With two young children, I know all too well that there is often a huge disparity in the quality of the adult and kids meals when eating out at a restaurant or cafe. Even when you order identical meals, the children’s version is often served without any vegetables besides the thin day-old cucumber garnish, while the adult version comes with fresh vegetables or a crisp salad. To make matters worse, often the presentation is so bad and portion sizes so large and that the meal would be off-putting to anyone, let alone a fussy toddler.
I imagined that if the average mum finds children’s menus disappointing, then Annabel Karmel must be positively dismayed, so I set off to her stand at the Baby Show to find out what she looks for when eating out with the kids….
Annabel Karmel’s Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner is much loved by every mum I know, sitting dog-eared and puree-spattered in most of our kitchens. She now has an incredible array of family recipe books, covering everything from fussy eaters, finger foods and favourite family recipes to superfoods, baby purees and even some fabulous party planners. There is one common theme throughout: for Annabel Karmel, feeding children is all about cultivating a positive relationship with food.
In her books, she emphasizes the importance of good quality ingredients, taste, presentation, getting the kids involved in preparing the food, and understanding your child’s likes and dislikes.
Eating out is an extension of that – according to Annabel, you need to consider what will make the experience a positive one for your child. Toddlers really won’t want to spend more than a few minutes eating, so you’re better off somewhere with a bit of entertainment (even if it’s just colouring or face-painting) and where they are aren’t expected to sit at the table the entire time. She also looks for places with good quality food; the taste, freshness, and presentation matter to our little ones just as much (if not more) than they matter to us!
And, in case you’re wondering, Annabel Karmel’s favourite child friendly restaurant is Benihana. Her children love watching the cooks prepare fresh good quality food right at the table, and learning to eat with chopsticks.
What’s your favourite child friendly restaurant, and why?