Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, light years before I had children (I call it my personal BC), I was out with friends. This was a simpler time, when grabbing a meal meant exchanging text messages, and showing up. Without having to worry about whether you were Instagram-ready or not.
As we swept into the trendy bistro, we found ourselves seated next to a young family, their toddler drumming her cutlery un-rhythmically on the table, keeping up a steady conversation in baby babble. ‘Awww, so cute’ we all thought to ourselves as we smiled and made goo-goo eyes at the baby. Another couple seated nearby, however, didn’t feel the same way and asked to be seated elsewhere. It was their date night they explained to the maitre-‘d and hadn’t paid a sitter to look after their child, only to spend their evening in the company of someone else’s. “Monsters!” We telepathically whispered to each other at our table.
Being able to step out for dinner is seen as this pinnacle of achievement for new parents. But, unless you live with extended family, or have Julie Andrews for a nanny, you will be taking junior along for those meals out. For a smoother, happier, easy-to-digest meal, keep these things in mind:
Think breakfast or brunch
When our boys were very, very small, we never went out for dinner. While small children are less likely to pull on your hair screaming like a banshee during the first half of the day, taking them out for a meal in an unknown environment close to their feeding or nap time is harakiri. Don’t do it.
My brunch favourites: The Leela Palace, JW Marriot, Monkey Bar (Bangalore) and ol time favourite MTR in Lalbagh so you can either work up and appetite or walk off all that food afterward!
One fork is plenty
Any place that sets the table with more than one kind of fork is ‘fine dining’ in my books and the kind of place I avoid with my boys. More than one fork = one more weapon to maim each other with. There are so many restaurants marked ‘child friendly’ and they aren’t all McDonalds. Chances are, your kids will get colouring sheets and crayons. I usually snag one for myself too!
Child friendly: Pizza Express Mumbai (kids can make their own Pizza on select days during certain hours) Red Fork Deli, Bangalore. Bierre Garden Whitefield during the day.
I’m a big fan of restaurants that have al fresco seating so your toddler can run about a bit while you keep an eye on them. There are plenty of options in Bangalore, and with pleasant weather most of the year, it’s one city where you can eat outside without your foundation dripping down your face.
Al fresco faves: The Ants Cafe, Whitefield is lovely. Herbs and Spices in Whitfield is an old favourite. Also, NCPA Cafe, Mumbai.
All you can eat
We’re big on buffets in our home. There’s a little bit of everything from everywhere. This immediately gets rid of having to ask ‘What do you feel like eating?’ and listening to a laundry list of answers that includes pasta, noodles, curd rice, Ethiopian, and nothing.
Druid Garden Sahakar Nagar has a great set menu for lunch and don’t seem to mind the kiddies either, during the day.
Eat out, at home
On days when I can’t be bothered to cook or to get dressed up and head out, I order online, pour myself an oversized glass of wine, and sit out on the balcony for dinner. It’s a bit of all the above, and there’s no washing up required! (Long live Fresh Menu and Swiggy.)
Written by Menaka Raman
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