Authentic Italian pizzeria, American burger joints, Sushi, pub grub, and even Texas/Caribbean BBQ fusion; yep, the Shire really has no shortage of interesting family-friendly dining spots.
Whether you’re eating out for a special treat, or just can’t be stuffed with shopping/prep/cooking/cleaning, there’s no reason why dining out with kids shouldn’t be a pleasurable, dare we say it, relaxing experience.
“It’s definitely worth the effort. Eating out together as a family has so many positive health benefits.” said, local Nutritionist Kimberley Wright. She continued: “It fosters stronger family bonds, and creates feelings of inclusion and togetherness for our little ones. It also exposes them to different social situations, and a variety of tastes and textures, encouraging them to try different flavours.”
Tracey Hobbs from The Birdcage Café in Engadine, agrees eating out as a family can be a fantastic experience, she said: “We welcome kids with open arms and love to see families enjoying breakfast or lunch together at our café. The kids love our play area, meeting our staff with disabilities and taking part in our holiday activities.”
If you’ve endured one too many fraught meals out with your little people in tow and your brain is screaming NOPE, NO, NO, NOT WORTH THE EFFORT, we’ve got some tips that will turn highchair wrigglers and food throwers into budding little gourmands before you know it!
Before You Go
Leave the quiet, starchy restaurants for date night. Pick somewhere with a buzzing atmosphere like Cronulla RSL, The Prince in Kirrawee or Club Central Menai. That way no one is going to bat an eyelid if your kids are a bit “lively”.
All three venues have their menu online and the range of meals available is extensive. If you look it up before you go, you can get an idea of what’s on offer and ensure there’s something your child will eat. Plus, you can order as soon as you arrive and fill up those little bellies quickly.
Extensive kids’ facilities, family-friendly seating and kids’ activities and/or entertainment, are also available at the above locations. But, with many smaller venues, if you need a highchair, call ahead and check the restaurant has them… We know of a few popular, local hole-in-the-wall joints that only have the one. Awks if you rock up and it’s already occupied.
Book a table so you don’t have to hang around entertaining a dreaded hangry monster child.
Eat off-peak if you can; lunch at 11am, dinner at 5pm. Food should come out quickly and grumbling tummies will get fed faster.
Interactive food can keep things interesting; kids love slurping noodles or selecting delicious morsels from a tasting plate. It gets everyone involved and the kids have permission to play with their food!
Bradley Bishop, Operations Manager at Cronulla RSL, said: “ask for a free colouring pack when you arrive at our restaurant, that way you can keep little ones entertained at the table while you decide what to order”.
Before You Order
- Kimberley Wright, Nutritionist, added the following tips for ensuring a healthy meal out: “Avoid fizzy drinks by replacing them with sparkling water – kids love the bubbles. Ask for some lemon or mint to be added for some flavour, otherwise milk-based drinks like smoothies that contain fruit and yoghurt are a great option. If your kids insist on something sweet that isn’t milk based, ask for some juice diluted with water – most restaurants are happy to oblige.”
- Kimberley added the following tips. Don’t feel limited to the kids’ menu; often the meals come with a side of chips or are deep-fried crowd pleasers. You can ask to replace the chips with a bowl of steamed veggies or ask if a main meal can be made in a children’s portion.
- If your child has a food allergy always mention this before ordering. Even if you have dined at the same restaurant and ordered the same dish before, always raise it as recipes are often tweaked
- Encourage kids to choose dishes that contain veggies! As many colours as possible and prepared in different ways. They might be surprised by just how delicious vegetables can be!
During the Meal
- If you’re sensing your little one’s hunger is mounting, order a bread basket or some nibbles as soon as you sit down. This will keep hunger at bay until your meal arrives.
- Ask for an extra side plate to allow food to cool down quicker.
- Encourage children to taste other dishes and experience new flavours or order a selection of dishes for everyone to dig in and share. Eating out can be an exciting opportunity for kids to try new foods, especially when everyone else is enjoying them too.
- Keep electronic devices up your sleeve only as a last resort. Include your child in dinner table conversations – eating out is a great social experience, and enjoyment will come as much from sharing the experience as eating the food. You might be surprised how your kids rise to the occasion.
- If it all goes pear-shaped have an escape plan and know when to cut your losses. Ask the staff to pack your food up, and bring the bill, so you can hot foot it right out of there. Most restaurants will understand and do everything they can to help you.
Like with many things with little ones, dining out takes practice. If you find a restaurant that suits you, the more times you go, the more relaxing the experience. Wait staff who are especially attentive may get your kids’ favourite dish ready as soon as you walk in the door or greet you personally. Kids just love that!
We hope these ideas will help you to embrace eating out as a whole family. For further information check out our family-friendly dining listings. And, feel free share your own tips and tricks for eating out over on our Mums of the Shire community page and tag us in your pics on Instagram – @mumsoftheshire.