When it comes to going out to eat with children, a lot of people default to chains. There’s safety in a chain. The knowledge, or rather hope, that the corporate behemoths have seen it all. Butter used as moisturiser. Screams so loud another table’s soup curdles. Teary conversations about the lives the eggs in this benedict could have had. At least the food is kind of edible, right?
You can do better than this though. There are plenty of great London restaurants who can handle a roaming child, and a lovely risotto. Each one of the restaurants in this guide is a place you and the kids can enjoy together.
Colouring pencils. A complimentary children’s puzzle. High chairs. A ‘bambini’ menu that involves things your child will actually want to eat. This, people, is how you know you’ve just entered a restaurant that is ready and willing to cater for kids. This big, roomy spot in Islington also has plenty of Italian classics for you to eat and should definitely be on your radar if you need somewhere for a full three-generation family meal that’ll please everyone. Don’t miss their smoked burrata tortelli - it’s excellent.
When you pictured parenthood, you probably pictured it being a lot like Jolene. There’d be fresh pastries everywhere, endearing childlike scribbles on the wall, and you’d look incredible in breton stripes whilst effortlessly feeding your golden spawn. Yeah, it turns out that parenting mostly involves googling rashes and discovering new ways to use Vanish, but for a couple of hours at Jolene you’ll distinctly feel like you have your shit together. This Newington Green spot serves cafe classics done really well, has plenty of child friendly dishes, and even though it can cost more than your average trip out for a toastie, it’s worth it for you and the kids to enjoy that air of laid back cool for an afternoon.
There you are casually going about your life when you realise that Mr. Bun Bun is no longer in the pram. Your child has not realised. Yet. You have three options: phone the police to report a missing stuffed animal, permanently wound your child’s psyche by telling them that Mr. Bun Bun never existed, or distract them with the baked goods and cold pressed juices at Daylesford Organic in Chelsea. It’s your call. But you should know that the seasonal salads and lunchtime pizza options at this laidback all-day cafe and shop are also very good.
You’re about one tantrum away from phoning your own mother and demanding she comes, runs you a bath, and reads you a bedtime story whilst you down a sippy cup of pinot grigio. It’s all going to be okay, just head for La Mia Mamma, where a troupe of Italian chefs - known as the mammas - will feed you and your kids handmade pasta until you’re all happy again. The food here is genuinely excellent, and it’s the kind of lively spot where your kids making a whole bunch of noise definitely won’t be an issue.
Last week they were all about broccoli, but this week if you even mention it then you’ve got a tiny - but entirely terrifying - Scarface on your hands. Take them to Timmy Green, a casual Australian cafe in Victoria with the kind of long menu that has enough options to keep your child from going a bit Tony Montana in public. Expect dishes like halloumi fries, chicken parmigiana, classic burgers, and a Mars Bar cheesecake ball you can hang over their head until they finish their mains. Because you know, parenting a tiny human with the explosive rage of Al Pacino is hard.
If you can’t take your kids to eat what we reckon is probably the best pizza in London, then something is wrong with the world. Thankfully you can, so hold back on that Twitter rant please. Theo’s is an easy choice around Camberwell. The pizza is delicious, the atmosphere very relaxed, and the drinks menu suitably extensive.
Nando’s is one of those options that’s a given, but, ultimately, that self-serve fro-yo machine alongside a million hot sauces is a recipe for anger. Or tears. Go to Casa Do Frango, which is conveniently placed near London Bridge, instead. The piri piri chicken here is just that bit better. Not that the children will notice, but you’ll be able to enjoy it, alongside a glass or bottle of something proper whilst the small ones can still eat chicken and chips making all the noise they want.
The good thing about taking children to Ottolenghi is that you can play our favourite game ‘Ingredient Or Infant?’. Are you ordering little gem, or is that him being asked to sit down? Is that labneh on your kofte, or is a bawling child shouting ‘lab-meh-alone’? It’s a really great game. Honest. Along with this place having all kinds of breads, and dips to eat, the Spitalfields one is nice and big as well.
The Good Egg’s original location is slap bang in the middle of north London’s most bougie playground, so it’s fitting that this Mediterranean all-day cafe is a good place to come with the kids. It’s excellent for sweet and savoury in the day, with everything from babka french toast to an egg and cheese bagel. They even do a special kids breakfast platter. Dinner is a little more adult, but all the kids around here grow up on pumpkin hummus, so they’re happy.
Taking your child to the pub is a pastime that we strongly approve of. It’s character building. Little scamps living off scampi fries is adorable, isn’t it? Well, The Coach isn’t really that sort of pub, but it suits much better. This Farringdon gastro-number serves all kind of child-friendly fare in a very nice airy, pub space. There are sausage rolls by the inch - and while you’ll obviously be snacking on these - there’s also a lovely menu of French bistro-fare to choose from.
One of the excellent things about Ozone is that there’s a lot going on. A big central kitchen where everything’s being made, people sitting at the bar around it, people sitting at tables, staff going to and from tables constantly. It’s buzzy and hectic. And it’s also very loud. It’s the perfect conditions for your precious little thing to do something absolutely heinous with a bit of banana bread, and for nobody to notice. Not that they’d mind here. The service is excellent, as is the huge and varied menu.
Sure, you could go to any old pub, stick ’em in the corner with an iPad, some scratchings, and a few darts, but that’s not going to get you fed properly is it? Go to the Camberwell Arms instead. This place is part pub and part restaurant, but it still extends a welcome to everyone, even if you are partial to a dribble, and an emotional outburst (although they’re probably more forgiving of these if you’re under eighteen). If there’s a pie on, don’t miss out on it.
South Kensington has got a lot of chain options, but you’re trying to raise a kid with taste here, aren’t you? Fast forward the precocious process and take them to Ceru, a Levantine restaurant that’s got all kinds of good things about it. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed, plus there are enough colours on the wall to keep all of you distracted for a second or two. There are dips and calamari for the kids, and all kinds of meat and vegetable small plates for you.
At Greyhound Cafe they serve a dessert called ‘Happy Toast’. It’s a piece of toast that comes with a load of different squeezy custards to pour over. It costs over a fiver. Your kids are very much welcome here. We recommend sticking to the Thai side of the menu, as the fusion burgers and pastas are a bit odd. But if the little ones insist on having a soft shell crab burger with their happy toast, who are you to argue?
Lardo is an extremely inoffensive restaurant. Unless you’re not into Italian food, in which case you need to sort your life out. This Hackney restaurant has a choice of pizzas and pastas that will keep anyone of any age happy. There’s a load of outside seating for the summer, and a big inside where you can keep yourselves to yourselves while trying to keep the kids as far away from the pizza oven as possible.
Pizza. Tacos. Negroni on tap. Is there anything else you need when you’re taking kids out for a meal? Maybe. But also maybe not. Can restaurants sell valium? Regardless, Temper in Covent Garden will very much do the job. It’s a huge space full of comfy and hidden booths. The food is sometimes great, sometimes weird, but order safely (e.g. cheeseburger flavoured things) and everybody will be happy.