Thursday, 20 August 2015

Eating Out With The Smalls - Carluccios, St Albans

I've been on maternity leave this summer and have therefore had the luxury of being a stay at home mum to my girls. This has meant lots of outings, picnics and the occasional meal out. I absolutely love eating out and we've always tried to ensure the girls grow up comfortable in a restaurant environment as well as knowing how to behave when eating out. The transition from eating out as a couple to eating out with our first child took some getting used to, in the early days it was fine as she just slept but as soon as bedtime routines / weaning and toddlerdom hit things became very very different. When number two came along last year it was a complete game changer - we still eat out but I'm not going to lie it can be exhausting, the girls eat well but the continual task of keeping them amused, picking up dropped cutlery/napkins/crayons and repetitive toilet trips don't exactly make for the most relaxing of experiences. However what can make a difference is the restaurant itself, the staff, their kids food choices and accessibility. If a restaurant or cafe gets its right it can be the difference between me enjoying a family meal out, feeling pretty normal and in control or me leaving having hardly eaten a thing and vowing to stop off for a much needed bottle of wine on the way home!

So with this in mind I've decided to do a series of posts on eating out with kids (in particular in my case with a toddler and baby) obviously to give you this insight I'll have to subject myself to many a meal out, tasting delicious foods at my leisure but don't forget it all in the name of blogging!

The first I wanted to do was after a lunchtime meal at Carluccios in St Albans. We've visited Carluccios a while back when living in London and when Daisy was a baby so I knew the adult food was delicious but hadn't been with both the girls and with them both eating off the menu. When we arrived for lunch we were given a lovely warm welcome and shown to a large table with plenty of room for a highchair. The restaurant has a safe to store buggies so we were able to relax with plenty of space around us. Freya's highchair was the usual wooden affair both most importantly was clean with working straps!


I was given a menu and the children were given a sealed envelope. This contained their menu, a booklet to colour in, a postcard to colour and a  paid of glasses to colour and make. Having something to colour as part of the kids menu isn't a new thing as we know, it's done in pretty much every family restaurant but I was impressed with this one, the fact the kids had to open to envelope to find out what was inside was great and there was a real variety of bits and bobs to keep them entertained.


Fabulous Carluccios Specs, Pat Butcher ear rings (models own)

We ordered some olives and bread and the girls were given some breadsticks while we had a look at the menu and decided on what to eat. I have to give a shout out to the bread selection we were given it was amazing as were the olives although as usual I barely got a looking with Daisy my little olive fiend. The kids menu contains a decent variety of pasta meals as well as chicken and a toasty. We were also told that they can order from the main menu and a small plate will be made up which I think is a great idea. We went for Macaroni cheese for Freya and Pasta and Meatballs for Daisy. I opted for a goats cheese salad from the main menu.


The restaurant was pretty busy with lots and families so I didn't at any point feel self conscious with 2 rather noisy little runs at the table. Probably due to the fact they were busy we did have a bit of a wait to order our mains which normally I would't mind but with kids can be hard so I had to ask the waitress as she passed if we could order.


When the food arrived it looked great, we were warned the kids meals were a little hot so the waiter bought out side plates to put some on to cool which was thoughtful. Carluccios also provide small cutlery for the kids which I liked - it's the little things! The food was great and the girls tucked in, they then both had a fruit salad for pudding which looked delicious.


You can tell she's mine, wanted to take a pic of her pudding!

All in all as a mum on her own with a baby and toddler the experience was pretty relaxed and dare I say it enjoyable. Yes I had to pick up Freya's water cup up 746 times but that's standard and yes we had to all visit the toilet just at the mains arrived because that the only time Daisy ever needs a wee but I can handle all that if I get to enjoy a meal without the need to order wine! I never felt rushed by the staff de spite the restaurant being busy and our waitress Izabella was an absolute star. So friendly and really chatty with the girls. Looking back Carluccios don't do anything crazy special but they just make sure that the children aren't a second thought, good menu, plenty of highchairs, kids entertainment and a relaxed environment - works for me!

We were invited to Carluccios for lunch for the purposes of this review but all opinions and words are my own. 



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