Want to take the kids out for lunch this half term? You might think that well known pizza restaurant is the only option, but it’s not just the big chains that will accommodate the little ones. Here’s our pick of 10 much more interesting London restaurants where children will be made more than welcome.
What better way to keep the children entertained over lunch than bringing bowling into the equation? At the four All Star Lanes branches across London, a game of tenpin can be paired with good ol’ US diner-style dishes such as burgers, fried chicken, ribs and steaks. Special smaller main meals are £5.50 for all kids, while a main, a side, a drink, a dessert and a game of bowling can be bought together for £15.
This Soho institution’s offering of pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, chicken wings, burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese will ensure neither adult nor child leave hungry. Or with a clean face. The best bit? Kids eat completely free up until 3pm on weekdays and 5pm on weekends, including a main from a set menu and either vanilla or chocolate ice-cream for dessert. You get one free kids’ meal for every paying adult, but for extra meals (or outside of these hours) it’s still only a fiver. There are now also branches of Bodean’s in Clapham, Fulham and Tower Hill (though Soho’s our favourite).
Though it goes into bar-mode of an evening, this fun, brightly coloured Cuban hangout near Waterloo station is perfect for the kids in the daytime. A dedicated kids’ menu offers two courses for £6, along with a juice, and super-sized ice-cream sundaes will appeal to both big and little ones. If the children want to feel a bit more grown up, they can enjoy glasses or pitchers of mocktails; don’t worry, there’s no shortage of real cocktails for the adults.
Mark Hix’s plush and moody Brewer Street restaurant wouldn’t be the first place that would come to mind to take a child. But given the chef himself has campaigned for better food in restaurants for children, it’s actually rather apt. It’s not the cheapest restaurant in town, but kids under 10 eat free from a special menu when accompanied by a dining adult between 4-6pm on weekdays and 12-6pm on Saturdays. Options include sausage and mash, fish fingers with mushy peas and a breaded chicken breast. These cost between £6.50 and £8.50 at other times. It’s just a shame the kids won’t get to sample the excellent cocktails on offer in Mark’s Bar down below…
If it’s pizza that the kids are craving, then give this Covent Garden spot a try rather than the big chains. There’s no special menu, but given pizzas arrive whole (and large) at the table for sharing, that’s not really a problem. Children will no doubt enjoy being able to use their own pizza slice to cut and share out the pizza, as well as the fun of seeing pizzas go in and out of the pizza ovens in the open kitchen. It’s informal, loud and bustling, so there’s no need for anyone to be too quiet either. Oh, and the pizzas are far better than those at the big chains, too.
This small chain of informal Indian eateries (locations here) is a firm favourite of ours for a cheap and cheerful meal that doesn’t cut corners on taste. Alongside classic curries, dals and biryanis, choose from a selection of dishes inspired by the street food of India, such as bhel (a puffed rice salad) or aloo tikki chaat (a spiced potato cake). Or to keep choosing to a minimum, go for one of the thalis, a platter including bread, rice and a selection of mains for little over a tenner. A special £5 kids’ menu is available for under-sevens.
London’s city farms are ideal entertainment (and education) for children, and this one comes with a particularly appealing independently run café. It’s open 9.30am-2.30pm from Wednesday to Friday, and 10am-4pm on weekends. The daily menu is a simple assortment of sandwiches, pastries, cakes, toasties and the like, while daily-changing dishes dictated by what’s growing are the real highlight. Anything using the excellent laid-that-day eggs are always recommended, and smaller portions of just about everything can be made for kids, too. Also try: Frizzante who run café-restaurants at Hackney City Farm, Surrey Docks Farm and Mudchute Park & Farm.
With an audience almost as eclectic as its art, no one need feel out of place at this riverside eatery. But what’s surprising is how good the food is; while it’s no fine-dining establishment, what you get on your plate certainly doesn’t taste like tourist-trap grub, either. The menu takes a British slant and covers everything from sausage sandwiches and fish and chips through to grilled fish and roasted vegetables. You can get a free child’s dish with every adult one purchased at lunchtime as long as you order from the set menu, but at well under £10 for most mains, prices are reasonable anyway. London-brewed beers and a hefty wine list are the domain of adults.
You’ll find celebrity chef Tom Aikens’s casual range of eateries in Chelsea, Canary Wharf and on the terrace at Somerset House just by Waterloo Bridge. He’s put together a special kids’ menu offering many of the same style of modern British classics that adults will enjoy, but in smaller portions. Breakfast options including egg & soldiers, and mashed banana with raisins and honey, available 8-11.30am on weekdays and 10am-noon on weekends, costing £2-£5. Lunches from noon-2.30pm and dinners from 6-9pm come in at £8.50 for a mini-main and a pudding, with options including fish cakes, pasta and mini burgers.
Any of the branches of this Mexican mini-chain will welcome little ones. They’ve even got a special kids’ menu offering smaller portions, toned-down spices and little extras like scoops of ice-cream to finish from just £1.20. The bustling atmosphere means there’s no need to worry about a bit of noise, and the locations are pretty handy too. If you’re shopping in a Westfield, checking out the Southbank or hitting the West End, one won’t be far away.
See also: our roundup of February 2014 half-term events in London.