn’t already tried without wasting a plateful of stuff if he turned his nose up.
The all-glass walls mean that if you’re breast feeding there aren’t many places to sit where you feel private, though there is a row of tables tucked at the back by the kitchen which are more discrete.
The English/Mediterranean food has always been delicious, simply prepared and presented. So good, in fact, that I never had room to squeeze in one of the delectable looking cakes.
They have a changing table in the disabled loo which meant Dan had no excuse for not doing his fair share of changes.
Luckily, The Brompton Quarter Brasserie is close to the Natural History and Science Museums, so even though my days of going to Hari are now past (I change my hairdressers like… well, like things one changes. A lot.) I still have a bona fide excuse for lunch. And who knows? One day I might even make it to the cake…
Feeding Facilities: 4/5
Changing Facilities: 5/5
Overall rating: 22/25 ££
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.
Feeding Facilities: 3/5
Changing Facilities: 4/5
Overall rating: 20/25 ££