We all want and deserve a warm welcome when dining out, regardless of the age-range or size of our party. So here’s our guide to some of the most family-friendly restaurants we’ve experienced around the country
Dundrum, Dublin; www.airfield.ie
Run by the Overend family as a charitable organisation since 1974, Airfield estate underwent a massive refurbishment a few years ago, transforming this once stately home into a modern, bright and airy building boasting stunning views of the surrounding garden and farm. There’s lots of space for buggies and kids, a menu to appeal to everyone, tonnes of car parking space and the gardens to explore on a fine day. Get there early to avoid the lunchtime queues.
- Jamie’s Italian
Dundrum, Dublin; www.jamieoliver.com/italian/ireland/
Down the road from Airfield at the Dundrum Shopping Centre, you will find Jamie Oliver’s only Irish restaurant so far, Jamie’s Italian. The portions are a bit on the teensy side for the price, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in uber friendly staff enthusiastic to accommodate children of all ages. Space and high chairs are in plentiful supply.
Dawson Street, Dublin; www.featherblade.ie
This relatively new addition to Dublin’s Dawson Street may not instantly come to mind when we think of kid-friendly, but affable host and owner, Jamie, ensures that everyone feels welcome. While there aren’t any highchairs, the cushioned benches work well for families and the staff ensure everyone feels at ease. This is not for fussy eaters mind you, as it has a limited menu that focuses mainly on steak. But if you’ve budding foodies in your family, it’s certainly worth a try.
- The Market Bar
Fade Street, Dublin; www.marketbar.ie
Although bookings aren’t taken, the size alone of The Market Bar ensures a table is usually readily available for brunch or lunch at the weekend. Families are greeted with a selection of toys to keep the little ones busy, as well as a kids’ menu that doubles as a colouring book and bench-style seating ideal for larger groups. The tapas-style menu means parents can graze at their own leisure.
- Phoenix Café
Ashtown, Dublin 15; www.phoenixpark.ie
What could be more family-friendly that the largest enclosed park in Europe, complete with a zoo, ponds, herds of deer and of course, oodles of space to explore and play. But for some refreshment, head to the Phoenix Café beside Ashtown Caste. Not only it is situated beside a playground (where Beyoncé and Jay-z brought daughter Blue Ivy no less) but it also has a small maze to explore and picnic benches for al fresco dining. The café is pricey and always packed, but the food is good. Think homemade-style quiches, salads, sandwiches and cakes.
- The Pigeon House
Clontarf, Dublin 3; www.pigeonhouse.ie/clontarf
This suburban eatery in the picturesque village of Clontarf (there’s also a branch in Delgany, Wicklow) boasts tonnes of stylish space inside and out and a delicious and often changing brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays. High chairs are available; a microwave is not (a good sign for most but unfortunate when you have baby food or a bottle to reheat). Try their mushrooms on toast or smashed avocado with, chilli fried egg, roast tomato and rocket. Book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Ranelagh, Dublin 6; www.cinnamon.ie
A great spot for brunch for all walks of life with an interesting menu that delivers on taste. Unlike many of its neighbour eateries in popular Ranelagh, Cinnamon has enough space to accommodate buggies and you’ll find many mums and dads getting their caffeine fix while the kids can enjoy pancakes, French toast or eggs in a cup with toast for around €4.
Navan, County Meath; www.zucchinisnavan.ie
There’s something for everyone at this County Meath restaurant, located upstairs above a row of shops. Along with an eclectic menu for adults that spans a touch of Asian, Irish and Italian is a child-friendly menu that offers homemade-style burgers, Bolognese and pizza. But for more adventurous eaters, there are plenty of starter options on the a la carte that might appeal, including the Thai fish cakes or the prawns or chickpea stew.
Percy Place, Dublin; www.angelinas.ie
Finding a high chair within the environs of Dublin city centre can be tough, but Angelina’s comes up trumps. Its picturesque location along the canal as well as its giant booths and oodles of space do its family-friendly credentials no harm. Service can be hit and miss, but the food is good and, between their busy brunch and dinner service, you’ll find a quieter interlude when decent pizzas are on offer.
Haddington Road, Dublin; www.asador.ie
Larger families who don’t want to compromise on quality in the pursuit of space should fare well at this barbecue restaurant that is just on the right side of swanky. The comfortable booths are ideal for families and the menu caters for tastes both old and young. Steak is the order of the day, but there’s also plenty of fish on offer and their burger is not to be missed. They don’t let the side down on the drinks either, with a decent wine list. Head for lunch with all the family to get the best value for money.
- The Donkey Shed
Newbarn Farm, Ashbourne, County Meath; www.newbarnfarmie
Newbarn Farm encompasses a restaurant (The Donkey Shed), an open farm and a farm shop. After picking up your locally grown bits and pieces in the shop (along with some excellent value olive oil), bring the kids to meet the residents pigs, goats and hens before settling down to an excellent value lunch in the bustling restaurant. Last orders are 5pm some days so get there early, and try the duck salad or the ribs.
Naas, County Kildare; www.jolly.ie
A sister restaurant to Zest in Clane, Jolly on the main street in Naas has become a reliable go-to spot for all the family. Their menu is simple, often-changing but always interesting; the service friendly and the décor pleasing and unassuming. In short, a comfortable and welcoming place with a relaxed atmosphere. Larger families should ask for one of the big tables by the window to enjoy some good people-watching.
- Sol Rio
Westport, County Mayo; www.solrio.ie
Sol Rio is located in the heart of Westport, opposite Matt Molloy’s pub. Its casual atmosphere and heart-warming food make it an ideal pit-stop for lunch or dinner. A comforting bowl of pasta is where it’s at, both for kids and adults alike, and it’s even better when it’s accompanied by some local seafood. Nab a window seat overlooking Bridge Street for the best views.
- The Kitchen
Gorey, County Wexford; www.thekitchengorey.ie
A warm welcome is almost guaranteed in this popular Gorey restaurant, with a home-away-from-home feel. The food is good quality and the kids will love the wood-fired pizzas. On Wednesday and Saturday nights between 5pm and 7pm, The Kitchen run ‘Family Date Night’, with garlic and rosemary bread to start, two wood-fried pizzas, a green salad, a large serving of triple-cooked chips and drinks for all the kids for €35.
Kildare Village, County Kildare; www.dunneandcrescenzi.com/lofficina/kildare
Shopping trips with kids in tow are rarely much fun, but L’Officina in Kildare Village make it that much easier. An extension of the Dunne and Crescenzi restaurant chain, L’Officina’s children’s menu is a lesson in how it should be done. Not only is the restaurant located beside a play area, but also children are made feel extra special. The kids’ menu offers proper Italian food using the best of ingredients, and even its nutritional benefits are listed to guide parents.
Dalkey, County Dublin; www.benitos.ie
We’re beginning to see a bit of a theme here with Italian eateries, but who doesn’t love pasta and pizza? Benito’s in Dalkey does both well, along with fish, meat and more. Their lobster linguine sourced locally from Bullock Harbour is a must-try. Staff are friendly and efficient and ensure children of all ages are made feel welcome. An ideal spot for family occasions.
- Strandfield House
Dundalk, County Louth; www.strandfield.com
We’ve been hearing good things about this quirky number, just outside Dundalk. Strandfield House is a café, florist and grocer all located on a farmyard, so there’s lots to soak up before you gorge yourself on Hannah Byrne’s homemade scones, cakes, breakfasts and lunches. Eggs are free-range from the local hens, and the sandwiches are much more interesting than the usual fare.
Ballina, Tipperary; www.flanagansonthelake.com
This local favourite is the place to be in the summertime. Located on the shores of Lough Derg, adults can enjoy the stunning view while the kids make the most of the play area outside. Local Munster producers feature highly on the extensive menu. You’ll even see some diners pulling up their boats along the Shannon before popping in for a spot of lunch.
- The Pipers Inn and Bar
Killaloe, County Clare; www.thepipersinn.ie
The gastropub has a long history, having first established itself in the 1920s but it closed its doors for a stint in 2007. It has since been refurbished and reopened under new management in 2012. Despite its remote location, you often find busloads of people from further afield arriving to The Pipers Inn to enjoy its traditional pub grub fare. Perfect for big family occasions and Sunday dinner.
- The Ramore, Portrush
Portrush, County Antrim; www.ramorerestaurant.com
Some say this is worth the visit for the honeycomb cheesecake alone. The Ramore offers a complete dining experience, from a wine bar to a pizzeria and both formal and casual restaurants. It’s generally packed to the rafters at the weekends, with eager diners queuing outside to enjoy the wide range of food and generous kids menu, not forgetting the spectacular sea views.
Kid size me
As much as we love a good kids’ menu, we much prefer the idea of the ‘Kid size me’ initiative from the Nutrition and Health Foundation and the Restaurant Association of Ireland to try and encourage restaurants to make child-size portions of adult meals. After all, lots of kids enjoy a varied diet that goes beyond chicken and chips or spaghetti Bolognese and this allows them much more choice and excitement when dining out. The up side for parents is they can purchase a portion size that suits their child’s appetite and enjoy the appropriate price to match. So everyone is a winner.
This article originally appeared in FOOD&WINE Magazine, September 2016
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