“I’m very fond of children but I couldn’t eat a whole one”, W.C.Fields
It’s easy to see why many parents of young children avoid restaurants and prefer to eat at home. The thrown food will hit only members of the immediate family and few things match the embarrassment of a meltdown in a restaurant. But sometimes it’s necessary, and even fun, to eat out. Many parents want to dine out in a way that doesn’t involve plastic trays or eating left over cocktail sausages whilst watching over your child in a pool of multi-coloured balls. It’s important to choose a child-friendly restaurant, preferably one casual and loud enough to absorb any noise your little darlings might make. Not all restaurants embrace children but with the summer holiday fast approaching, here is my pick of the city’s more child-friendly spots that do go out of their way to accommodate small customers and have food that Mum and Dad will want to eat too.
In Galway, when you first have a baby, the traditional starting point is Milano’s. While it is part of the Pizza Express chain and not the cheapest option, there are enough highchairs to seat an army of babies and the food is freshly made and consistent. For a long time, theirs was the only decent baby changing facility in town and while this is no longer the case, they have put a whole lot of thought into their Piccolo menu. Kids can tuck into a four-course feast including dough balls with garlic butter, side salad, a pasta or pizza main, ice-cream and a babychino to finish and a good selection of pasta dishes, salads and wine for the grown ups, The staff are so good and have seen it all before, they are pros at helping first timers guide their brand new Bugaboo through the tables and have ninja reflexes when it comes to whisking glasses out of the reach of toddlers. Best of all, no matter how badly your children behave there’s always someone else whose child is being even more disgraceful than yours.
If you do love to be beside the seaside, Arabica is the place to go with your pint-sized diners to enjoy a day out in Salthill. Perfectly placed on the Seafront Promenade overlooking Galway Bay and right beside the Aquarium. Call in for a fairtrade coffee and cake, or get it to go if you fancy a stroll on the prom or if you have come armed with buckets and spades. If you’re visiting the Aquarium you can pop in here for lunch or a snack as your ticket entitles you to come and go as you choose. There are options of toast with sausage or scrambled egg, half a ham and cheese panini or bread sticks with cream cheese or Nutella all priced at €2.80 on the dedicated kids menu, before returning for one of the scheduled hands-on learning tours of the ‘Touch Pools’ giving the kids a chance to hold a starfish or crab or even a sea scorpion. Arabica have extended opening hours in the summer til 10pm serving a range of freshly made pizza and pasta, gourmet burgers with fresh cut chips, meat and cheese boards, fresh salads and organic wines along with the childrens’ menu – many of which would be acceptable to older children also. The cafe is spacious with a large outdoor patio area and plenty of space for buggies so you are always sure to get a seat even in a larger group.
Mr. Waffle is another firm favorite with parents after feeding the ducks along the river and a visit to Millennium Park (which is home to one of Galway’s better playgrounds). Children love the whipped cream topped ‘Sugar Waffle’ and the and ‘Traditional Crepe’ with lemon, sugar and melted butter. Topping and fillings are various combinations of maple syrup, fruit and nuts, ‘apple cinnamon butter’ with cream and indulgent melted chocolate and ice-cream. It’s not all about the waffles though. There are good healthy salads like ‘Parma and goats cheese’ or the ‘Mango, avocado and chicken’ and savory fillings are available in a choice of crepe, sandwich, bagel or quesadilla. Service is fast and prices are more than reasonable with the ‘Philly Beef’ a generously sized quesadilla stuffed with mature cheddar, sirloin beef strips, sweet red peppers and plenty of caramelized onions at €8.20 the top of the price list. They do one of the nicer hot chocolates in town here, and are rated highly for their coffee. Their baby changing facility is bigger than most people’s bathrooms, an added bonus.
In the centre of town The Kings Head is really worth a drop-in. When it comes to children this family pub couldn’t be more welcoming. This is dining at its most lively, maybe with a pint, the match or a good live band. The atmosphere’s relaxed, the food is good with a firm commitment to serving a menu underpinned by conscientiously sourced Irish and artisan ingredients – pub food, only better! Cosy and casual, the thick stone walls are hung with tapestries and an upstairs gallery overlooks the action on stage. In the evenings, those wanting to eat are encouraged up here to separate the diners from the tipplers. There are plenty of menu items you would expect to see on a pub menu, burgers, rib-eye steaks and lasagna. Along side these, new favourites regularly appear, moules frites using plump local mussels, chicken balti with minted Glenisk yoghurt or perhaps a St Tola’s goat’s cheese quiche with a beetroot and walnut salad. They have a more than adequate children’s menu, the baby bowl is a mix of mashed potato and soup free of charge for the tiniest customers or home-made fish or chicken goujons for their older siblings. Crayons and colouring-in sheets are in abundance. Service is usually efficient too, with kids’ meals arriving slightly in advance of adults, which is great if your child needs a little help getting spoon to mouth, via hair and clothes. On the down side, the main bathrooms are upstairs and difficult to negociate with a push chair, but there is another downstairs that the staff will be only too delighted to direct you too.
Poppy Seed Cafe on Eglington Street is another reliable pit stop in the city centre, a one minute stroll from Eyre Square. This daytime cafe offers freshly cooked breakfast, lunches, all day specials and delectable home baking daily from 8am. Breakfast is served until 12 noon in this cheery room with gloriously high ceilings and plenty of room between the tables. Bright cushions for the bench seats and floral wallpaper are fresh and appealing with quirky tea-cup lights. Lunch is ‘proper’ sandwiches on sourdough or brown, salads of confit duck or maple glazed goats cheese, or Irish cheese plates and mezze platters with hot specials daily. The no-nonsense ‘Kids menu’ bears all the hallmarks of having been written by a parent – pancakes, french toast or scrambled egg in the morning. Afternoon sandwiches, soup and ice-cream or cookies for dessert. Healthy, simple and unchallenging and well-priced, plus they have an exemplary baby change facility.
At the Eye Cinema on the second, and now also, the last Wednesday of every month, there is a film screening set up exclusively for parents and their babies. At EYE Scream! parents can enjoy a full-length feature film with their babies on their laps without worrying about disturbing others. There’s free parking, plenty of buggy room, dimmed lights, lower sound level and the nappy changing facilities. What makes it even yummier is that it is opposite the g Counter who are serving the best pre-cinema snacks in town, a variety of oversized ‘Deli Sandwiches’ salads, soups, rotisserie chicken and hot signature dishes. The coffee is good and Peroni beer is available on tap by the glass for €2.95 and there is a small selection of wines by the carafe. It’s a great spot to bring kids for breakfast before an early bird screenings or for the reasonably priced kids menu between €2.95 for pasta and tomato sauce or homemade fish fingers and chips at €4.95 later in the day.