More places to eat in Central London – go! Firstly, the yummy-mummy eaterie of choice, Giraffe. Another place we used to go to pre-children and never noticed it was packed with toddlers. I have no idea how. Anyway, my way of saying that the food is good enough for adults to eat as well as having a good kids’ menu and free balloons. On my 25th birthday, 7 of us spent around £450.00 there because the waiter was so good. and just kept offering us more nummy cocktails. Nowadays, our visits there are more sedate (in a way) but still enjoyable. Our local-est branch, which is also one of the biggest, is the South Bank branch. To be honest, I find it a little soulless and over-crowded (and you can’t book at weekends) but it’s close and you never need to feel bad taking a toddler there because everyone else has too. High St Kensington has a more intimate feel – not sure how it’d cope with a buggy – and Islington is smaller as well, but we fitted in there OK. The only Central London branch we’ve been to is the Brunswick Centre (and that was on his first birthday – look how little he is in the photo!) but there’s at least one in Soho I intend to try sometime. We went to the sister-restaurant Guerilla Burgers in St Christopher’s Place (behind Oxford St), which is now a Giraffe and it was nice but a bit of a tight squeeze.
Next (see, I said we were moving quickly) is Pizza Express. The photo at the top is Roo at his friend Jacob’s pizza-making birthday party. He put his hand through his dough, covered it with olives which he doesn’t like and refused to wear his apron. But he ate his pizza and -more importantly – enjoyed himself. We’ve been to the Kennington branch loads of times for just regular eating-purposes and they’re always friendly and bring him crayons etc. The kids’ menu is £6.95ish for 4 courses but you can just order the main course (pizza or pasta) for around £3.50. We’ve been to the Strand branch with him before as well and it’s another place that’s bigger on the inside (i.e. extra seating downstairs). As far as I can remember, no lift but you can leave buggies at the top of the stairs.
Where else? One of our more successful post-church eating places (see my last post) is Vapiano on Great Portland St (Oxford St end). It’s huge for a Central London place, and has more seating upstairs (again no lift). The tables are quite high but there are lots of sturdy wooden highchairs. Each person is given a card on arrival, which you use when you order your food (from different food stations downstairs) and then you settle up individually on exit. Again, handy for hasty exits! It’s Italian, so pizza, pasta and salads essentially but no kids menu as far as I can see. They also have a small basil garden upstairs, which Roo likes to play in. Space, easy payment and quick food. Basically everything we need. Pity not all our friends like it, otherwise we’d have a winner.
Talking of places not all our friends like, Wagamama has also been a hit with us in the past. Sadly our friend Slinky refuses to eat there. But it has a kids’ menu (which seems like wayyy too much food for Roo), the usual activity packs and quick service. I took him to the Victoria branch just before Christmas and he didn’t touch his kids meal but happily ate all my gyozas in cherry sauce. Then he ran off and refused to sit anywhere but a very small windowsill, but that’s another matter. They have those cool, clip-on highchairs for babies but Roo prefers to sit on the bench. Or a very small windowsill.We’ve also been to the Covent Garden and South Bank branches a few times and both are accessible for buggies (Covent Garden via lift) and the staff are friendly. Like Giraffe, South Bank gets very busy at weekends and there are always toddlers in there.
Hold onto your chopsticks, we’re almost there! Next up is Wahaca, also in Covent Garden. It’s another place that seems small from the outside but has a lot of room downstairs (via another clanky lift) and the service is quick and friendly. No kids menu as such, but the portions are all tapas-size, so you can order one of them for a toddler portion. Roo likes the enchiladas. Or he did last time we went. He’s probably changed his mind by now….
Talking of tapas, that brings us to La Tasca. Out of this whole post, this is probably the only one I wouldn’t whole-heartedly recommend, just because the service was a little….Spanish in flavour. In other words, we had our menus for ten minutes before we were asked for our drinks orders (which is when I requested the kids menu). Another ten minutes before we could then order our food, which took an age to arrive. You can imagine how restless the boy was by then and yes, we did lose him behind the bar once or twice. On the other hand, the food is always good, they often have bargainous deals on and Roo ate something, at least. There are a number of choices for the kids tapas and a fiverish will get you three tapas and some crunchy vegetables, plus crayons and an activity sheet. On the day we went, they had no chips and Roo refused to accept patatas bravas as a substitute but he did clear his albondigas (meatballs) and fish fingers (fish fingers). If you ask for apple juice, you get appletizer which I don’t believe to be the same thing..and thinking back, I’m sure the kids meal was supposed to come with its own drink, which never materialised. So, slightly hit and miss service but very nice food. We visited the Regent St branch, which had most of the tables downstairs and no lift, so again some buggy-carrying. Worth a try but only when the boy’s in a good mood.
Phew! I think that’s it. In the words of David Bowie in Flight of the Conchords, I’ve given you all my good advice. I haven’t included anywhere that’s been a total disaster (and there have been a few of those) cause that feels a bit like slagging people off and hey, this blog’s all about the love.
So, to summarise – this is what you want. Good food for you, quick service, fuss-free payment, kids menu or small portions. And in Central London, natch. Hope you’ve found what you’re looking for.