As a working mum, Saturdays are precious time. Weekend activities feel so vital for bonding and cramming all those ‘precious moments’ Facebook memes tell us we should be … and yet … and yet … apparently parenting also involves these other things like laundry, buying new clothes, returning library books and so forth. No soft focus memes about that stuff, but hey. So on busy weekends, I try to carve out some family time involving a meal time (hey, gotta feed them too!), by taking mine out for a family lunch or cooking at home. Eating as a family is one of my accidental non-negotables: I don’t bang on about it but can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone more than a day without some kind of family meal (and the earnest conversations around the intricate social politics of the over threes’ area at nursery. Who has the sparkliest tights? Did teacher really wash the dressing up clothes, making them smell of soap? And is the visiting artist’s name actually “Custard*”?).
This weekend we went to Limeyard in Ealing Broadway. I haven’t often gone on a weekend, as it can be incredibly popular and we are still in the buggy phase which makes it awkward if there’s no space for it, but this time, we were lucky. We were on the back from a trip to the library, it was 11.30am and the Childe was super hangry. Like, so hangry even “Ganmar” was getting the stink eye and we’d had to use sophisticated negotiation (followed by putting her under my arm) to get her out of the ridiculous sparkly shoe section of H&M. (I reckon the sparkly section is located between Ealing Central Library and everywhere else except the car park, as part of some kind of top secret ‘trial by fire’ parenting lesson for parents of small girls).
As soon as we entered, the staff greeted us with an awareness of our needs as a family. These being coffee and quite frankly anything even a smidge more nutritious than a Pom Bear dipped in chocolate to cram into the waiting maw of the Childe. Anything. Childe realised she was somewhere near the key food group CHIPS and switched to little angel mode, to my great relief.
It was clearly a family dining destination, as they whisked away the (soaking) buggy immediately and offered us a roomy table with the option of a high chair. No sooner was I rummaging in my bag for the raggedy old Frozen colouring book and baggy of not-so-broken crayons than – unbidden – another friendly staff member popped up with a multi-layer colouring pencil and an activity sheet. They also understood the need to order something for the child quickly – we went with omelette and fries, a glass of milk and chocolate brownie ice cream at £6.99. I had a vegetarian breakfast and my mum had a burger – all of the food was delicious. The flavours centre around American brunch at this time of day: eggs, avocado, home-made beans, halloumi, waffles, pancake and of course crispy bacon. My only quibble would be the food waste in having one size of children’s menu including dessert, for all ages of child. Some places have ‘small’ or ‘large’, which is useful for under fives: my daughter tried her very best but was never going to finish both dishes. I think if I went again I would possibly order her a starter instead, as the American brunch-style menu is full of crowd-pleasing flavours. It’s worth noting that we don’t always use children’s menus and often do the starter plus a side instead, as she is relatively unfussy (and usually ends up eating my dinner anyway, like she’s making a point that mummeh doesn’t just stop feeding you with her calories when you wean … this is a lifetime thing … gimme your toast, I need to grow and you don’t…).
I will definitely be brunching at Limeyard again with the family – it’s not as crowded as at lunch time (there is an upstairs room too, so if you don’t mind stairs you may well be lucky). The eggs, waffles etc’ on offer mean that if your family, like mine, feels 6am is a perfectly acceptable time to get up in the morning and demand Badanamu hits at full volume, you will have something just right for the late morning hunger rage.
It’s also somewhere I’d like to try on my own some time, or with (gasp) grown up company. Have you got any favourites in Ealing or wherever you live – and are they the same whether with kids or alone?