Thursday, 18 July 2013

Little Things

Location: Aylesbury, UK
My brand-spanking-new food column launched last month in the latest edition of Vale Life Magazine, a fantastic free publication covering the Aylesbury and Thame area. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, then make yourself a cuppa, put your feet up and take five... here it is in full.

FoodieOn Tour - Food and Restaurant Reviews Oxford
June/July Column in Vale Life

I'm not sure when I first realised I was a ‘foodie’; maybe it was baking as a child, or booking my first restaurant as an adult. What I do know is that my life as a ‘foodie’ changed the moment I became a parent. Gone are leisurely lunches and impromptu dinners out, replaced by apprehensive eating (awaiting cries of hunger/boredom/thirst/discomfort/all of the above) and pre-planned ‘date nights’ with a babysitter on duty.

Don’t get me wrong, MiniF is mostly a very well behaved little boy, but he’s just that - a little boy. Children aren’t fully developed emotionally, they get hungry/bored/thirsty/tired/restless/all of the above and don’t know how to express it - other than with peace-shattering howls. I understand if you don’t have kids you may not appreciate this while enjoying your meal, but, does that mean I forgo the right to restaurant food unless MiniF is elsewhere? No, I don’t think it does.

Having looked at the restaurant scene with parental eyes for the last year and a half, I've been, mostly, incredibly impressed; 99.9% of places we've visited have been perfectly accommodating, we've never been tutted at by other diners, most venues have high chairs or booster seats, some offer crayons and colouring sheets. There will, of course, be the odd place that doesn't welcome children – maybe they've been put off in the past by kids running wildly amongst other diners (I may tut at this myself), or don’t want the peace and quiet of their restaurants shattered by screaming children. Ultimately though, I feel it’s positive for restaurants to welcome children, it’s an opportunity to teach them about food, good table manners, social etiquette, etc. No, of course, you don’t want my child driving you crazy over a quiet lunch, but, you know what, neither do I. If my child cries, I’ll console him; if he won’t stop, I’ll walk outside with him. It falls to the parent to be responsible for their child(ren), but at the same time, restaurants need to trust parents to do this.

FoodieOn Tour - Food and Restaurant Reviews Oxford

There’s only one venue I recall disappointing us; somewhere we’d visited previously, but had since employed a new, Michelin star, chef. On calling to arrange a high chair, we were advised children were not allowed in that restaurant… hmm… OK. Keen to go, we settled on a meal in their other restaurant, where children were allowed. We had a lovely meal, but I can’t pretend it wasn't tainted by the other chef not welcoming us, or specifically, MiniF. Funnily enough, we stuck our noses around the door to check out the Michelin starred restaurant and were surprised to see it… completely empty. I guess they achieved the peace and quiet they were aiming for after all!

You may feel Michelin starred restaurants should indeed refuse children - if you’re paying a high price for top-end food, you don’t want to be disturbed by noisy children, right? Thankfully, this isn't felt across the board. Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, in Great Milton, is incredibly family friendly, welcoming children of any age, in any part of their restaurant, offering a wonderful children’s menu. I'm truly warmed by this, not that I spend most of my time in Michelin starred restaurants!

So, with my new found parental experience, I’d like to applaud restaurants who do welcome children; aren't they, after all, the ‘foodies’ of the future…?

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