What does it take to make a restaurant family- orientated?

Tonya Blowers ponders the question over dinner at Giraffe

Related links

Giraffe Restaurants

Fallout at Fishworks as Director Departs

Eating out in Chiswick


Sign up for our free weekly newsletter

Vote in the Chiswick Restaurant Poll

Giraffe was voted Best For Kids in the 2005 Observer Food Monthly Awards; "Giraffe is that rare British beast, the family-friendly restaurant which manages not to scare off the young and childless." Obviously critics without families are voting.

What does it take to make a restaurant family- orientated? A paper cup full of crayons and a colour-your-own place mat? Yes, indeed, that does help, especially when you’ve forgotten to bring your own distraction devices. And a Kid’s Menu? Cheaper, yes, smaller rations, yes, thanks. But why crap food? Kids can be fussy eaters but generally that’s because they prefer plain not spicy, single flavours rather than six.

My daughter wanted pasta (of course) so she chose the nearest thing on offer – noodles with chicken. She asked if she could just have peas and no corn and was told it came ‘ready-mixed’. Hmm and frozen no doubt. But they could manage "just chicken". Okay – how about some raw carrot on the side then?

The dish arrived – a bowl of white noodles with raw sliced carrot on top and some chunks of chicken. I can honestly say the chicken was the worst I’ve ever tasted. In fact, I don’t know what it tasted of but it reminded me of something. I’m guessing it was the cheapest, least free-range variety the chef could find. My four-year old went for the safe bangers, beans and chips and ate it all up. They both had smoothies (here the qualification for the kids menu, apart from the size, means watered down – but the kids did love them).

As for adults (who often constitute part of a family) the stuff on offer is not mouth-watering. I chose the mega crunch salad – with feta cheese, rocket and avocado. The feta cheese tasted the same as my daughter’s chicken (must be something in the air) and the broccoli was a surprise – crunchy but squidgy at the same time and entirely tasteless: definitely frozen. Not a good look for raw vegetables. Come on guys, a salad’s a salad. Fresh fresh fresh is the only skill required.

Service – slow, intermittent and uninformed (as in can’t answer any questions about the food on offer). Intentions – good but that didn’t make up for a dreary meal. We decided we weren’t going there again. A shame since the place is cosy enough and the kids loved the free plastic giraffes, though our carbon imprint has increased. But it was supposed to be a treat (at £25 it felt like one) and a night off cooking for me. Instead I went home to rustle up some more food for my hungry 8 year old.

Tonya Blowers


February 13, 2007