There are some places that provide a kind of culinary comfort blanket. They cosset you in a warm and safe space. And they never, ever give you a nasty surprise. For us, Carluccio’s is such a place.
They manage to pull off a seemingly impossible feat of appealing equally to adults and children. You know exactly what you’ll get: simple, authentic Italian food and generally cheerful, friendly service.
Now, I know that Carluccio’s isn’t everyone’s plate of spaghetti, but the sheer number of restaurants, means that if you find yourself somewhere with a hungry toddler and need a quick, good value, child-friendly meal you could do a whole lot worse.
They have a children’s menu which doesn’t compromise on flavour at all, yet goes down really well with all the kids I know. All branches have high chairs and most have baby changing facilities.
If you’re shopping in the West End the branch in St Christopher’s Place is handy; if you’re at the Museums in South Kensington there is a branch just opposite the Tube; the one is Covent Garden is the ‘flagship’ and handy for the Galleries in Trafalgar Square; the one in Bluewater has a queue at the weekends so stick to weekdays if you can; we’ve even been to the ones in Bath and Tunbridge Wells.
But my favourite is the one in the basement of Fenwick’s on New Bond Street. It’s perfectly located for lunch on a Sunday inbetween a little sneaky shopping. Fenwick have a delightful toy section packed with unusual things. And it’s right next to the restaurant: perfect for bribes and distraction…
Stylishness: 3.5/5 (you’ll never be caught short with a hungry toddler again: what could be more stylish for a yummy mummy?)
Feeding Facilities: 4/5
Changing Facilities: 4/5
Overall rating: 19.5/25 £-££
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 ££