Well probably, but we are suckers for punishment and do it all the time. We have taken Stanley out to eat since he was born, as our weekends kind of revolve around mealtimes – especially breakfast. This probably says more about our love of food than our sanity, as I am personally prepared to go through hell to get my fix of eggs benedict and strong cappuccino on a weekend morning.
Stanley has always enjoyed eating out and been pretty well behaved (especially when a plate of fluffy pancakes is the reward), so we were blissfully unaware of the craziness that would follow when our second (usually a very placid and chilled child) was forced to sit in a high chair when he was dead set on crawling around the restaurant and giving the floor a taste test. Still, we persevere and it is getting easier (if I say it enough, I might believe it myself).
Yesterday evening, we were invited to eat at a very stylish new restaurant called Soul, located at Moevenpick Jumeirah Beach. This is about a 15 minute stroll from our apartment. We booked a table for 5pm, so that we could all eat dinner together.
If you live in Dubai or are visiting at some point soon, I highly recommend this restaurant. It’s essentially a New-York style brasserie that serves dinner from 5pm, with a great kids menu, high chairs available, and some the loveliest, kid-friendly staff I have come across in the city. Don’t be mistaken though – we are not talking about a brightly lit family-focused café with a play area here, but a very slick and trendy restaurant that serves whopping great steaks and sides, with low lighting, and uber-sylish décor. My husband and I could very happily eat here on our own in the evening, so it was a lovely treat to take the boys somewhere quite so fancy and discover it was so family friendly.
At 5pm, the place was empty apart from us, which was welcome relief as we had no one to disturb. The kids were excited as they tucked into their starter (a caterpillar of curry-flavoured toast, topped with cucumber) and later their mains (Stanley had spaghetti and sausages, Wilfred had some puree I bought along from home). And when they were finished and a bit tired, we sat them in front of The Gruffalo animation on the iPad while we tucked into our steaks. Helpfully, a lovely member of staff helped to entertain them while we finished up. With the time approaching 7pm, we knew we were pushing it in terms of their bedtime – and although we were tempted by desserts, we decided to head home before world war three erupted over a bowl of ice cream.
– Pick the restaurant carefully. Researching child-friendly places is well worth the time, as having kids yelling in a quiet restaurant with piano music will only stress you out and ruin the experience. Having a toddler yelling: ‘MUMMY, DO YOU WANT THIS BOGEY?” is even more embarrassing when the couple next door are tucking into their soufflé.
– Fill your bag with entertainment. I always have a pack of colouring crayons and folded-up paper in my nappy bag, along with lots of toys for Wilf. You can think outside the box too – sometimes a teaspoon, straw, and piece of spaghetti will keep the baby entertained for far longer than the colourful plastic in your bag.
– Consider trapping the toddler. If your toddler will still accept sitting in a high chair, take advantage. Give them freedom on a chair of their own and the bottom shuffle will soon turn to dancing, which will soon turn to trying to escape. We kept Stanley in a high chair for as long as possible and he still occasionally accepts it, which makes dinner far easier.
– Treat them. If you really want an enjoyable dinner, allow the kids a treat or two. You may serve them organic quinoa for their tea at home, but would you honestly pick that yourself from the menu when dining out? Make the meal an enjoyable one for everyone and you will all look forward to doing it again as a family soon. The best family-friendly restaurants turn healthy kids’ food into something fun – so if it’s really important to you to feed them healthily at all times, check out menus before you book a table.
– Stay calm. Easier said than done when the baby is screaming, the toddler throws his apple juice into your lap, and you start noticing the diners around you glaring. These things have all happened to us during family dinners – and guess what, we never saw those people again (or if we did, they didn’t bother to come say hi). For those stressful times we’ve had, there have been far more that we have enjoyed. Some of my happiest memories are of family meals together, so don’t let the odd stressful moment put you off – they tend to happen with children occasionally wherever you are.
– Remember the baby wipes. Especially if your child is partial to tomato spaghetti and you have to get him home without people around you gasping in horror. True story. Again.
Soul Restaurant is located at Movenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, on JBR Walk close to Sadaf. Details are all here. The toddler apologises for getting tomato sauce on the seats. I apologise for not having wipes to clean it up.