Before children, we ate out regularly without pause for thought. I’d get home from work at 6ish and we’d decide: make dinner or go out. Simple as that. We were blissfully unaware of the trials and tribulations of eating out with kids.
These were the days before never-ending bedtime routines and evenings filled with next day organisation, chores, work and sofa naps at 9pm. Or the need for babysitters. Or the big shop.
These were the days in central Brighton. In a flat directly above Wagamama. Oh how I miss our proximity to the noodlemongers.
Now, even the thought of spontaneous eating out on a (literal) school night is preposterous.
New House, New Baby
As soon as we moved out of town and daughter number one arrived, the luxury of deciding to eat out on a whim was gone. Well, almost.
We had a car and a surprisingly happy baby. Eating out with a bonny new born is a cinch. And well worth taking advantage of. In the early months, we regularly took our babe-in-arms to dine with us.
These early days trips saved my sanity. After years of being an independent do-as-you-please adult, being homebound with a tiny baby was a stark change. But I have lots of happy memories of this time. I was incredibly proud to be a new mummy. Despite zero sleep, around the clock milk demands and staying in a whole lot more, sitting in a restaurant with a brand new bundle of joy felt epic. And you get used to having your food cut up by another adult very quickly. I quite liked it.
The real fun began when The Big One started moving and eating. Suddenly more and more places became unsuitable. We aimed to wean her on the best; she wanted to eat what we were eating and refused purées. Taking baby food with us was pointless. The mess made by a BLW baby is horrific. And that’s before you get into the salt content of restaurant food (you don’t worry so much with subsequent babies…).
Then she wanted to move and hated to stay put in a high chair. I was suddenly jealous of non-movers who sat happily strapped in for the duration of dinner. We didn’t have one of those. We had a wriggler who walked early and wanted to get on with the business of exploring.
The list of no grew when her sister arrived. Even Costa was a struggle with 2 under 2 and to be honest we kind of gave up on eating out AND having a nice time.
For the first time in our life as a couple (some 9 years in) we couldn’t eat out without some serious planning. We also had to lower our expectations a lot too. We had a clingy babe who wouldn’t be left and a headstrong toddler who wouldn’t sit still. Date nights were off the table; enjoyable family meals out were pretty much gone too. If you’re in this space, I’m sorry. It’s shit but on the bright side, it gets better. I promise. You might just need to give it a year (or two).
They Grow So Fast
As children grow up, and they grow fast, things get easier.
During the Bad Time we learned new tricks, took it in turns to take tantrums outside and dropped our standards. Meals out had to last less than an hour, you need to be armed with patience and distractions, checking the menu and knowing what you’re going to eat helps and taking snacks is to be advised.
Over the past couple of years, things have slowly improved. They’re super happy to colour in, chat, play simple games or watch what’s going on. And they’re more than happy to go for a monthly sleepover at Grandma’s now. My clingy can’t-be-left-for-a-minute baby doesn’t even look backwards when we leave for a night off. I never imagined this day would arrive. Let alone being able to do it as a regular thing.
A New Age
We’ve had some really decent meals out with the girls; and some extraordinarily nice date nights over the last 18 months. The children are much more civilised. We’re enjoying this new status quo.
We’ve spent 6.5 years trying out places that offer something for everyone. There’s been a lot of trial and error.
Sussex Born & Fed showcases our family faves. Our tried and tested. My little tribe’s wins.
The Ultimate Guide for Eating Out with Kids
And on the back of a year of intense eating out, 2019, the year of 4 little pigs, I’ve put together Sussex Born & Fed Gold. This is the ultimate guide to the very best family-friendly places in Sussex where no-one has to compromise.
It’s a resource that I plan to grow. But more than that, I hope it’s a resource that you find invaluable. I’d love it if Sussex Born & Fed readers feel that they can eat out on our recommendation with confidence. With their family. And know that a good time is in sight. Even if their little tribe is in the Bad Time.
The Journey Continues…
I say grown-up. But my girls are little. They’re 4 and 6. They’re still small. The quest for the best family-friendly places is still on. You’ll find the list is ever-growing. We’re lucky here in Sussex. I’ve got a whole list of places we haven’t visited yet ready and waiting for 2020. I’ve got a good feeling that there are quite a few more SB&F Gold nuggets hidden in that list 🤩.
Merry Christmas from Team Sussex Born & Fed
Don’t forget to let me know if you’re eating out with kids over the festive season and stumble over any gems. I’d love to hear from you. Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas and thanks for being here this year. ❤️. There’s one more article in the pipeline for 2019. Don’t forget to sign up for all the latest news 👇🏻