Tag Archives: W1

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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Filed under ££ - Mid price, Cafe, 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

5th Floor, Waterstone’s Piccadilly, London

Browsing leisurely in a bookshop, working my way from one interest or passion to another, is a luxury I rarely have time for now I have a 3 year old as well as a job.   Occasionally, my husband and I, in some reckless desire to behave as we did BC (before child), torture ourselves by popping into Waterstone’s in Piccadilly.

The miles of books wink, whisper and call to us.  Read me.  Read me.  Read me…

Ah, if only.  As we make our way to the children’s department something displayed by the entrance or the stairs will catch my eye.  Otherwise I rely on recommendations, reviews and Amazon.

We must be doing something right though, because Jack regularly asks to go to ‘the book shop’.  He could spend hours looking at the books and demanding to be read to.

Luckily, they do have a small family room on the same floor, complete with changing table, loo and chair for feeding.  For toddlers and adults in need of refreshment the 5th floor eaterie beckons.

The tables and chairs are not too closely packed so it feels quite relaxed, even when it is busy.  The food is ok, but nothing to write home about.  Then again, one doesn’t come for the food; one comes for the books.  The staff are efficient and, sometimes, friendly.

Any minor shortcomings of the eaterie are absolutely forgiven for what it creates: the time and space to enjoy the books.

Rating:

Stylishness: 4/5 (Come on, it is a HUGE bookshop, what could be more stylish?!)

Friendliness: 3/5

Feeding Facilities: 3/5

Changing Facilities: 5/5

Food: 3/5

Overall rating: 18/25   ££

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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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John Lewis, Oxford Street, London

Like many of my friends starting a family in their thirties, I embarked on the journey with the unshakable confidence of a woman with her own income, a challenging job, a great relationship and an indepth knowledge of city chic life.   Until, of course, my little bundle of joy arrived with his own ideas.  Jack is now three and I’ve acquired the blasé attitude of a mummy whose child eats his own food and can’t remember the last time he wore a nappy.

I was reminded, however, of the acute stress of those early days and weeks by my beautiful friend, Farima, whose baby is a mere matter of weeks old.  Farima is the epitome of city chic but faces the fearsome prospect of finding that in her old haunts a baby is viewed with more disdain than a pair of jeans with an elasticated waist.

She and her husband ventured out to the middle-class, parental mecca of John Lewis on Oxford Street as one of their first outings en famille.  There’s no denying that before its refit, John Lewis was beginning to feel like your favourite sweater: warm and cosy but a bit worn at the elbows.

The refit has given it a glossy, new edge but thankfully it’s lost none of the things that we love it for.  Farima and her husband were delighted with the well appointed family rooms for feeding and changing.  Other stores take note:  family rooms are a much better option than a changing table in the ladies loo.

It’s hard to underestimate just how liberating it is for a new mum to know that she’s got a great base from which to explore the delights of the West End, where she knows she can feed and change her baby without stress or discomfort.   And it wouldn’t be going too far to say that it is thanks to John lewis that my friend is beginning to find her own yummy mummy groove.

Rating:

Stylishness: 4/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Feeding Facilities: 5/5

Changing Facilities: 5/5

Food: 3/5

Overall rating: 22/25   ££

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Filed under £ - Cheap and cheerful, Cafe, Department Store, London

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