“I eagerly await Thursday night, I save up to go a starred chef, I manage to find a babysitter and then I end up seated next to a table with two twins who throw bread crumbs at me? No, thanks. Kids should be left at home.”
“If children are a bother, then you should also forbid any adults that yell into their cell phones or stick their napkins under their collars.”
This could be a hypothetical debate between those who firmly oppose the presence of children in haute cuisine dining establishments, and those who demand the right to share even the chicest of tables with their families, and see no reason why their children shouldn’t be educated about the pleasures of the palate even at a young age.
So. Kids and gourmet restaurants: an impossible pairing?
We’ve all learned first-hand that often, small diners aren’t entirely welcome in pricey restaurants, where the tablecloths are made of fine white linens and the glasses are delicate. But is this always the case? Here are some example of places that have managed to reconcile grand menus and little guests.
Marc Murphy, a chef and judge on the Food Network's Chopped series, has created a menu especially for children from ages 3-5 in all of his three New York restaurants. At Landmarc, for example, while the adults enjoy foie gras, the kids delight in orecchiette with baked lamb. In Murphy’s eatery, diners read this chef’s message: "Benchmarc Restaurants is proud to include these menu items that are in accordance with MyPlate, the USDA's new dietary guidelines to help our guests make better food choices for their kids."
Also in New York, the starred chef of Gramercy Tavern – and father of three – Michael Anthony is absolutely pro-kids in his restaurant. Joel Robuchon, in his two locations of L’Atelier, also features a menu of petites portions – which means small servings and small prices. Of course, it’s all relative, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
In Paris, at Chez P’tit Clément, you’ll find kid-friendly menus that will “frissonè leurs papilles”: Madacascar shrimp, fish tarts and chocolate clafoutis. The restaurant also organizes little tasting menus and appearances by magicians. The challenge is to keep kids happy and well-fed without offering them the usual French fires and cutlets.
This is also the aim of Bistrot Romani, which offers a 20% discount for families with more than two children. At the Paris eateries Buffalo Grill, Flams, and Chez Leon, kids receive special attention – with dishes created with their tastes in mind, with special chairs, and with colouring books and pencils at the entrance. Along with a big smile.
At Chez Bruce in London, which has a Michelin star, children are welcome. Although it is unlikely that a kid would choose signature dishes like Foie gras and chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche. Here are the keywords for dining there with your tots: Children welcome - Lunchtimes only, High Chairs.
So really, bring your kids, please. But only at midday. When evening comes, leave them at home with the sitter.