As you will note from previous news articles, whether your eating at home our eating out there needs to be some forethought. Someone recently said to me, about something totally non-baby related but I think it might have become a bit of a mantra for me at the moment, plan for the worst and hope for the best. This phrase I feel is certainly applicable when mixing little hands and food in any environment but when you are heading to a fine dining restaurant or having a meal for a special occasion a little planning can make the whole experience pure delight, even for the waiter.
I would also add that, you may feel eating at a fancy restaurant is simply for adult enjoyment and will be a total nightmare when you add a little person to the mix. However, here at Baby DW we would strongly disagree. We would say both Indy and Rupert love eating out, in any type of restaurant or cafe. They love the sense of occasion, the social interaction, the food and they delight in watching what’s going on.
Over the past year and a bit of eating out with our little people, we have come up with some top tips specifically for eating out in fine dining restaurants that will allow you to plan for the worst but actually have an amazing time.
Call ahead and make sure eveyone is informed. Call the restaurant in advance, especially if its the first time you are going. Let them know there is a child in the booking, tell them the age of the child and confirm the restaurant is happy with them being there. This is a great opportunity to asses how welcoming they really are going to be, the last thing you want is to feel you are being tolerated rather than welcomed, also it is possible that they may have a no-child policy. If the restaurant seems not keen on little people or you get a bad feeling about the booking, cancel it and go somewhere else, we have plenty of recommendations.
Make sure they know your requirements for the meal. Our requirements usually include – a large table (room to move cutlery plates etc away from little hands); a high chair and room for a pushchair. Even if a restaurant is happy to have your little one there, they may not have a high-chair or only a limited number available, they may not have baby change facilities and you need to know this ahead of time.
Best place to sit. If you have been before, ask to be seated in an area that you know will work for you. If its a new restaurant for you, ask their advice. If you are a large party with several little people, ask if there is a private dining room that may be available. If there is a bar area in the restaurant we will often ask to be seated in this area is it is often more relaxed and noisier.
Know yours and your little peoples’ limits. Consider this when eyeing up the tasting menu, perhaps this is the time to go with starters and mains and if all is going well you can sneak in a dessert too – we also tend to have worked out our order before we arrive in order to avoid a long wait for food at the start. You may also want to consider express menu options or let the waiter know not to spread the meal out too much.
Have a backup plan if things start to go wrong. Restaurants understand that children are noisy and that babies cry, however, if you are in a fancy restaurant this may make you feel uneasy even if everyone else is not bothers – be assured that so long as you are addressing any ‘situations’, no one will probably even notice. I also like to remind myself that the chances are, even if things go wrong your table is not going to be as noisy or messy as the bankers from last night!!! And there are plenty of adults with worse table manners than your little person. We always go out with a book or two in change bag and are always ready for one of us to head off on a tour of the restaurant or the local area. Crafts and games are perfect for older children. In ‘French Children Don’t Through Food’, Pamela Druckerman recounts being told by one of her friends, that in these situations one should recount stories of your life before it was filled with little people (apparently children love to hear about what you got up to before they existed) – I have so far tried this once, and I have to say it worked a treat!
Keep up appearances. Keep being polite and calm. If your little person throughs their truffle paster on the floor, clean it up!