In his first six months, my baby probably tested out more restaurants than I did in my first 16 years. I mean, he’s not going to be scrawling any dining reviews—he failed to even let a morsel of the chefs’ food touch his lips—and he couldn’t say much about atmosphere either, mostly snoozing through them all. But he was quiet, cute, and never asked to share my dessert. Certainly a better dining companion than many people I’ve broken bread with.
This post first appeared in Kin London - a magazine and website that I love, which is focused on interesting things to do and say about babies in the Capital.
That’s changing a bit now—tiny man takes his own food into restaurants nowadays, and what proprietor likes that? Plus, he sometimes makes a bit of a mess of said food, and wants to share everything that’s on my plate, with particularly strong interest in my chocolatey desserts.
But despite loads of people warning me in pregnancy that I’ll “never go out again!”, I’ve actually found that period when your baby is still tiny and snoozy and portable (and you only have one—I can imagine it’s a lot tougher with multiples or older kids) to be fantastic for exploring London and its best eateries. In fact, I reckon there should be a name for it.
It means you don’t have to restrict yourself to the restaurants where beaming waiters immediately approach with a kids’ menu and highchair and crayons. Let’s be honest: there will be years of those restaurants. Years. So you may as well try to visit the cool ones now, while you still can.
Cooing at the baby
During paternity leave my husband, baby and I hung out at Ottolenghi—sure, you have to queue for lunch, but they were great at giving us an end table with pram space, and not minding when we eked out lunch for an extra half hour to give the baby some milk. We also loved Franco Manca in Broadway Market (now a London-wide chain) who served food around feeding time so the pizza didn’t get cold, and cooed at the baby non-stop.
A few months in, even the Wolseley in Green Park was surprisingly baby-friendly: we got a booth so the little one could wriggle around (under higher supervision than Pentonville inmates, obv). At Patty & Bun in the West End, we were allowed to discreetly queue jump and uber-cool Bao in Soho carefully highlighted which buns were spicy and not breast-feeding friendly, and brought me dishes around feeding. Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden let me switch dishes in their set menu so as to be breastfeeding-friendly, as well as helped us to heat up baby food.
There are some rules: we steer clear of noisy restaurants, and anywhere too rush-around-y where hot food could get spilt on or near the baby. Plus, now he’s getting older and noisier, we wouldn’t rock up at anywhere seriously posh as we wouldn’t want to ruin other people’s special meals.
But don’t let the doom-mongers say otherwise: having a baby doesn’t mean 18 years of evenings or meal-times stuck at home. London is full of baby-friendly, if not totally baby-focused, places to visit. Bon appetit!
Read more at Kin London.