Ireland’s best family restaurants? Jessie Collins’ Babydaddy’s a restauranteur and she’s got two smalls so she knows exactly where to go – here’s her selection of eateries that cater both to kids and their parents with minimal fuss and maximum mmm’s.
Going out to eat with your kids? You may be taking your life in your hands. Every parent knows there is no point going somewhere that is going to end up costing you lots of money and giving you an ulcer as you try and corale your kids away from that couple on a first date at the next table, or a quiet retiring type who just wants to read the paper. You need somewhere where you get to have fun too, which doesn’t always have to mean sacrificing your own taste buds for the sake of endless chicken goujons. Here is a pick of options across the country that comes with the usual proviso, this is just a selection and by no means a definitive list, please do share and let us know on social media if there are some more great spots that also deserve a shout out.
National Gallery Cafe, Dublin 2
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Not immediately obvious, but is more about the playroom then it is necessarily about a foodie experience. The cafe isn’t particularly cheap but you can get a good range of hot food, and more simple eats such as penne pasta for kids. They stock nice Pip juices too and are familiar with a babyccino request when it hits them. The best part though is being able to eat in the playroom while kids explore the extensive toys on the floor, during which time they can dip in and out of food, while you might be able to squeeze in a conversation with a pal.
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This has been a massive hit with families since it opened in 2015, the kids’ menu makes it a particularly hot ticket. More eclectic and thought-through than most, it does four courses for €10 with veggie burgers, tacos and nachos for kids all available as well as downsized versions of their excellent burgers, with ice cream cones and milkshakes and fizz all part of the deal. Delicious and great value, more of this sort of thing please.
The Market Bar, Dublin 2
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In terms of space and kid-friendly food, this is hard to beat. The Market Bar has long been a refuge for city weary parents, its long, generous benches giving plenty of room to squash in several little ones, and flank them while the hopefully devour some patatas bravas or calamari. Once fed, they can be released, where it is not completely unknown to roam, and make conversation with the next table. As long as everyone keeps their manners on, it usually works.
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Always at the top of every parents list, the mix of easy eating thanks to the comprehensive Italian fare, the child-friendly menu which includes dough balls, mini pizzas and pasta – desserts are also a winner while families needs are catered for with colouring and crayons aplenty, some outlets even come with a play area, so for once, you might drink your coffee hot. With branches in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.
Reel Fish Dingle
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Okay not quite a restaurant per se, but a great recommendation from a Dingle-native and a nice alternative option should you be down that way, and the weather is fine. This chipper is serving up some of the finest fish in the land, straight from the sea unto yesterday’s news with tartare sauce that is now something of legend. The secret is to take out and hop over the road to the beach, where you can enjoy your spoils in the cool, clean air. A winner for parents and kids alike. Bridge St, Dingle, Co. Kerry.
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Up there in terms of healthy food and happy faces, the menu is accessible for kids and there are plenty of high chairs and easy going staff. More importantly, this is your gateway option to turning your tots on to a love of all-things Asian. Fresh pressed juices mean you can rest assured they are getting at least three of their five a day, all in the guise of a treat and those little doughnuts with a sweet dipping sauce at the end are a particular family favourite.
Renvyle House Hotel, Connemara
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Winner of the Best for Families Award 2017 in FOOD&WINE Magazine, this historic country house tucked away on the edge of the Atlantic has been catering for grandparents down to newbies since 1883 and has made a point of making it a home from home. With both formal and casual dining, a menu tailored for all ages, obliging staff and child-friendly facilities this is a real gem on the west coast.
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Though this got off to a bumpy start when it initially started, Jamie Oliver’s bustling outpost has settled in to a firm family favourite with its reliably authentic take on Italian dining for parents with good pastas, nice sharing plates of antipasti and nibbles with the addition of their Secondi plates, so you get to savour succulent steak and salads while the kids go to it with a really comprehensive range of smaller options including fish stew, Happy Chicken Lollipops, Five a Day Picnic Box as well as pizzas and meatballs, all available in two sizes, and all served with a fresh shake-me salad and a drink of your choice.
Yeats Tavern, Drumcliff, Co Sligo
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With one of the most comprehensive kids’ menus around, the message is most definitely children are welcome at Yeats Tavern. Little gourmands can choose from chicken korma, haddock goujons, grilled fresh salmon or mini sirloin steak with roast beef with gravy also on the menu. There are pizzas aplenty too, with the clever option of a baby dinner of a Spud in a Bowl. What’s best though is they don’t stand on ceremony, they do “Penne Pasta – As you like it” as in, “With Butter & Melted Cheese,” to hell with the five a day, and serve MiWadi by the jug, as you do. Cups of hot chocolate come with cream and marshmallows with crayons and colouring pages supplied at will. What’s not to love?
Eddie Rockets, nationwide
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Ed’s Diner in London provided possibly some of the most exciting gourmet moments a kid coming from Dublin in the 80s could have, so I’m putting this in partly as my own nostalgia but also because anyone who says they haven’t gone there with their kids as a McDonalds preventative measure has their pants are on fire. It is one step away from the fast food chain but doesn’t feel nearly as crummy. Plus you get to feel like a kid in a 1950s diner too surely isn’t a bad thing.
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