Dining Out

At the weekend DIY was undertaken at home. I will say no more about it, other than that I now have a beautifully decorated bathroom, but there came a point when I decided it was best to go out. This decision was made Saturday evening after a long day. Options were limited and needed to include food, so the 3 year old and I went out for dinner.

I didn’t want to seek refuge in the usual high street chains where children full of e-numbers run riot. We occasionally do ‘family pubs’, the sort where they rush at you with crayons and paper as soon as you enter with a child. A gesture which says; ‘we welcome children, but as long as they are occupied in a quiet activity like colouring’. I wanted a more grown up experience and decided to go to a restaurant without the expectation of receiving crayons. In fact, that was the last thing I wanted. I just wanted a good meal and the experience of eating out with my child not necessarily surrounded by lots of other people’s children.

I picked a local Italian restaurant, and early evening Saturday, we had no problem getting a table for two.

Obviously, the first thing Noo had to do was attempt to dismantle the pepper grinder. This seems to be de-rigueur for small children.

Once that was out of the way, I’d come prepared for that critical space between ordering food and it arriving.

Shopping List – Orchard Toys

I’d packed a game for us to play together rather than passing him an activity to do while I watched from the sidelines. This is a memory game called ‘Shopping Trolley’ from Orchard Toys (check out their brilliant range by clicking here).

There seems to be a view that abroad children in restaurants are tolerated more than in the UK. I don’t know if that’s true, I don’t have enough experience to comment. The staff on Saturday were lovely to Noo and he behaved brilliantly. The food was excellent, which is what I wanted. Noo had a half portion from the main menu which he enjoyed. I think it was a successful experiment. The restaurant got busier and Noo was ‘excited’ about being out in the ‘dark’ (very ‘The Tiger who Came to Tea’). I did have to tell him to stop dancing and to be a bit quieter but he was great company. It’s given me a confidence to do it again, next time as a family.

I am the vegetarian with the meat-eating son but that’s a whole other post.

I wondered what other people’s experiences are of eating out with small children? Do you stick to ‘child friendly’ or hang out in your haunts from pre-children?
Have you found eating out aboard a better or worse experience?

Drop me a comment I’d love to hear your experiences.


  1. PhotoPuddle

    My hubby and I always loved eating out as a couple so we saw no reason to stop after our daughter was born. She’s now two and although she has her moments (she is two after all!) she’s actually very good at this eating out malarky. Sometimes we do the good old family friendly places and sometimes we do something a bit more grown up and to be honest most restaurants these days seem to cope rather well when little ones come to dine!

  2. Emma

    Eating out with children is definitely more accepted here, so usually works out less stressful than at home. Looks like you had a great time! (We love Shopping Trolley in our house!)… Emma x

  3. mama-andmore

    Well done you, it looks like you had a lovely evening, and I think it can also be a great bonding experience – rather like going out to dinner with a friend. We don’t often go out in the evenings with our super-tot (clue’s in the name), although freq

  4. Kelly Boston

    I love your blog!!
    We are just venturing out with our 2 1/2 year old and finding it not too stressful (yet!) lol, I think it is good to encourage little ones to eat in restaurants. Defo think its more acceptable abroad but I think us Brits are getting better.
    Loving the Shopping Trolley game, I am gonna look out for it!!

  5. mama-andmore

    Well done you! It looks like it was a lovely evening, and it can be a great bonding experience too. We don’t often go out for dinner with our Super-Tot (clue’s in the name!) but it’s something I’d like us to do more of, as we do go out for lunches, and she is always asking for us to go to the restaurant. I guess evening dining is our couple time, and as such rather precious, but we need to share that with her sometimes too. I laughed at your comment about so-called kiddie-friendly restaurants who are happy to have you there as long as your kid is engaged quietly. As for eating out abroad, I haven’t necessarily found them to be friendlier than in the UK – often they don’t have baby seats (I tend to carry a fold-up one by Kiddoo), and I’ve felt in France like they are pretty disapproving of “spirited children”. Seen and not heard seems to be better. We’re off to Trinidad and Tobago next month, so will have to report back on evening dinners! xx

  6. motherporridge

    To be honest I don’t do this often enough, definitely something to be rectified. But when I have taken my 3yo and baby I usually choose a little local Italian they are always brilliant. They are totally welcoming of children and the waiters are quite happy to come and chat with them (and they often steal the baby) , and never give you raised eyebrows if your children start rolling around on the floor. Am also on the Orchard Toys tip…Tummy Ache is our favourite!

    1. helloitsgemma

      Tummy ache – good tip, thanks.
      This was an ‘Italian’ in food by not in waiting staff and without making massive generalisations, I agree. My (limited) experience and stuff of heard – is Italians are very postive and welcoming to children, and that makes such a difference.

  7. eviegracesmummy

    We have always taken Evie out with us since she was a few weeks. We take her to a variety of places from kiddie friendly to more adult places. I always wanted her to be a good eater and luckily she eats anything now so we can go anywhere. Like you I always make sure I have enough to keep her entertained. No restaurant has ever been offish with us in fact they are always welcoming and helpful. There is nothing better than having a ‘normal’ meal out and being complimented on such a good baby. Keep dining out Gemma and loving the pics xx

  8. I'm So Fancy

    We go out a lot. With children. But I firmly believe there must be an equal adult to child ratio. Having once run screaming out of a restaurant, the staff tucking my bottle of wine into the back of the pram, one child covered in vomit, the other throwing spaghetti. It was super Fancy.

  9. Pingback: Dining Out | Helloitsgemma's Blog » Super Fine Dining

  10. Mom-on-a-Wire (Alethea)

    I always check if they have a kids menu, if they do I am always more relaxed, even if the restaurant is a bit fancier than our usual haunts.
    My Little Man has been going to coffee shops and restaurants since he was tiny and we have been very fortunate that he is generally very well behaved. He loves the concept of waiters hanging around just for him so he really gets into the spirit of ordering ;-).
    I always make sure he has a small snack before we get to the restaurant to prevent any melt downs as we wait for our food. He tends to eat better then too.

  11. Flora

    I love that picture of Sophie and her mum and dad going out for their dinner in “The Tiger Who Came for Tea”. It captures how magical and exciting going out in the dark is for children. We have braved eating out with our two children (age 2 and 7 months) and, like you, go armed with games, books, stickers and distractions. Every restaurant and pub has welcomed us – it’s just other diners who’ve occasionally tutted. I’ve taken to tutting right back at them! I wrote a post all about Kinder cafes in Berlin. Places where the floor is a sandpit for the kids but the food is grown-up and good. Just wish there were more places like that in this country.

  12. Liska

    Thanks so much for your aspartame comment. Meant to thank you before now, but we had first time swimming yesterday and funeral today. Don’t worry it was a friend’s Dad and not a relative.
    Liska x

  13. geekymummy

    We love shopping game, my mum has sent us lots of lovely orchard toy stuff, we can’t get it here.

    We take our kids to sushi and pizza restaurants here in SF. If its not too late in the evening all but the swankiest restaurants are OK for kids. We did it more when we just had one kid, two is tough since one is usually headed for meltdown and they egg each other on. Its getting better now though!

  14. Kirsty

    I agree with other commenters that there has to be an equal parent to child ratio, at least. I don’t try eating out with our two by myself as the toddler can be quite impatient and once he’s finished eating is the trickiest part of the meal as he just wants to get up and walk out straight away. Keeping him entertained and getting baby stuff sorted would be too stressful for me. But we’ve occasionally eaten out as a family of four and I really enjoy it, and think it’s an important skill for them to learn. I’d do it much more often if we could afford it. Last time we went out we changed some Clubcard vouchers for Pizza Express, where they were lovely with our kids. OH and I both have birthdays in May, so the next time we go out might be for that. But we go out so infrequently that when we do, it’s nice to have some couple time if we get the chance. When we win the lottery we’ll take the kids to eat out every week!

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