I remember when my little girl was born and a friend of mine came to visit – with her then 20-month old. I was hoping she’d pass on some pearls of wisdom on the whole parenting malarkey, but the only advice she gave me was to go out for dinner as much as you can whilst she’s a baby. I took no notice – she’d obviously forgotten what it was like having a baby! I barely had time to shower and dress myself, let alone even think about leaving the house. And when I did think about leaving the house I’d break out in a cold sweat. What if she didn’t stop crying? What if I didn’t take enough milk with me? No – what an absolutely ridiculous idea!
Fast forward a-year-and-a-half and I found myself giving exactly the same advice to one of my new mum friends! I saw her look at me as if I was mad and knew, just like I had done, she would completely ignore me! So instead of preaching to the unconvertible – I’m going to pass on everything I know about making eating out with toddlers in tow as painless as possible. Meeting someone for lunch is literally my entire social life these days – so it’s a military planning operation to ensure we both have a fun, stress free hour or so!
Firstly, timing is everything. Personally, a late lunch for me works really well. But it doesn’t for my daughter, so I tend to feed her before hand. She’ll be in a much better mood – and can just pick at mine if she’s still hungry. An added bonus of a late lunch date is – if I can walk there – my daughter will usually have fallen asleep on the way there and if I’m lucky stay asleep!
If you want your little one to eat with you, then an earlier lunch is probably better, as soon as you get there order their food and order food that will take them ages to eat! If it’s on the menu – I’ll always order my little one spaghetti bolognese – its messy, but it takes her ages to eat!
Be armed with plenty of toys and books to keep them amused for as long as possible! It’s only just happened to me – so hold on in there if it hasn’t happened yet – but my little girl, who is nearly 2 years old, will now sit still for a decent amount of time if I put an iPad loaded with Peppa Pig episodes in front of her!
Naturally, you may get some disapproving looks from fellow diners when using electronic devices with your kids, but do you know what? As long as you don’t rely on the electronic babysitting devices ALL of the time, the odd use is completely fine. Yes of course, we try and keep our kids happy and entertained in a variety of ways, but we can work on long chats over the dinner table once they’re a bit older. For now, getting them used to being out and about (and using a variety of means to keep them happy) is completely acceptable.
But the best piece of advice I can give you is choosing your venue wisely. Anywhere with a decent children’s menu, enough room for you to manoeuvre your pram around and changing facilities get a big thumbs up. But the real key to getting the most out of your precious dinner date is to choose a place that has a play area. And guess what? You’re in luck – Harrogate has plenty of such places to choose from!
Check out Goose at Hornbeam Park. What I love about this place is your child can’t escape! There’s plenty for your little one to do and the dining room is in the centre of things, so you can always keep your eyes on them. The breakfast menu and cakes get a big thumb up from me. There’s a lovely feel to this place – a big hit for the grown ups as well as the little ones!
Also at Hornbeam Park is Indulge. I love this little café. There are so many baby/toddler classes going on in the building and this is a great place to go with my Mum friends after a class. The kids menu is great, and so is the adults! They have a fab playroom for the little ones, filled with loads of toys. I’ve been able to enjoy an uninterrupted conversation and sandwich in this place whilst my little one is busy playing with her friends! Like Goose, it’s pretty impossible for them to escape!
Starling Independent Beer and Coffee House is in the middle of town and is a hidden little gem. As well as a great menu, and brilliant coffee, they have a play area for kids on the top floor. Equipped with a little kitchen and few other toys, it’s enough to keep your children amused for a whole lunchtime! The only (very small!) issue with this place is the stairs. My daughter kept trying to make a run for it! So just be extra vigilant – and get a table near the stairs so you can easily block your kids escape route!
A great spot for the summer is Fodder, which is situated near the Great Yorkshire Showground. They have a lovely little outdoor play area and outdoor seating too – so if you have a relatively well behaved child (if you do, wanna swap?!) then you should be able to enjoy your meal whilst your little one plays happily on the wooden horses. The play area is slightly fenced off, but they can still easily escape – my girl tried to! The farm shop here is fab too – we picked up lots of yummy local produce to take home!
Tilly Peppers on Cold Bath Road is a big favourite with us at Mumbler HQ. There isn’t a play area as such – but there’s a big sofa with lots of toys and plenty of books. My daughter happily sat on the sofa reading (you guessed it) a Peppa Pig book whilst hubby and me tucked into some delicious millionaire shortbread! It has a really nice laid-back feel to the place and the staff are super friendly.
For a fabulous beer garden (if the weather holds out into Autumn) we’d recommend the Black Swan at Burn Bridge. The kids menu is great and there is a massive garden with a bit of play equipment. You can couple your lunch with a lovely walk around the village and feed the ducks.
My final recommendation is everything I love about Harrogate –Mrs Smith’s Café! I follow Mrs Smith on Instagram and she’s a big contributor to our FB chat group – she’s so friendly, I feel like she actually is my friend! This place has a real sense of community. Homemade scrumptious cakes and a great playroom– it’s got it all. I’ve also seen they’ve been doing healthy meals over the summer, either eat in or take away. So you get to eat out, keep your child entertained all whilst keeping on plan!
As always, we’d love to hear your recommendations of other great toddler friendly restaurants in the area – especially those that serve good cake!
Guest blog by Mumbler contributor Kayti Mewis