Eating out has always been a form of entertainment for me. When I became a mother, I had all the entertainment I needed, right here at home. Giggles, coos and sleepless nights can leave you with little time to contemplate eating out. In fact, you barely have time to eat! But a year into motherhood, when my daughter and I had found our rhythm, we gradually got back to our weekend restaurant discovery jaunts. 'Child-friendly restaurant' was a phrase that got added to my criteria when narrowing down on a place.
High chairs were default in most restaurants we visited. A clean changing space and a place to nurse was what I needed back then, but except for 5 star properties, that was a need that never got addressed. Over the years though, I have seen an increasing number of places start to pay attention to their little patrons. Kiddie cutlery and clean toilets are always welcome, but some went above and beyond.
I remember, when Bangalore Bistro, my all-time favourite restaurant was still on Brigade Road, we took our daughter, who was just a toddler, there. I armed myself with small toys and picture books to keep her busy. Once we placed our order, our little one decided to explore the restaurant and quickly made friends with the staff. What happened next will always remain with me -- she was offered a tour of the restaurant and was taken into the kitchen only after the staff checked that it was ok with us. Next, she was taken to the reception counter, right where we could see her, and the staff took turns playing with her -- drawing, colouring, literally short of playing horsey, till the end of our meal. That was the first time my husband and I held hands in over a year. Children get their own kiddie-style cutlery and smaller portions of food can be asked for. Today Bangalore Bistro has moved to Cunningham Road.
The Piquant Tomato and Chicken Risotto that was always served in smaller portions for my daughter
Recently Smoke House Deli on Lavelle Road and in Indiranagar introduced a novel idea -- an activity book which also doubled up as a sticker menu card for kids! With the stickers, children could put together their meal and place their order with pull out tickets. And while they waited, the activity book and colours kept them busy! Truth is, I would have loved a sticker book for myself too.
A sticker book- menu card at Smoke House Deli
And can I forget Hard Rock Cafe -- because sometimes beers and burgers are what seal the deal on a weekend. As soon as the family is settled down, out comes a beautifully designed colouring and activity sheets complete with a set of crayons.
Happiness is colouring away at HRC
Another time, another place, we visited the Glass House on Lavelle and as soon as we were seated, a small glass fish bowl with a single colourful Fighter Fish was placed on the table for the little one's entertainment. Needless to say she was riveted for the course of the meal and we ended up buying a fighter fish for her on the way home.
The Fish Bowl at The Glass House
We were at the Republic of Noodles at the Lemon Tree Hotel at Ulsoor, where as soon as we were seated, a member of the staff walked up to us and said that the chef had sent out word that he was willing to customize a meal to any extent for our then 5 year old child, and to feel free to make any request. This was even before we could open the menus. Little one was mighty pleased to be addressed first.
I was also pleasantly surprised when recently, at Cafe Max in Indiranagar, I ordered a gnocchi for my daughter and I was asked if I would like the meal to come before everyone else's (since we did have a bottle of wine on the table). Ten minutes after I nodded in the affirmative, her meal was placed before her.
The Gnocchi at Cafe Max
Over the past eight years of being a mommy, I have seen restaurants go from completely ignoring the needs of their little guests, to understanding how important it is to keep these little souls happy. Chef June's magic tricks at Teppan, the colouring books handed out at Hunan, the play area for toddlers at La Traviata or even the simple task of getting a child's meal to the table before everyone else is enough to make handling a child at a restaurant a much more pleasant experience.
From entertainment options to play areas to specialised menus, the young ones certainly have a lot to look forward to on the restaurant scene now. After all, happy children, make happy parents, equals great weekend eating out experiences!