I've had a few comments lately from people who were surprised when I mentioned taking Billy to a restaurant or cafe. It got me thinking about the things that stop people, and some of the tips and tricks that make it as relaxing and enjoyable as possible. As a family we probably eat out once a fortnight. Sometimes weekly. It could be lunch at a cafe or an early-bird dinner somewhere. Here are some of my tips for enjoying a meal with your baby in tow.
Now this one might sound obvious. But there is only so long that a plastic menu or keyring will entertain your baby. Imagine being an excited little baby, sitting in the sound and colour filled arena that is a restaurant, and being expected to sit quietly while your parents enjoy their pasta? Not going to happen. Bring things that will entertain your baby. Their favourite toy for example. And interact with them. Again, this sounds obvious - but you'll enjoy the experience a lot more if you accept the fact that babies will be babies. Relax and try to just go with it.
Time It With Baby's Feed.
So this one mostly applies to babies who are eating solids. When we're planning to go out for lunch or dinner, we plan it for a time where Billy is due a meal too. That way he can be involved in the whole experience. I bring his little container of food with us and the restaurant's staff are happy to heat it up for me. Billy sits in the high chair between us both, and he loves the whole experience. Usually we feed him after we've ordered our own food. That way he's pretty much fed and full by the time our food arrives. A happy full baby makes for a much more relaxing meal. Billy loves food, so despite being full he will still want food when he sees us eating, so usually he'll be happy to suck on a piece of bread, or little bits of chicken or vegetables from one of our plates. Also, actively try to not let it clash with a nap time. A tired baby has no more interest in sitting in a high chair loving life. I find that a good time to go is just after a nap, when a meal time is approaching. If your baby is not eating solids yet, then of course bottle feed or breastfeed in the restaurant. Baby may even then have forty winks in the pram while you eat. Whatever works for you!
Ensure There Is A High Chair
Believe it or not, some places don't have high chairs. I suppose these are the types of places that don't have much interest in attracting or catering for families. My advice, don't go there! Why would you waste precious money and time eating at a place that doesn't provide a simple basic requirement for a baby? Spend your money elsewhere.
Do Some Research
There are plenty of blogs and write-ups online about family friends restaurants and hotels. Some are known for their amazing hospitality when it comes to families, and for that reason the families just keep returning. So it's a win win situation. Happy families, Happy Restaurant owners. It's good business. Do some research and visit a place that comes recommended. For example, I recently had a really positive experience at Milano on Haddington Road. Great staff, couldn't have been more helpful with Billy, table ready when we arrived with high chair beside it, handy place to store the pram, heated up Billy's food and served it in a proper bowl, fantastic baby changing facilities. Flawless. We'll be returning very soon, and that is the reason. It was stress-free, relaxing, and the food was gorgeous. Highly recommended for a family lunch or dinner. Let them know I sent you!
Babies cry. Babies throw food on the floor. Babies knock things over. Relax. 90% of the people in the restaurant probably have, know or want a baby. What you are finding embarrassing beyond belief, is making someone else smile on their lunch break.
Don't forget to take a photo. Of the baby. The high chair. Your Food. Their Food. The before photo. The after photo where they are covered in food. And check-in via Facebook. And twitter and snapchat while you're at it.
Or, be present and forget all of that! (says she ↓↓↓).
And here we have a random selection of photos of Billy in various eateries around Dublin and beyond. Just because.
This is last week, in the little cafe attached to Starbucks in Nutgrove Shopping Centre. I brought Billy some of these homemade cheesy vegetable fritters. The cafe staff were happy to heat them for me. Decent high-chairs, nice food, and an all round relaxing lunch. And yes he threw food on the floor, almost knocked over my coffee and shouted at another baby. And it was graaaand.
This was over Christmas in Sandbar Restaurant in Clontarf. A lovely Italian restaurant with great prices. It was our second time eating there and this particular time was a treat from the boyfriend's parents. That's the restaurant owner, and as you can see Billy is charming the socks off him. When in doubt, hand baby to restaurant owner. It makes for a handy eating experience, using both hands and all that.
When Billy was six months. This is the Lovely Food Company in Terenure. Oh and lovely it is. It's a gorgeous hidden gem of a place. Try the butternut squash and grilled halloumi cheese salad. It is incredible. Just remember to come via the back entrance if you have the pram as there's more room.
This is our first night in Feurteventura. We brought Billy there for a week when he was just sixteen weeks old. And we had dinner at a restaurant every single night. We'd get him ready for bed, usual routine, and settle him in the pram. Once he was asleep we walked to a restaurant and covered his pram with this handy shade. He happily slept in the fresh Spanish (Balriac?) night air. We enjoyed our dinner. He rarely woke until we got home. It was really lovely.
Another snap from our holiday to Feurteventura. This time Billy did wake up. I cuddled him back to sleep and ate dessert with one hand. Sure aren't us Mammys great at multi-tasking? All in the name of cheesecake.
This episode of "eating out" was in fact, the cinema. Movies At Dundrum run a handy little mammy/baby cinema morning on a Tuesday. This is of course a staged photo (being present and all that right?) and he of course did not eat popcorn. I watched an actual movie, he breastfed and napped. Lovely all round.
This was Coffees in Sutton A nice little Sunday brunch. This is another little hidden gem. Tasty food, cheap and cheerful, and quite renowned for a "fix" if you're hunger. In a previous life I would have availed of that but this was a family brunch, coffee-filled, pre food-shopping little pit stop. The staff in this cafe couldn't be any nicer. VERY family and baby friendly. I really recommend it.
This is Cafe Tracey, aka our living room. This is Billy's "other" high chair and I wanted to show you all as it's really a super little thing. It folds up to a handy lunch-box type shape and has a handle for easy transport. This would be handy to take to a friend's house, or perhaps on holidays if it's self catering and there is no high chair provided. And at €22.99 from Smyths, you can't really argue.
Remember I spoke about our experience at Milanos last week? Well this is it. This is a perfect example of a moment where in the split second it took me to snap a photo, Billy's both hands went full throttle in to his super fancy looking bowl of baby food (I told you!). Instead, what we ended up with is a photo where it looks as though we're saying grace before our meal. Terrible holy we are.
Labels: cooking, Dublin, eating out, food, restaurant, review, travel, weaning