Baby Buddies – Reviews of Restaurant Family-Friendliness

June 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm (Baby) (, , , , , , )

Xander LOVES his own high chair!

As a new parent, I find it difficult to arrange places to go with others when we have Xander in tow, as having a baby, a buggy, and all the paraphernalia required for an outing with a baby can make a day out very stressful, and it doesn’t help if the place you go isn’t particularly baby-friendly! So, I thought I’d start reviewing the places I visit with Xander so that other parents in the area can guage whether or not a place might be worth visiting with their kids!

The Square, Golden Square, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • Excellent food at a decent price
  • Very spacious
  • Plenty of high chairs with trays
  • Friendly staff and good service
  • Good, clean changing facilities in the disabled loo on the ground floor
  • If you phone ahead and arrange it, they’ll heat baby food in the microwave for you
  • Pay and Display parking nearby in Golden Square

Cons:

  • Half a dozen steps to get into the place

Review:
My friend, Kez, and I went to The Square for lunch with our two young’uns in tow (both at around the eight-month mark) in their buggies and each of us bringing our own food for them. Once we managed to get into the restaurant (which isn’t all that easy due to having to negotiate the half-a-dozen steps and go through two doors), we found it to be very spacious with plenty of room to manoeuvre our bulky buggies around the place.

We’d been seated in a quiet corner where our little ones wouldn’t be disturbed if they decided to nap after lunch (which was very considerate) and where we wouldn’t feel the buggies were in anyone’s way, and the staff were quick to bring the hot water required for making up lunch for Xander and also to heat up Sonny’s lunch in the microwave before we’d even looked at the menus.

Both of us were pleased that the high chairs had trays so the boys could be given finger foods to manage for themselves whilst we ate our own lunches, and the chairs themselves were clean, comfortable and had sturdy restraints on them to keep wriggling tots in place! We also didn’t feel at all hassled by the staff – they came back a few times to see if we were ready to order, but never looked frustrated when we needed a few more minutes and they always smiled.

The food was piping hot and delicious (I ordered the sausages with spring onion mash, caramelised red onions and red wine gravy; Kez ordered the steak burger), and when I asked where they got the sausages, our waitress was only to happy to find out for me (they’re from Wilkinson’s, apparently, which is a company I don’t know, but will make a point of rectifying that soon!). We were so impressed that we had to order dessert (Kez had the hot chocolate brownie, I had the lemongrass pannacotta with citrus jus – both were divine!).

It was a lovely lunch which we ALL enjoyed and I would definitely recommend the place, even with the difficult entry, as a place to go with or without kids.

Rating: 4/5 – very family-friendly. Only one mark deducted because of accessibility problems.

Food Court, Bon Accord Shopping Centre, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • City Centre – easy to get to and handy for the shops
  • Large multi-storey car park (pay on exit) for shopping centre
  • Lots of seating
  • Lots of different choices of food
  • Baby change facilities nearby

Cons:

  • Tables quite tightly-packed
  • Often very busy and noisy
  • Baby change facilities are in a cramped corner next to the hand drier in the ladies’ toilets

Review:
Seeing as how we just fancied a cuppa, we headed to the Patisserie section at the back of the food court, where they have a lovely array of cakes, scones and pastries as well as other food on their menu. We didn’t have anything to eat on this occasion, but we were sorely tempted!

The staff immediately offered to take our tray to our table for us as we had to contend with our buggies and sleeping boys, which was nice (apparently all the section will take the trays for you, but you usually have to ask first).

It was a nice little “feet-up” moment where we could chat while the boys had a nap.

Note: We didn’t ask for or use highchairs on this occasion, so I have no idea whether or not they have trays.

Rating: 4/5 – one mark deducted for lack of space to move between many of the tables, but otherwise very family friendly.

The Northern Hotel, Great Northern Road, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • Quiet
  • Free parking nearby
  • Highchairs with trays

Cons:

  • Baby change facilities on first floor
  • Unhelpful staff
  • Lack of acknowledgement to complaints!

Review:
I took Xander to meet a couple of friends for coffee, with the idea that it could become a regular haunt, as it’s very handy to get to from my home. Unfortunately, it turned into a bit of a disaster.

The staff were po-faced and unhelpful from the start. I asked if Xander’s food could be heated up in the microwave and was told “We don’t do that – the best I can do is bring you a bowl of hot water.”* No apologies, no explanation, just a flat-out “no”. Now, I can understand that places have health and safety policies to protect themselves if anything horrible should happen in the way of little ones getting burned, but have you ever tried to heat Bolognese in a bowl of hot water? It’s impossible! Xander refused to eat it and if I hadn’t thought to bring along some little sandwiches and other finger foods, we would have had to leave immediately and head for home so he could eat.

They also don’t serve anything in the way of scones or pastries – you go for a meal or nothing. As I was peckish, I ordered the chicken satay sticks, but they were luke-warm (obviously they don’t use the microwave for their own food either!) and unappetising; on top of that, the coffee was, to be blunt, bitter as hell.

When it came time to change Xander’s nappy, I was dismayed to find the changing facilities (and the disabled toilet) are on the first floor, so you have to get into the lift to reach it**.

I emailed the manager to bring all of the above to their attention but three emails (and a month) later I still haven’t even had an acknowledgement.

Rating: 0/5 – Most heartily NOT recommended! Quite possibly themost baby-unfriendly place I’ve ever visited!

* So, if you’re staying at the hotel with a baby, you’d better hope they’re not weaning because you can’t heat their food during your stay.

** There’s also a note in the lift that says it only operates between 7am and 12-midnight, so woe-betide any disabled customers who stay in the hotel bar past midnight as they won’t be able to get to their rooms, never mind the toilet!

TGI Friday’s, Beach Boulevard, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • Plenty of free parking
  • Plenty of high chairs
  • Plenty of room
  • Clean baby change facilities
  • Other activities and entertainments for young children and adults nearby, including a lovely, sandy beach

Cons:

  • No trays on the high chairs

Review:
My group of local Mums and Babies have met here for lunch twice now and have had a great experience. Both times we’ve been, we have been put into our own section away from everyone else, so we can have plenty of room for the buggies and chairs (there are sometimes as many as 8 adults and babies to match!), and a little bit quieter if the babies decide to nap. The staff are friendly and helpful, the food is good, the prices are decent, and the baby change facilities are clean and roomy.

Rating: 4/5 – Incredibly baby-friendly. One mark removed only because the high chairs don’t have trays.

Frankie and Benny’s, Beach Boulevard, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • Plenty of free parking
  • Plenty of high chairs
  • Clean baby change facilities
  • Other activities and entertainments for young children and adults nearby, including a lovely, sandy beach

Cons:

  • Not much room to move
  • Often busy and noisy
  • No trays on highchairs

Reviews:
This is another restaurant tested by the Mums and Babies. The tables are pretty packed-in so there was no room for the buggies to be near the tables, so if the babies wanted a nap, we were stuffed! However, the staff were friendly and attentive, despite it being busy and them all being run off their feet.

The food is great and there’s a wide choice on the menu for those who like Italian as well as those who don’t.

Rating: 3/5 – Points deducted for lack of trays on highchairs and lack of room to move, but other than that, a very positive experience.

Chiquitos, Beach Boulevard, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • Plenty of free parking
  • Plenty of high chairs
  • Clean baby change facilities
  • Other activities and entertainments for young children and adults nearby, including a lovely, sandy beach
  • Moderate room to move
  • Activity books and colouring pencils for older children

Cons:

  • Can be busy and noisy
  • No trays on high chairs

Review:
Another testing ground for the Mums and Babies. There were only three pairs this time, so we were able to keep the buggies / car seats next to us for the babies to nap. Chiquitos also provide an activity book and coloured multi-change pencil to amuse toddlers and older children, which is great for keeping them occupied while the adults finish eating!

One of our Mums had phoned ahead and found that, although the staff won’t take food to be heated in the microwave, they will take you through to the kitchen to heat it yourself, which is a great compromise that covers their butts and keeps parents happy.

The food is very good (Xander liked the refried beans and tortilla bread!), the prices are decent and the baby change facilities are clean and roomy. I’d definitely go back again with a small group of Mums and Babies, but not a larger group, as there wouldn’t be room for all the buggies to be kept nearby.

Rating: 4/5 – Point deducted for lack of trays on highchairs.

Rustico, Union Row, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • Multi-storey pay-and-display car parking nearby
  • Highchairs have trays
  • Clean, roomy baby change facilities
  • Friendly, attentive staff

Cons:

  • Couple of steps to get inside
  • Narrow restaurant, so not much room

Review:
This is one of my sister’s favourite restaurants, so for her birthday, I took out to lunch at Rustico along with Xander and another friend.

Although there are a couple of steps to get into the restaurant, they are quite shallow and not too difficult to get up with a buggy, however, the ground-floor level is very narrow and we had to leave the buggy at the front section where the staff kept an eye on it for us.

I was very impressed when, not only did the high chair have a tray, but the waiter cleaned it with disinfectant spray (the same one I use on Xander’s tray at home!) right in front of us so we knew it was freshly cleaned – a nice touch that reassures Mums that their babies can safely eat food from it. The staff were friendly and attentive, actively engaging with Xander as they passed, with smiling faces and speaking to him, which he loved!

The food was excellent and Xander loved tasting a bit of my spinach and ricotta ravioli (he gobbled it up almost as quickly as I did!). We ALL had a lovely time and Xander quite peacefully and happily fell asleep immediately after we put him in his buggy to leave, so he was obviously satisfied too!

Rating: 4/5 – point deducted for access problems

Pizza Hut, Beach Boulevard, Aberdeen
Pros:

  • Plenty of highchairs – some with trays
  • Plenty of free parking
  • Clean baby change facilities
  • Other activities and entertainments for young children and adults nearby, including a lovely, sandy beach
  • Moderate room to move

Cons:

  • Busy and noisy
  • Staff don’t own up to mistakes!

Review:
This was the most disappointing of our Mums and Babies group lunches – we were a large group on this occasion and almost all of us had a baby with us, but despite having made the booking well in advance, they were totally unprepared for us and we had to move our tables into position ourselves.

We were crammed into a corner that was really too small for our number and, as it transpired after a letter of complaint was sent by one of our number, they had not checked the bookings and had stuck us there as an afterthought.*

Some of the high chairs have trays, but they didn’t look to be all that new and had quite a few deep scratches on them which looked dark in comparison to the rest of the surface.

The baby changing facilities are clean, but we all had to wait in turn to change the babies’ nappies and, as there were other babies there as well as ours, it meant a long wait!

I doubt our group will visit en masse again.

* Our recompense for the whole thing was a £5 Pizza Hut voucher – for a party of 10 – big wow!

Rating: 2/5 – If the staff had owned up to their error and lent a hand, the rating would be a bit higher, also if the high chairs all had trays and looked to be in a better state, they might have gained another point.

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1 Comment

  1. Matthew said,

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