Lizzie Gore-Grimes advises on a few top spots to try when you have the toddlers in town.
Recently done up, the new improved Airfield farm in Dundrum is seriously impressive. With beautifully crafted play areas, idyllic woodland grounds to explore and well-kept farm animals to visit and admire - the kids will be enchanted. Depending on the time of day you visit the kids can watch the Jersey cows being milked or the eggs being collected. And unlike many big family attraction venues where the food offering is just a fried-fast-food fiasco the Overends Caf? at Airfield is top-notch. It's spacious and light-filled with gorgeous views out over a reflecting pool, animals grazing and fruit and vegetables growing in the kitchen field beyond. Much of the produce on the menu is sourced from the gardens and farm, and kids are very much considered with a menu offering nutritious choices such as boiled egg and soldiers, ham and cheese sandwich?with vegetable batons, sausage and mash?with fresh vegetable, penne with homemade tomato sauce. Plus lots of lovely homemade baked treats.
Airfield, Dundrum, Dublin 14.?airfield.ie
If you've got kids in tow there are a few key things you look for in a restaurant: ?Space (so you can keep your little tikes away from non-child-toting diners), a decent kid's menu (not just nuggets and chips), understanding staff (for obvious reasons) and any little distractions such as colouring sets are a total bonus. Carluccios on Dawson Street offers all of the above. They give you gorgeous little Italian food-themed play kits when you sit down. The kids can then pick their favourite pasta shape and pair it with tomato basil sauce or butter and parmesan. They also get a gelato and a drink thrown in for under €10. Everything is made fresh on site and there are lots of tasty options for grown ups too, including a decent selection of wine by the glass ??essential when you're trying to brave town with your bambinos.
For budding culture vultures Itsa Imma offers plenty of space and a room dedicated to families full of toys, books and easels.?They have an appealing kids menu offering child-friendly bagels such as Snakes and Ladders (with bacon, sausages and butter) or the Wee One (with crunchy peanut butter and sliced banana). They also offer homemade smoothies, juices and lemonades, and yummy freshly baked buttermilk scones. A really nice choice if you want to meet a friend with kids for a coffee in a more interesting setting.
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin 8.?imma.ie
Crabby Jo's, Howth
Howth now boasts a very decent selection of casual places for a bite to eat but Crabby Jo's is a particularly family-friendly option. Armed with their Crabby Jo colouring kit the kids can then choose between mini fish and chips, kid's portion of fresh fish of the day, pan-seared salmon or even mini fillet of beef. They also do a baby bowl of fresh mashed veg. And all kids meals are topped off with one of their legendary Little Nippers ice cream floats. Save a few bits of bread and once everyone's finished bring the kids out to the pier where there are always a few hungry seals looking to be fed. They'll love it.
Crabby Jo's, West Pier, Howth.?crabbyjos.com
The Hen House, Dun Laoghaire
Let the kids work up an appetite with a scoot up and down Dun Laoghaire Pier and then head into the Hen House for an easy-going, family-friendly feed. They offer plenty of room, comfy booths, good baby changing facilities, a kid's colouring pack and a decent children's menu. Grilled corn on the cob, freshly made fish fingers, kid's burger on a Waterford Blaa and homemade buttermilk chicken tenders are just some of the tasty choices for young diners. And all kids meals (?7.95) include a scoop of ice cream for dessert.
The Pavilion, Dun Laoghaire.?thehenhouse.ie
More great choices for ?
? any occasion - Milanos. A firm favourite with busy parents. The Piccolo menu includes dough balls and fresh veg sticks, followed by a choice of (kid size) pizza or freshly made pasta, followed by ice cream for €8.95. Great value and always goes down a treat.
? bulky buggies - The Herbert Park Hotel offers lots of room, a decent enough kids menu and best of all close proximity to Herbert Park so you can take them for a stroll to feed the ducks after.
? Sunday lunch - The ChopHouse on Shelbourne Road offers a great children's menu. The little people enjoy the same quality fare as the adult menu just smaller portions. The children's menu is now offered every day but Sunday lunch is a particular treat in the ChopHouse.
?for micro hipsters - The Fumbally has plenty of room for buggies and tots to run around and everyone is very chilled so no snotty faces if junior is a little overexcited. And plenty of healthy treats and nice choices for kids.