Now once in a while on our Mondays together, E and I will eat lunch out. She’s not one for sandwiches so it’s usually somewhere where we can get a meal. There are places we think are pretty good for children – Pizza Express have a kids menu, colouring options and high chairs, staff that are tolerant; The Broadway cinema does children’s sized portions of their menu though no high chairs and the seating is so close together pushchairs are a problem; Thea Caffea has a children’s menu and high chairs but can be patronised by snooty ladies – but nothing has beaten All Bar One for child friendliness.
I’ve only been in All Bar One once when E was very small to meet a friend, so I knew it was breastfeeding friendly. (There’s a difference between ‘breastfeeding friendly’ and ‘breastfeeding-tolerant because it’s the law’. For other genuinely friendly places to breastfeed see The Broadway again and also Hartley’s coffee shop in Hockley.) But I have never seen such genuine child-friendliness as we encountered on Monday.
I wasn’t planning on going there, we were doing some errands in town and were just passing when I decided to go in on a whim. I walked towards the door and the waiter sprang to open it for me as I had the pushchair. He welcomed us, asked if we would like a high chair and fetched that and the children’s menu. He said hello to E.
The children’s menu caters for children up to 11 years old and is a smaller version of the adult menu. They have a nice range of food – more than just sausages and mash which you find on many kids menus – chicken quesadillas, stir fry noodles, and so on. I ordered E some fish and chips, and tapas for myself.
The restaurant was quite empty (it was a Monday lunchtime). E sat and waited for her food nicely – we had a few toys with us but she was happy playing with her knife and fork. The food was obviously freshly cooked and hers was very hot so getting her to wait was a problem but she scooped up all the mushy peas and ate them first and then moved onto the fish. I let her feed herself with her hands but she was unsure of the batter so had to pick some off. She managed to eat most of it but started playing with the chips by the end. I wiped her down, finished my food, changed her and let her walk around a bit as it was quite empty.
She’d been so good at the table I thought it was only fair to have a walk between us doing more errands. This paid dividends for her as she was judged to be so cute by two people at another table they both came over to ask me if she’d like their shot glasses filled with Smarties (they came on the side with coffee). She played with one glass full, getting them out on the floor and putting them back in the glass – the waiter tried to get her to give the ones from the floor to him so she wouldn’t eat them but she was determined to put them back – and she ate the Smarties from the other glass once I’d shown her they were edible and not toys.
The changing facilities were ok, clean and easy to access. My only quibble was that there was no soap in the dispenser. But that was it. We paid, had a further chat with the waiter and left. It had been a leisurely enjoyable lunch. It doesn’t sound very much different to many experiences perhaps but I have been made to feel unwelcome at many places just for having a pushchair and a child. Not always by staff but by customers. However, at All Bar One we were made to feel valued and appreciated as customers and that rarely seems to happen when you have a child with you.
So parent that lunch: we recommend All Bar one. Five stars!
I am reading: Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach by Jean Sprackland. This is as it sounds on the title, one woman’s close observation of the beach near Southport. It’s history, natural history, ecology and sociology all presented in a readable format by Sprackland who is, I think, a poet. It needs more pictures. The writing is visual but I’d still like something to back up how I think it looks in my head.
E is reading: The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. E got a Judith Kerr box set for Christmas. (Thanks Anna) This was great as I’d seen the recent BBC documentary about her and remembered how much I loved this book as a child. We read this at least twice a day and she knows the story so well now to point at her favourite bits and details in the pictures.