When you become a parent, one of the first things you lament is the loss of restaurant dining. You assume all your meals out will now involve burgers that come with cheap plastic toys, and food shaped like dinosaurs. You don’t even dare consider going to a “real” restaurant anymore.
The good news is, many restaurants are more child-friendly than we realise and dining out as a family doesn’t have to be traumatic. We asked parents where they take their kids to eat in Cambridge and what they look for in a good family restaurant.
Parents want variety, and many opt for restaurants that serve fresh and locally-sourced food. Charlie, dad of three says: “I intensely dislike places with a kid’s menu full of chicken tenders, mac and cheese, hamburgers, pizza and spaghetti, but few or none of the adult menu items.“
Also ranked high on the list of priorities is a friendly environment. Maggie, mum of two explains: “The last thing I need is a waiter, or fellow patrons, with a ‘can't you leave those beasts at home?’ attitude. Part of the point of a restaurant meal with the kids is to give them an opportunity to learn how to eat in a public space.”
Dining during quieter times is a strategy many parents use. Ceri, mum of two, takes the kids out early: “We always go as early as possible when we eat out with the kids as that's when most restaurants will have patience for us.”
Dining out isn’t just a treat for the kids, says Jenny, mum of 3: “Going out to eat is a treat for me too so I will gladly pay more to eat a better meal overall. I prefer to go to a kid-friendly restaurant than some place that is specifically geared to children and has terrible tasting ‘adult’ food.”
Our criteria for highlighting a few of the good family restaurants in Cambridge was based on quality, variety, environment, and value for money.
Giraffe on Christ’s Lane (next to the bus station), has a large menu that will take you from breakfast to supper, and even includes brunch. The children’s menu is divided up into “mini” meals and “young adults”. They offer lunch specials for kids and weekday lunch and breakfast deals for adults.
Yo! Sushi’s biggest draw is the novelty of its conveyor belt, full of colourful little domed dishes. On Blue Mondays and Thursdays, all plates are priced at £2.40. For the kids, they provide a free bingo game and dorayaki (custard-filled pancake) and special chopsticks that are easier for little hands to use.
Jamie’s Italian on Wheeler Street provides healthy kid’s food with an element of fun. Salads come in jars, chicken comes in the form of lollipops, and the menu is presented on a View-Master. They will also happily provide children’s portions of regular dishes.
Many independent restaurants are family-friendly, and as ethnic restaurants tend to fall into this category, they can offer diverse dishes for kids.
Charlie Chan, 14 Regent Street, is a great place to go for delicious dim sum and service is speedy. There is no children’s menu, but dim sum is the perfect size for small eaters and children can easily share items from their regular menu. There is an upstairs seating area which can be tricky to get to if you have a pushchair.
Eraina Taverna, 2 Free School Lane, serves…well…almost everything! They don’t have a children’s menu but with over 150 main dishes to choose from, even the pickiest little eater will find something to enjoy. It’s spacious, unfussy, and staff are very child-friendly.
Rainbow Café, 9a King's Parade, specialises in vegetarian cuisine, and also caters to gluten and egg-free diets. It’s received several awards and has even featured on television a few times. The menu is creative, the food is fresh, and staff are helpful. The children’s menu is small but there are several choices from the main menu that kids can enjoy. They also provide jarred organic baby food, free of charge.
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