The summer holidays are looming – exciting for children, but the pressure is on for those planning the schedule of events, and especially what to eat in between. Melissa Blease has some inspired ideas for food that works for families
Summer’s here, and the time is right for… wondering how on earth to deal with the hungry school holiday ahead. It’s possible that all manner of get-togethers are rising high on the summer months agenda, too, as the diary fills up with playdates, family celebrations and out-of-town visitors landing on your doorstep. What to do, where to go – and what are we all going to eat? Read on…
A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY
Taking a break from the at-home kitchen can be a wonderful opportunity to introduce younger members of the clan to flavours or styles of eating that they’ve yet to discover. Lunch or dinner at The Scallop Shell – the cheerfully chic little seafood café/diner on Monmouth Place – is a ‘safe territory’, an obvious family friendly option. Yet consider this: while fish, chips and mushy peas (and even the most pea-phobic among us will adore the marvellous mushies served here) can’t fail to hit the feeding-frenzy sweet spot for all ages, this distinctly laid-back zone doubles up as a fascinating showcase for all manner of fish and seasonal seafood. And much of it is displayed at the front of the open kitchen (in itself a pretty good attention-distractor for fractious families) in a Victorian cast iron, ice-filled bathtub. If the little ones among you have yet to sample their first taste of prawns (served here in half-pint portion), mussels or razor clams, this is the kind of place that’s guaranteed to encourage them to dive in. Still not convinced? There are braised meatballs, cod fishcakes and chickpea fritters on the menu too, while an alfresco terrace offers a seaside holiday vibe… and a glimpse of potatoes being peeled through a dinky little window into the Potato Room is surprisingly fascinating good fun.
The promise of serving up ‘staggeringly good Thai food’ is a bold proclamation indeed. But Giggling Squid substantiates its manifesto courtesy of myriad fresh dishes created from myriad fresh ingredients in an environment that tastefully blends both old and new world design inspirations within the elegant confines of Bluecoat House on Saw Close. The Little Tapas for Little People selection offers a mix’n’match small plate menu (two dishes for £5.95) that’s specifically designed to appeal to palates not yet accustomed to highly spiced flavours, but just spicy enough to enthral; think along the lines of pork dumplings, chicken satay, spring rolls, chicken and vegetable noodles and mild Massaman curry, served up in a bright, lively environment.The Victorian cast ion ice-filled bathtub at The Scallop Shell
Pizza, burgers and sausages: they’re the fall-back freezer staples that every household with kids under the same roof relies on. It’s rare, however, that you’re able to offer ten different dough bases (including gluten-free options) for that pizza, or an instant grilled cheese sandwich or hot dog as an alternative to that burger, or a veggie/fish finger alternative to those who turn their nose up at the prospect of sausages on any given evening. So… let the specialists do the hard work for you.
Dough Pizza specialises in dough bases topped with all manner of toppings from the classic Margherita to the Meaty Feast by way of Le Freak, the Poker and even a chocolate base version, filled with strawberries, banana, and Nutella. If there isn’t something for everybody on that list, share a lasagne or pesto pasta with them. And if they need something to look at while they’re waiting for the food to appear, there’s a dough acrobat (yes, really) hard at work in the open kitchen.Smashburger
At the Clifton Sausage, a spacious alfresco terrace offers splendid views across Bath and plenty of space for pushchair paraphernalia inside too, should you need to take your sausage festival indoors. On the Little Piglets menu, sausages (including a vegetarian option) sit happily alongside roast chicken and fish fingers, all served with either chips, skinny fries, mash, baked beans or peas for just £4.95, to include a scoop of ice cream or sorbet for pud.
Down SouthGate way, the kid’s menu at Smashburger – Bath’s buzziest, brightest burger emporium – offers chicken, hot dog and grilled cheese sandwich options alongside the enduringly popular patty-in-a-bun for just £4.95, to include a drink (but not, unfortunately, one of Smashburger’s amazing hand-spun shakes, which can only be described as irresistible to all ages).
“Establish a camp on the Locksbrook’s huge alfresco patio and let the little ones make free with the children’s menu”
Eating out with little people isn’t known for being a linger-long, relaxing experience. Fortunately, there are welcoming watering holes on hand to accommodate both your needs and theirs: you get to sit back and chillax while they run wild and do their own thing.
The unique, innovative egg – part of the the Theatre Royal Bath complex on St Johns Place – has all kinds of everything going on for children and young people, all year round. But it’s also home to a family-friendly café based in lively, spacious surroundings incorporating a large play area complete with an indoor sandpit.
Healthy, well-balanced lunch menus at The egg run the whole gamut from paninis, salads, quiches and bagels for the grown ups to fish finger sandwiches, hummous and carrot sticks and soup in child-friendly portions for the kids. The Children’s Lunch Plate costs £4.95 and includes fruit, carrot sticks and crisps to accompany their choice of buttie, and gluten-free, veggie and vegan options go large… as do the tantalising homemade cakes, best enjoyed with a pot of tea at an alfresco table on the traffic-free lane outside (weather permitting, natch!).
The vibrant Arts Café at Komedia on Westgate Street prides itself on offering a warm welcome to families with little ones on tow, with plenty of space for prams, spacious changing areas and lots of toys and books to keep the brood busy. On the food front, downhome dinky delights such as macaroni cheese, boiled or scrambled egg with soldiers, homemade baked beans on toast and chicken goujons/fish fingers with chips – all freshly prepared from locally sourced ingredients, with no sugar or salt added – cost no more than £4, while the grown-up menu includes eggs Florentine, Benedict and Royale that are widely acknowledged to be the tastiest versions of the genre in town, alongside a wide selection of imaginative, hearty, trendy homemade treats.The Komedia Arts Café has plenty of room for buggies and supplies toys and books to keep boredom at bay
Offering swoonsome views across across the hills, vales and hamlets to the north and east of Bath from rolling lawns, split-level patios and huge picture windows, The Hare and Hounds – perched on the northerly Lansdown slopes – offers a picture-perfect pastoral paradise experience without the stress of a long drive from the city centre. In the garden, a magical woodland play area just begs to be explored, with rope climbs, log challenges and look-out points guaranteed to keep your explorers entertained for hours while you sit back and take in that view.
You won’t have any problem, however, when it comes to calling them back to base for some grub; the H&H Children’s Menu has all possible refuel requirements covered, from nibbly bits (vegetable batons with hummous and breadsticks; garlic bread with cheese) to main courses such as pasta pesto, sausage and mash or mini fish and chips, while all the dishes on the grown-up menu can be ordered at a half-size portion for half the regular price.
H&H sister venture The Locksbrook Inn, meanwhile (on the other side of Bath, in Lower Weston) boasts the perfect summertime staycation location, directly adjacent to the canal and offering easy access from/to the cycle/towpaths. Drop anchor/hop off the bike here, establish a camp on the Locksbrook’s huge alfresco patio and let the little ones make free with a children’s menu that includes complimentary bread sticks with every meal on arrival before sailing through classic faves such as spaghetti and meatballs, fish and chips, pizza and sausage, mash and peas all priced at £4 or £6, depending on appetite. Fancy a triple chocolate ice cream sundae? The kids definitely do – and at £3, you won’t put up too much of a fight about ordering one for yourself, either; ah, the summer holidays bring their own rewards for well-behaved grown ups, too.
• The Scallop Shell, 22 Monmouth Place, Bath
• Giggling Squid, Bluecoat House, Saw Close, Bath
• Dough Pizza, 14–16 The Corridor, Bath
• Clifton Sausage, 5 Bladud Buildings, The Paragon, Bath
• Smashburger, 8/9 Southgate St, Bath
• The egg café, 36 Monmouth Street, Bath
• Arts Café at Komedia, 22–23 Westgate Street, Bath
• Hare & Hounds, Lansdown Road, Bath
• The Locksbrook Inn, 103 Locksbrook Road, Bath