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12 best family-friendly restaurants in the UK, 2016

The 12 best family-friendly restaurants in the UK for 2016 to cover every occasion. Read on to find out why they should make your list (Psst! You can even take the dog to some)

Perfect pub garden

The Lord Nelson, Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire

As well as serving cracking grub (say, fish pie or rare-breed pork belly from Whipling Vale Farm with seasonal greens and apple sauce), chef John Molnar’s Moleface pubs are embedded in their communities. All four run weekly coffee ‘n’ cake mornings for new and expectant mums and the Lord Nelson, in leafy Burton Joyce, is a real boon for parents.

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Its sunny, south-facing garden includes a huge sandpit and an Astro-turfed five-a-side pitch for kids and, in summer, it has its own outdoor pizza kitchen and a vintage bicycle ice-cream stall. On rainy days, children are given Etch-A-Sketches to keep them happy as they await their freshly-cooked Mini Moles dishes (mains, £6). Mains from £12.50; molefacepubcompany.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities | Food from 5:30pm | Dogs welcome (bar only)


Country house of fun

Calcot Manor, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Set in 220 acres, historic Calcot is an imposing pile but the atmosphere is far from stuffy. There are two play-zones with entertainment for kids of all ages and outdoor activities from football to horse-riding, which those visiting to dine can tap-into like residents (rooms from £199). Most families eat in the Gumstool Inn, enjoying dishes such as local sausage ‘n’ mash with red onion jam and crispy shallots.

However, the Sunday lunch family feast served in the airy Conservatory restaurant (from £23pp) looks a winner, particularly for a special celebration. It might, for example, feature platters of langoustines and Iberico croquettes followed by roast organic beef from the Calcot estate. A separate children’s menu is served in both dining spaces (mains from £6). Gumstool mains from £12; calcotmanor.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities


Ultimate ice-cream parlour

Science Cream, Cardiff

Like Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, Science Cream uses liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze its gelato. That process produces an incredibly dense, smooth scoop that, thanks to Science Cream’s use of all-natural ingredients, also has
a remarkable clarity of flavour.

Kids will love the science lab look of the place, all exhaust pipes and swirling nitrogen, while adults will adore the salted caramel with homemade honeycomb. Children can also play board games that Science Cream borrows from Cardiff shop, Rules Of Play, and visiting canines are treated to free doggucinnos (frothy milk). 12-6pm, daily. From £3.95; sciencecream.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Dogs welcome


Neighbourhood fave

Fat Loaf, Sale, Manchester

In a perfect world, every suburb would have a Fat Loaf, a casual modern restaurant which serves affordable food of surprising quality, where kids (look at the drawings that decorate the open-kitchen) are very much welcome. You regularly see the tables pushed together for big family parties here, at which the adults coo over dishes as diverse as sausage roll with pickled onion and quince chutney or an epic cheese and onion pie with buttered greens and mustard sauce. The children’s menu (mains £5) is crowned with DIY sundaes that allow the nippers to add sprinkles and jellies to local Dunham Massey Farm ice cream. Mains from £11.50; thefatloaf.co.uk

WIFI | HIgh chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities | Food from 5:30pm | Dogs weclome


The mutt’s nutz

Brandling Villa, Newcastle

Live gigs! Film nights! Video game tournaments! This South Gosforth pub is a hip place with a lot going on. Not least for dogs. Pampered pets can enjoy, not just water and Pedigree treats from the bar, but their own dog meals including a pig’s ear taco (£4.95). Kids big and small will love the Brandling’s NY-style deli ‘sammidges’ and its terrific burgers made using patties from Northumberland Sausage Company.

Board games such as Trivial Pursuit™ and Guess Who? provide further entertainment. If beaten by a 10-year-old, console yourself with one of the pub’s 10 crafty cask ales (pint from £3.30)
Mains from £7.95; brandlingvilla.co.uk

Cloud WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activites | Food all day | Dogs welcome


Crowd-pleasing pizza

La Favorita, Edinburgh

All kids love pizza but not every pizza restaurant will satisfy picky, foodie parents. La Favorita on Leith Walk is a slick, buzzy, family-friendly pizzeria (waiting staff are all smiles with the little ’uns, and come armed with crayons, pencils and menus to colour-in), that uses 48-hour, air-proved dough, quality Italian ingredients and a wood-fired oven to produce a cracking slice.

Expect thin and pliable, nicely charred bases, whether you go for classic margherita – the tomato sauce vibrant, the mozzarella creamy – or Napoletana finished with fiery Calabrian ’nduja sausage. Sensibly, it is not used on
the children’s menu (mains, £5). Pizza from £8.95; vittoriagroup.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities | Food all day


Grandad’s 80th

The Delaunay, London WC2

This tribute to the grand cafés of early 20th-century Vienna is a fantastic venue for a landmark family occasion. ‘Grandparents love its polished silverware and children like the huge schnitzels and elaborate ice-cream desserts,’ says olive’s Lulu.

If you want to go the whole celebration hog, order a bespoke cake from the Delaunay’s whizz-bang pastry chefs (they have recently created dazzling confections shaped like handbags and radios), and book the private Kean room (14 people, set menu £45pp), where the kids can hook-up a laptop or games console to the flat-screen TV. Mains from £13; thedelaunay.com

WIFI | High chairs | At-table activities | Food all day


Riverside frolics

The Green Café, Ludlow, Shropshire

In theory, chef Clive Davis’ seriously foodie daytime café (with rustic seasonal dishes such as tagliatelle, baby chard, lemon and parmesan cream; or a warm salt beef brisket bap with piccalilli), sounds like a hard-sell to kids. But Clive will happily serve his gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce for toddlers, bakes ace cakes (children love his brownies), and he keeps a collection of retro board games and old Beano comics on-site.

And did we mention the location? The Green Café sits on a grassy common by a weir. Kids can run around and paddle in the River Teme. Lunch 12-2.30pm. Mains around £9; @greencafeludlow

High chairs | At-table activities | Dogs welcome


Beach peach

Porthminster Café, St Ives, Cornwall

Not only is Australian chef-owner Michael Smith’s pan-Asian fish cookery on-point (Nathan Outlaw is a fan), but the café’s terrace allows parents to kick-back and relax while their kids play nearby on this beautiful Blue Flag beach (terrace open all-year, enclosed/heated on colder days).

The children’s menu (mains around £5) generally features six dishes, which are often simplified, healthier versions of the adult mains, such as grilled or battered fish with chips, salad or potatoes. Discerning parents must try the crispy squid with citrus miso or Michael’s signature monkfish curry with jasmine rice and sweet chilli tamarind. Mains from £16; porthminstercafe.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities


A capital pub

The Bull & Last, London NW5

Popular with families who have yomped across Hampstead Heath, the Bull & Last is so accommodating that it even serves pig’s ears and marrow bones (£1.50) for any dogs that have tagged along.

Humans are well-catered for, too. Across two floors bedecked with intriguing antique-y pieces, including plenty of taxidermy, the Bull knocks-out everything from next-level pub snacks, such as buttermilk fried chicken with aïoli, to cheffy dishes such as roast Cornish hake with Roscoff onions, scallop and squid ink raviolo, cauliflower and sea vegetables. Little wonder that local Giles Coren is a fan. Mains from £15; thebullandlast.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities | Dogs welcome (downstairs)


Easter egg hunts

The Allanton Inn, Allanton, Berwickshire

As parents themselves, the Allanton’s owners William and Katrina Reynolds know that, in order for mum and dad to enjoy their meal, the kids need entertaining. Chef Craig Rushton confidently deploys seasonal Borders produce, in everything from inventive scotch eggs to dishes such as hand-dived scallops and charred leeks in a bacon-onion broth, but one of the chief attractions at this spruce country inn is how well kitted-out it is for kids.

There are building games and craft kits in the dining room, outdoor toys in the enclosed beer garden and, at Easter, Katrina organises egg hunts for the children after they have tucked into homemade fish goujons or local sausages and mash (mains, £4.95). Mains from £12; allantoninn.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities


Rural hideaway

Nag’s Head, Haughton, Cheshire

When not guiding his one-Michelin-starred kitchen at Northcote near Blackburn, Nigel Haworth runs several of Britain’s best family-friendly pubs. This smartly renovated 17th-century inn is no exception. From local walking guides around Beeston Castle to games of croquet and swingball on the lawn, the Nag’s Head is all set-up for a full day of fun.

Dogs are welcome, too. The children’s menu promises real food (‘Not a chicken nugget in sight,’ as one employee puts it; two-courses £7.50), while grown-ups can feast on great steaks and burgers or Nigel’s northern classics such as Lancashire hotpot or Leagram’s organic curd with Ascroft’s beetroot on a buttered crumpet. Friday’s cut-price ‘chippy tea’ night (5pm-7pm) is a family favourite. Mains from £11; nagsheadhaughton.co.uk

WIFI | High chairs | Children’s menu | At-table activities | Food from 5:30pm | Dogs welcome


Words: Tony Naylor

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Photographs: Owen Mathias, Andrew Irwin, Chris Humphreys, Bacononthebeech.com, Kiss Photography


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