London’s Best Family Friendly Restaurants
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words: Naomi Knill
Eating out with children doesn’t have to be all themed restaurants, colouring menus and chicken nuggets (unless that’s what you’re after, of course). With a little planning, you can eat somewhere just as enjoyable for you as for your children.
From hidden gems to quirky venues, here are our picks for where to eat as a family around the capital.
The Crust Conductor
Best for… the novelty factor
What can be more exciting than eating pizza on a real London bus? From the team behind the incredibly popular Peckham local, The Gowlett, The Crust Conductor serves up thin, crispy pizzas with quality toppings.
There are many who would argue that the Gowlettini – tomato, a little mozzarella, goat’s cheese, pine nuts, prosciutto and rocket – is the best pizza on earth, but if that sounds a bit much, there are plenty more to choose from.
You can stretch out on the sofas outside or cosy up around the top deck tables on this classic routemaster. Whichever way, children will be welcomed, catered for, doted on and even (possibly) adored. If you ask nicely, they’ll even make you a half and half pizza for two small (disagreeing) children to share.
The Crust Conductor, 133 Copeland Park, SE15 3SN (and various festivals throughout the summer months)
Best for… fish & chips
Finding decent fish and chips anywhere south of Manchester can prove tricky, but Poppies has found its niche – fresh fish, light crispy batter and proper chip shop chips. They even serve real mushy peas.
At £15.40 for a regular cod and chips, it’s not the cheapest option, but the portions are big enough to share and the service child-focused. They also have a kids’ menu with cod bites and chips for only £4.95 which, considering the size of the portion, is ridiculously good value.
Poppies, various locations, see website for details
Best for… a quick bite on the move
The original and best beigel shop on Brick Lane is the ultimate cheap eat. At under £2, the smoked salmon and cream cheese beigel is incredible value and the best quality, too – these traditional beigels are chewy and moreish – but be prepared to queue at busy times.
Depending on when you visit, service can vary from over-effusive to surly at best, but a smiling child on your hip will never go unnoticed. The people working in this family-run business are a kind-hearted bunch. Whilst they may sneer at a tourist’s request for a rainbow bagel, they’ll be handing out free beigels to any cute kids who catch their eye.
Be sure to take half a dozen home for the freezer (or to eat on the way home later).
Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
Bear and Wolf
Best for… keeping little ones entertained
There are times when all you need (or want) is five minutes of peace and quiet to drink a cup of tea while it still has some residual heat. Or to eat at least half of your lunch without increasingly regular unsubtle reminders of how bored your offspring are.
Yes, you will have to endure other people’s children (and other parents…) but it has to be worth it for the momentary distraction of the thoughtfully created play area, friendly staff, a buggy park and proper baby changing facilities.
The food – house granola, waffles, avocado on toast and a whole range of sandwiches – is great for sharing with your little ones or just devouring yourself while they play.
Bear + Wolf, 153 Fortress Road, NW5 2HR
Best for… building your own tacos
With a menu which works as well for teens as it does toddlers, Wahaca is brilliant for families with children of all ages. Younger children can get stuck in building their own tacos, with crunchy cod, cheese, lettuce and guacamole, plus a drink for only £5.25. Older children might enjoy sharing a selection of smaller plates and market treats – the plantain tacos and sweet potatoes with caramelised mojo de ajo go down well.
There are designated kids’ menus and colouring pencils to keep (some) children occupied, and the staff are genuinely friendly and accommodating.
Wahaca, various locations, see website for details
Best for… a leisurely weekend lunch
Like all the best places, Forza Win is off the beaten track and much loved by locals. Tucked away in an old cash and carry warehouse at the back of The Bussey Building in Peckham, the style is relaxed and informal.
Long shared tables, high ceilings and lots of natural light make it a comfortable space to while away an hour or two over lunch. Here you will find simple, gutsy Italian food, good wines and the friendliest of welcomes.
Plates of pasta (freshly made in the kitchen every day) and seasonal salads are served alongside meat and fish cooked in the wood-fired grill. Think lemon pecorino and rocket spaghetti, chargrilled mackerel with chickpeas and grilled Tenderstem with salsa rossa. All perfect for sharing, so gather friends and family and order the whole menu.
There are always plates of pasta pomodoro for the less adventurous eaters and a growing collection of artwork from regular visitors.
Forza Win, Copeland Park, SE15 3SN (weekend lunches 12pm-4pm)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych
Best for… child-friendly afternoon tea
A whimsical and flamboyant treat for high days and holidays – what child wouldn’t love to be whisked away into the magical world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for an afternoon tea of their dreams?
With chocolate caramel milkshake, mini pink candy floss and the coveted golden egg, you can relive the book whilst you feast. Thankfully, there are savoury tartlets and roast beef sandwiches to offset the inevitable sugar high.
One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ
Stepney City Farm Café
Best for… lunch down on the farm
London is blessed with a handful of excellent city farms – a little slice of rural life on our urban doorstep. For its café alone, Stepney City Farm is one of the best, so you can make a day of it without having to bring a packed lunch.
The team of volunteers make the most of the seasonal produce available on the farm and cook as much as possible from scratch. Freshly baked bread, home-cured bacon, eggs from the hens and ducks, and herbs picked a few paces from the café. Expect the usual café food – soup, meat and vegetarian brunches, eggs and bacon butties – with Climpson and Sons coffee and organic teas from Joe’s Tea Co.
Stepney City Farm Café, Stepney Way, E1 3DG
Best for… family brunch
This independent, organic bakery in a spruced-up railway arch in the increasingly popular area of London Fields is the place to head for breakfast, brunch or lunch with the family in tow. Everything on the menu is freshly made in house, so there’s no need to worry about ingredients or provenance.
Homemade soups, sandwiches and pastries make way for wood-fired sourdough pizzas from 12pm-4pm every Sunday. If top-quality bread is your bag, then you’ll love E5’s handcrafted sourdough, made using carefully sourced, stone-ground, organic flour.
Owner Ben Mackinnon and his team are passionate about sourdough and the lost traditions of our baking ancestors. They even have a stone mill on site to grind their own flour, which will entertain the children (or elicit a million questions) whilst you sit back and enjoy your coffee.
E5 Bakehouse, Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace, E8 3PH
Coleman Coffee Roasters
Best for… coffee
Yes, coffee. A parent’s need for caffeine is paramount, so we had to include somewhere serving great coffee. There is a wealth of coffee shops across the capital catering for children – with babycinos, stripy straws and sugary snacks aplenty – but Coleman Coffee Roasters feels more grown up. Their coffee easily holds it own among neighbouring Four Corners and Love and Scandal.
A short walk from Waterloo (and close to the Evelina Children’s Hospital for those who need to spend time there), this compact café serves only one type of food – ‘oaties’. A rare sight south of the Midlands, these Staffordshire oatcakes are cooked on site and are as popular with children as they are adults. They’re filled with Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese and red pepper jelly or Appleby’s Cheshire cheese and stewed tomatoes.
Despite its lush, secluded garden out the back, this probably isn’t the place for buggies, with steps to negotiate at the entrance and only just enough room to swing a cat inside.
Coleman Coffee Roasters, 20 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RJ