For too long, parents – and especially mothers – have been made to feel that eating out isn’t for them. Children should be happy with some chicken nuggets, pregnant women should be happy with water if they’re not drinking alcohol, and any mother who wants to breastfeed her child should be swiftly covered with a napkin (and should feel happy about it).
But times are a changing. It might be due to the rise of women in the restaurant industry or the massive influence of mothers on social media… or mums like me, desperate for change and still wanting some kind of life post baby. Or it might just be because cafes and restaurants have realised there are millions of families around the world and many of them would like to have a few more options than just a Happy Meal.
A lady I met briefly at an event is travelling overseas soon with her 4-month old son (Hello European Summer!) and is looking for a child friendly place to eat lunch with her extended family. So I promised her I would do some research and round up the best spots to eat in London for mothers (and fathers, and grandparents, aunts and uncles) who love good food, whether they are accompanied by tiny humans or not.
So Andrea, this one goes out to you….
These family friendly restaurants and cafes in London know how to feed all ages, offer value for money, style and sometimes you can even enjoy a cheeky cocktail while the kids enjoy entertainment from accommodating staff. Thumbs up all round.
A little slice of Sydney in London
Australian import Granger & Co has brought sunny, Sydney inspired dining to London. Each of their three beautifully designed London locations offers not only light, modern dining rooms but also menus based around fresh, feel-good food. Though now famous for their brunches, especially their lust-worthy ricotta hot cakes, and beautifully yellow hued corn fritters, there is more to this Aussie favourite. Dishes like their Bondi Bowl, bursting with buckwheat, quinoa and fresh vegetables, and their courgette chips (ummm but seeing as we are Australian I’m going to call the zucchini chips), a slightly lighter option for those who still want a crispy snack, are perfect for those who love to eat out, and love their veggies.
All three locations in King’s Cross, Clerkenwell and Notting Hill have good pram access and welcome younger diners. However, the Clerkenwell location is certainly the easiest for anyone with children. Not only is it the only location that takes reservations, it is also just across from the famous Clerkenwell Green, which offers a beautiful open space for play after lunch.
Granger & Co’s fuss-free approach to good food means almost all of their dishes are child friendly. If you’re taking out a little one with an adventurous appetite perhaps you could tempt them to prawn, chilli and ginger linguine or sweetcorn fritters with roast tomato, spinach & bacon? But, just to be safe, there is also always the option of their grass-fed beef burger served with french fries.
Great for a night out on the town for new and expectant mums
This Fitzrovia newcomer is the more informal sister to the Michelin-starred Portland, making it perfect for mum and dad foodies who want to keep their hand in the fine dining game without the formality. Their talent for combining innovative cooking techniques with the freshest seasonal ingredients, like their mussels cooked in Sake and fried baby leeks served with sauce gribiche, as well as their smiling, attentive service is the ideal cure for those parents tired of eating at home.
Set across one floor, Clipstone is completely stroller accessible especially at lunch when it’s slightly quieter. Though it can be a bit of a squeeze when they’re fully booked, this corner site boasts twice the usual amount of outside tables, which are perfect for those with prams. Their central location, in walking distance to five different tube stations, making it great if you have to rush home to a babysitter and, because it’s on a quiet street, it is very useful for anyone with a sleeping baby in said pram.
Clipstone doesn’t offer a specific children’s menu and some of their dishes, like the mouthwateringly fresh crudo of raw tuna, could prove a little challenging for younger palates. However, the menu takes full use of the restaurant’s pizza oven and has an ever changing array of ‘flatbread’ pizzas along with simpler dishes like ravioli stuffed with hay-baked carrot & ricotta.
Great for learning about (and eating) delicious food
Stepney City Farm is a fully working farm nestled in the London borough of Tower Hamlets which has been raising chickens, growing veggies and keeping pigs since the 1970s. Entry to the farm is completely free and any young visitors can take part in great events like their annual harvest festival and pig fest. The best part is that if you do get peckish while you’re there the Stepney City Farm café offers an ever-changing menu of seasonal goodies cooked fresh from the farm’s produce.
If you are trying to teach kids about where their food comes from and the importance of sustainability this is the place to come. Luckily, the food is also delicious. Famous for their Sunday brunches, featuring Stepney Farm free range eggs of course, they also have great weekday options including a children’s meal deal, freshly made cakes and home cured bacon. If you are one who prefers not to have any animals on the menu they do also offer vegan and vegetarian options which are sure to please.
Delicious food overlooking a beautiful new park
South London’s Peninsula Garden made history last year by becoming the first new park to be created in the capital for a hundred years. Now it’s being put on the culinary map by café, restaurant and cocktail bar Craft London. Pop in to the ground floor cafe at any time of day to see their ever changing menu of freshly made food, go up one floor up for their critically acclaimed restaurant designed by Tom Dixon and try the very top to see a cocktail bar boasting 360 views of London.
Craft’s café level offers outside seating right in Peninsula Garden, perfect for anyone who wants to enjoy their flat white in comfort while watching over children playing in the park. For families wanting to travel to any of the higher levels there’s a pram friendly lift to take you up there. Though a cocktail bar might not usually be where you take your kids, the stunning 360 degree views will certainly leave you and the kids impressed.
Coffee, otherwise known as the best friend to anyone who has been kept up all night by a screaming child is a specialty at Craft London. Not only do they roast their own coffee in the building, they also offer Aeropress to make sure each cup is perfectly made.
And the cafe food offering is just as delicious offering freshly made sourdough pizzas and one of the finest selection of baked goods we have ever seen. If pizza and cake aren’t your thing (just to be clear, they are definitely our thing) you can also check out their daily salad offerings, full to the brim with delicious, fresh ingredients. Head up to the restaurant if you’re after a heartier meal, including clay baked duck and fireplace potatoes.
Bright Mexican food for every age, all over London
Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca and mother of two really knows guacamole. For years, hungry Londoners had despaired at finding a decent quesadilla or a great burrito. But now with sixteen branches across London and satellites in other cities across the UK as well, it’s comforting to know that great Mexican food is always close at hand.
Whatever your day out in London involves, you are sure to be close to a Wahaca. Taking train obsessed tots to the London Transport Museum? There’s Wahaca Covent Garden (pictured). Soaking up the sights on the London Eye or treading the ancient deck of the Golden Hinde? Wahaca Southbank is just next door. Getting out of London to paddle on Brighton beach? Wahaca has just opened a location there too. Wahaca makes an effort to be as accessible as possible too – great for those with buggies.
Wahaca has specially adapted their menu to be great for small tummies and tight budgets. For £5.25 you can pick between build your own tacos or quesadillas bursting with cheese as well as a drink, including fizzes and agua fresca. Afterwards you can claim your free babyccino or, for an extra £1.20, get a scoop of their artisan ice cream. All of this comes along with a side of humanitarianism; 20p from each meal is donated to Open Air Classroom projects that put creative learning around growing & gardens at the heart of school curriculum.
Where the kids can play and parents can unwind
Bear + Wolf was founded by a dad who, despite being a serious restaurant insider after running both a raw food café and a gastropub, couldn’t find anywhere to eat with is toddler. Now he’s created a space to please everyone, airy sharing tables sit at the front for weary parents while they’re back room has been transformed in to a play room to please their younger clientele. Perfect for families looking for space to spread out, no more dads (or mums for that matter) need to despair about where to get a coffee with their toddlers.
Perched between Kentish Town and Tufnell Park, the café is walking distance to Hampstead Heath so works wonderfully for families who have been flying kites on Parliament Hill or using the park’s famous playground. Once at the café you can park prams (and children) in the back playroom before you settle down to enjoy the food.
Each item on Bear + Wolf’s menu is simple but satisfying, and their breakfast dishes are a special treat. Start your whole family’s day off right with buttermilk waffles topped with banana or a bacon roll stuffed with roasted cherry tomatoes and aioli served on an onion brioche. If you get there later in the day don’t despair. You and your brood can tuck into the delicious shepherd’s pie, pick up a grilled halloumi sandwich or check out the tart of the day.
A great place to introduce new flavours and activities
Modern Israeli cooking at its most delicious – Zest can be found nestled in the courtyard of JW3, North London’s newly built Jewish community centre which hosts year round activities for Jewish and non-Jewish families to enjoy. There is a café where you’ll find stacks of freshly baked sweet treats, salads crammed with flavour and mouth watering savouries all with a middle eastern twist. Or if you’re after something more filling you can head through to their restaurant for freshly made mezze and brunch dishes like shaksuka and challah french toast. All of these can be enjoyed while overlooking their courtyard, which hosts an ever changing rotation of seasonal activities.
As you might expect from a location especially built for families, both JW3 and Zest offer a lot for mums. First it’s completely accessible – with a walkway and lift from the street for those with prams. It also offers a full calendar of activities to keep younger guests occupied, from the baby café every week with soft play mats for infants, the cinema which screens the latest children’s films and its community hall for group activities like family music time. Sitting in the café you also have easy access to the courtyard, which in summer hosts outdoor activities like mini golf and in the winter is transformed in to an ice rink. Whatever the age ranges in your family there is sure to be an activity to please them, even if it’s just sitting back with a coffee and cake.
Getting kids to try new flavours has never been easier at Zest with a daily menu of specifically designed kid’s options. Go on Sunday’s when their bottomless brunch menu operates – Adults can enjoy never ending food along with unlimited teas, coffees and either pomegranate mimosa’s or harissa bloody mary’s. Kid’s can enjoy treats like challah toasties and hot chocolate while colouring in their own menu.
Contemporary British cooking by a celebrity chef in the heart of the West End
Named after the butler in Agatha Christie’s novel The Seven Dials Mystery, Tredwells is casual and affordable yet still elegant and formal enough for a special family meal.
Chef Marcus Wareing is dedicated to providing a delicious dining experience for the whole family. In fact, it’s so pro-youngsters there is a special à la carte junior’s menu including “Junior Cocktails” (aka fancy juices) like a Pineapple Mojito that I’d be tempted to order myself!
The restaurant is spread over three floors with a slightly less family friendly basement cocktail bar and two airy, retro-looking dining rooms lit by large windows. The menu describes itself as ‘modern London cooking’ which translates as good-quality Brit ingredients sexed up with globetrotting flavours.
When in doubt, go where the father of 5 goes
Being the Italian take of the TV presenter food empire, Jamie’s Italian is artful with design and little details that give away Jamie’s captivating personality. You would expect that being the father of 5 kids himself, he knows a thing of two about keeping tiny tots happy and fed and you won’t be disappointed.
Jamie’s Italian in Canary Wharf is a dynamic open-plan restaurant that’s always buzzing with activity. It’s a great location for anything from a casual dinner with friends or a business lunch to an intimate meal or a big celebration. Plus, when the weather’s nice the beautiful outdoor terrace is the perfect spot for watching the world go by with a nice cold glass of Prosecco and some nibbles.
The staff are pros with kids, and even have special bottle warmers to heat up babies’ milk. The kids’ menu is tempting, free and actually healthy, too. You can even go on their website to look up all the nutritional values of each menu item in advance!
A smart stop-off for hungry culture vultures
Located inside a former factory, and just a stones throw (well not literally but you know what I mean) from Tate Modern, Hixter Bankside is a beautifully designed, open plan restaurant, featuring show-stopping art by leading British artists Tracey Emin, Mat Colishaw, Tim Noble and Sue Webster.
Serving large shareable portions of salt-aged steak, roast Lancashire chicken, and other hearty fare, the restaurant is a smart stop-off for hungry museumgoers. Thankfully, owner Mark Hix believes children’s dishes should be as much of a treat as mum and dad’s with tempting meals for under-tens are free at lunchtimes.
A farm oasis in the centre of London
Since 1976 the Vauxhall City Farm has been a charity that aims to provide the local community with education services, youth activities, riding therapy, personal development and a peaceful escape from city life. With more than 100 animals including seven rare-breed goats, three alpacas, nine horses, two pigs and one hedgehog named Mr Tiggywinkle the family will not be disappointed or bored. Alongside the animals is an ecology garden complete with bog, wormery and stag beetle nursery. The allotment plots grow fruit and veg, from pumpkins and strawberries to edible flowers which are all used in the farm’s cookery workshops and cafe.
The staff at the cheery café in the tiny patch of countryside love children with a mission to educate them through food. The menu appeals to adults and kids alike where you can try penne with own-made garden pesto. Entry to the farm is free but donations and eating at the café helps fund the charity and its’ work.