Want to take the kids out for lunch? With the summer holidays on our doorstep and six terrifying weeks of 'free time' to fill, the need for fun activities and full stomachs looms large. You'd be forgiven for thinking that well known pizza restaurant is the only reliable option, but it’s not just the big chains that will accommodate the little ones. Here’s our pick of nine much more interesting London restaurants where children will be made more than welcome.
All Star Lanes
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 retro tenpin can be paired with good ol’ US diner-style dishes such as burgers, fried chicken, ribs and steaks. Child-sized main meals are all £6.50, while a main, a drink, a dessert and a game of bowling can be bought together for £17.50.
All Star Lanes has locations in Holborn, Brick Lane, Westfield Stratford and Westfield Shepherd's Bush
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? There's a dedicated kids' menu that offers little rib nibblers the chance to delve into three courses and a drink for just £4.95.
The starter and dessert are pre-determined (veggies and hummus, then ice lollies) but there are a range of meaty mains to choose from. Download the Q-Club app to your phone and you'll receive a bunch of additional offers as well, including kids eating free all day on weekends.
You can find Bodean's all over London including Balham, Clapham, Fulham, Old Street, Soho, Covent Garden and Tower Hill (though Soho remains 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 a main and pudding for £7, along with a tropical smoothie or freshly-squeezed juice. The yummy homemade desserts 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.
Cubana, 48 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RG. There's a second venue in Smithfield
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, most items on the children's menu cost around £7, but there is a 'kids under 10 eat free' special that pops up on a regular basis. It's best to check ahead in advance, but it usually runs 4-6pm on weekdays and noon-6pm on weekends when accompanied by a dining adult. Options include fish and chips with mushy peas and Atlantic prawn cocktail. It’s just a shame the kids won’t get to sample the excellent cocktails on offer in Mark’s Bar down below...
HIX Soho, 66-70 Brewer Street, W1F 9UP
If it’s pizza that the kids are craving then give Homeslice a try, rather than the big chains. There’s no special menu, but given that the enormous 20 inch pizzas arrive whole at the table for sharing, that’s not really a problem. Certain pizzas can be bought by the slice, too, which is perfect for those who aren't so fond of communal eating.
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 busy 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.
Homeslice has locations in Neal's Yard, Fitzrovia, Shoreditch, City, Marylebone and White City
This small chain of informal Indian eateries is a firm favourite of ours for a cheap and cheerful meal that doesn’t cut corners on taste. Alongside classic curries, dhals 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.
Mini platters are available on the special kids’ menu alongside familiar favourites, with a main and dessert coming in around the £6 mark. They're more delicately spiced than the adult thalis. Colouring books and crayons keep young diners occupied between courses.
Masala Zone has locations in Covent Garden, Soho, Earl's Court, Islington, Bayswater, Camden
London’s city farms are ideal entertainment (and education) for children, and Mudchute Park and Farm comes with a particularly appealing independently run café. It’s open 9.30am-3pm from Tuesday to Friday, and until 5pm on weekends. The daily menu is a simple assortment of breakfast items, paninis, hot lunches and the like. Pastas, fish fingers or sausages and mash from the children's menu will set you back around £4. Anything using the excellent laid-that-day eggs is always recommended.
You’ll find celebrity chef Angela Hartnett's relaxed, northern Italian restaurants in both St James's and Covent Garden. These charming eateries are more laid-back versions of her Michelin-starred Murano in Mayfair, with more affordable prices to boot. The pasta is top notch, and young diners can dive right in with a build-your-own type kids' menu.
For £10 a head, children can select their chosen pasta - freshly made - before opting for their favourite sauce. There's simple tomato, hearty sausage ragu, pea and ham or olive oil and parmesan. To finish? It's homemade ice cream or fruit salad.
Cafe Murano is based in St James's and Covent Garden
Any of the branches of this Mexican mini-chain will welcome little ones. It's not exactly a teensy little independent, but the bustling atmosphere means there’s no need to worry about a bit of noise, and the myriad locations are pretty handy too.
The special kids' menu offers smaller-portion mains, toned-down spices and a drink (hello, homemade hibiscus cordial) for £5.75. They're also pretty clued up on dietary requirements, and can adapt dishes for all manner of allergies or intolerances.. If you’re shopping in a Westfield, checking out the Southbank or hitting the West End, one won’t be far away.
Wahaca currently has 16 locations across London, check out the website for the full list.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.