Many chefs in London seem to be under the impression that children under the age of 10 subscribe to only three major food groups: chips, sausages, and fish fingers (which are always quite lean on the fish, and heavy on the finger fry).
Cue a splendid new stunt from Marcus Wareing’s Tredwell’s restaurant, in Covent Garden.
Last night I took my two-year-old son, Henry, to try the modern British restaurant’s eight-course children’s tasting menu, fairly confident that he wouldn’t last through eight separate courses.
Luckily, the courses come in groups - it might more accurately be called a children’s sliders menu - and it was a hit.
“Cheeky chorizo jam, egg yolk and avocado tartlets” show that you can incorporate some of a child’s typical repertoire (sausages) into a healthy, well-rounded starter. "Courgette and pea dumplings with a creamy coconut chilli sauce" featured spaghetti-shaped ribbons of courgette, perfectly cooked, along with delicious dim sum-like parcels that my son loved.
The pulled pork was the perfect example of why children need more intelligent menus: the apples were spiked with a sophisticated sweet ginger accent that offered a means of gentle exploration for a young palate.
The trio of desserts - a vegan brownie, yuzu parfait, and salted caramel ice cream with honeycomb - were all unusual, and all tasty.
Tredwell’s wants the publicity, clearly, but I hope that they are at the cusp of a new child-luring trend in restaurants.
At £17 (A$35) per child, Tredwell’s tasting menu for children isn’t cheap. But I hope that restaurants will see that better options could be a commercial win - a new survey from the restaurant booking platform, Bookatable, (which works with Tredwell’s) found that nearly four in five parents complain of a lack of good food options for children when eating out, and nearly two in three parents find children’s menus unhealthy.
Ideally, kitchens across the price spectrum should just offer smaller portions of adult dishes, as they (sensibly) do in France. But a close second choice would be for restaurants to provide sensible, balanced children’s menus, heavy on interesting vegetables, and light on fry.
Here are four other restaurants where you and your child will eat well in London.
Brasserie Zedel: Parisian Atmosphere
This bustling brasserie just off of Picadilly Circus is the ideal place to bring a young person for Sunday lunch: service is friendly and the lively chatter of fellow diners will drown out any soft complaints.
Plus, this must be one of the most reasonably priced restaurants in central London. On our visit, my child happily shared a rich fennel-infused fish soup as a starter, along with generous amounts of freshly heated French bread, and she also enjoyed creamed spinach and sampled a few of the frites from my steak frites
I also discovered here that my daughter loves an île flottante as much as I do. For slightly grander food and a better wine list, head to Zedel’s sister restaurant, the Delaunay, in Covent Garden. My children are mad for the liverwurst and schnitzel there.
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Wahaca: The City's Healthiest Chain?
Wahaca is the best chain I’ve tried for children’s food. Pizza Express offers, on its Piccolo Menu, a three-course meal of baked pizza dough followed by pizza, followed by either a brownie or ice cream.
Eating out should be a treat, certainly, but I wouldn’t mind a bit of a nod to nutrition.
Wahaca’s children’s menu is both interesting and fun. For £5 (A$11), children get a drink and can build their own tacos in a soft tortilla, with cheese, guacamole, lettuce and tomato salsa, plus their choice of meat or vegetable filling.
For an extra £1.20 (A$2.50), you can get ice cream or sorbet for pudding. And you can colour in your menu.
Franco Manca: London’s Best Pizza?
With branches in Clapham, Chiswick, and the Stratford City branch of Westfield, this may sound a bit establishment, but the pizza is the best in London and keeps me coming back at least once a month.
The sourdough base is topped with a simple tomato sauce, top-quality British-sourced Italian-style cheese, seasonal vegetables and a variety of cured meats.
A study in the perfectly pared-down menu, Franco Manca’s original Brixton branch is my favourite, and ideal for children: the bustle of the surrounding market will entertain everyone from a six-month-old to her grandparents, and delicious deserts are just a moment away in Brixton Village’s bakeries.
If you’ve got a real pizza crowd, Pizza Pilgrim, particularly the Kingly Court branch, is a nice place for children – and the fritti will make you feel like you’re in Italy.
Royal China: Little Bundles Of Joy
Royal China offers some of London’s best-quality dim sum in a pleasantly dramatic dining room lined in mirrors and black lacquer panels featuring curling waves. As dumpling fillings are so finely minced up, even the pickiest child may be able to ignore his or her normal aversions in this dramatic setting.
Plus, the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial playground is just a hop, skip and a jump away in Kensington Gardens; you can work out any overindulgence in a climb on the pirate ship.
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This article was written by Sally Peck from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.