So you're off to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, are you? There are plenty of places to eat, drink and be merry at the huge winter festival, with options for pretty much every taste, but it can be busy (and pricey) once you're inside.
If you want somewhere a bit calmer and less chaotic, where you can book a table in advance, how about one of these restaurants near to Hyde Park? Most of them are ideal for families to fill hungry tummies before heading in to meet Santa or watch Paddington On Ice. Just give it a couple of hours before you go on the waltzers, eh?
Hard Rock Cafe, Piccadilly and Marble Arch
London's original Hard Rock Cafe (and indeed, the world's first), still sits proudly on Piccadilly, handily close to Hyde Park Corner. Its specialises in all-American food — think burgers, sandwiches, salads, fries and some seriously impressive desserts and milkshakes. There's a special kids' menu for diners aged 10 and under, featuring chicken, mac and cheese, pizza and the like.
It's not the cheapest of dining out options, but it has a special occasion feel to it, so worth bearing in mind if you're having a family Christmas day out.
If you've been there, done that, try the new Hard Rock Cafe, located up by Marble Arch on Oxford Street, inside the Hard Rock Hotel. It's still within easy walking distance of Winter Wonderland, and serves a similar menu, but is more likely to be overrun with Oxford Street shoppers than the Piccadilly branch, so we'd definitely recommend booking.
Meat Liquor at Queens Skate and Bowl
Heading to Winter Wonderland from out west? Hop off the Central line at Bayswater and head for Queens Ice and Bowl. Tucked away among the ice rink/bowling alley/games arcade is a branch of Meat Liquor. Burgers and hot dogs are the speciality here, and it's messy eating — have plenty of napkins ready. Younger diners are catered for with activity sheets to keep them occupied, and kids' meals featuring main, fries and an apple juice.
It's a half hour stroll from Queens to Winter Wonderland, ideal for walking off those burgers before you take to the rides.
Pizza Express, Mayfair
Mayfair's not exactly awash with family-friendly or budget restaurants, so parents may be glad to know that trusty old favourite Pizza Express is on hand. The Bruton Place branch (15 minute walk to Winter Wonderland) is tucked away off the beaten track down a mews street, so tends to have tables available for walk-ins, if you have a last minute dough balls emergency (and let's face it, which parent hasn't). There's another tucked-away branch of the Italian favourite down Beauchamp Place, just past Harrods (20 minute walk to the fun in Hyde Park).
An pizza alternative presents itself in the form of Prezzo's rather fancy Down Street branch. It's a listed building with wooden panels, beams, and huge oil paintings, so feels rather more special than most chain restaurants. There's no specific children's menu, but with a plethora of pizza and pasta options, it's a definite crowdpleaser — and under a 10-minute walk to Winter Wonderland.
El&n Cafe, Park Lane and Knightsbridge
Slightly less family-friendly, and certainly less kind on the wallet, El&n is the place to head if need a caffeine hit or light snack before you tackle Winter Wonderland. The Park Lane branch (five minute walk to Hyde Park) is the original of the incredibly pink mini-chain, and serves hot and cold drinks, including an extensive latte menu (the Lucky Charms latte is our go-to), along with pastries, cakes, sandwiches and salads.
If it's photo opportunities you're after, the Hans Crescent branch alongside Harrods is awash with carousel horses, flower walls and Love Hearts booths — and it has more seating than Park Lane, so is your best option if you're planning to eat in. It's a 15-minute walk to Winter Wonderland.
Oxford Street restaurants
Found nothing to tempt you yet? Your best bet is to head for the myriad restaurants, cafes and bars of Oxford Street. The eateries of the world-famous shopping street cover everything from breakfast to lunch to afternoon tea, morning snacks and late-night dinners. If you end up at the other end other end of the street, just hop on the Central line back to Marble Arch, and Winter Wonderland is 10-15 minutes walk away.
Pubs near Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
One of Winter Wonderland's closest pubs is The Grenadier, tucked puzzlingly away down a mews street just a couple of minutes' walk from Hyde Park Corner (don't be put off by the 'private road' signs — you're in the right place). The pub is built on the site of an old barracks, and channels its military history for its decor, and is best-known for the obscure tradition of sticking banknotes to the ceiling.
In the Mayfair direction, Winter Wonderland's closest watering holes are The Only Running Footman — an obscure, wine-heavy pub that had a photo of Jimmy Savile in the toilets last time we were there — and The Audley, an inviting spot among some of Mayfair's more hard-nosed venues.