The article below was originally posted on TravelingMom.com. I am re-posting it here for people about to embark on the city for the Royal Wedding. If you have kids, you’ll be interested in some things we learned last summer.
In addition to the article, I want to elaborate on where to eat and stay. I spent a year living in London after college, and we go as a family every year, so I have traveled both on a budget and as a family in the grand city rather. While I will admit that eating in London can be quite expensive, it doesn’t have to be. First of all, if you like Indian food, you can get great Indian food all over the city, without breaking the bank. There is a large concentration of Indian eateries in Brick Lane, which is in East London, where people flock to for great value.
Eating in Central London isn’t cheap, but there are chains like Pizza Express that’s all over the city that offers set meal prices (pizza, drink and dessert) and are extremely kid-friendly. There’s also China Town, where you can grab a bowl of soup and egg rolls. When I was a young girl living in London, my favorite restaurant was Stockpot, and it’s still around. For 5 pounds or so, you get shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie – proper home-cooked meals that are incredibly delicious and hearty. And really generous portions. God, I loved that place. Walking around Leicester Square, there’s also pizza for a pound and the food gallery at Covent Garden where you can pick something up and watch the buskers. Wagamama is the most excellent noodle restaurant where you eat at long tables. There are 15 locations all over town.
On our recent visit to London, we were very happy to discover that most restaurants offer a children’s menu. Not only that, but they offer a range of choices aimed toward children with healthy options. Here are a few of the restaurants to keep in mind on your next family visit to London, as well as one hotel suggestion:
Gourmet Burger is a chain located all over the London. They offer a wide variety of types of hamburgers with sauces ranging from horseradish to Cajun. They also serve chicken and lamb, as well as a variety of vegetarian options. Their burgers are about £7-8 each and are quite large. Their junior menu is £5.95 and offers hamburgers, lentil or chicken burgers or chicken nuggets with the choice of a drink. The setting is very casual and perfect for kids. The chain was founded by a couple of New Zealanders in 2001 and has a relaxed Kiwi kind of feeling. My kids really liked the food and it was easy on the wallet. We went to the Belsize Park location, but you can check the web site for other locations.
Sunny Hill Café is located in Sunny Hill Park in Hendon in the northern bit of the city. It’s Israeli-owned and offers a variety of English and Israeli cuisine options. They have tables inside and out facing the park’s open fields. I love that you can order falafel, hummus, lentil soup and more. It’s such an unusual menu for a cafe in a park. Meanwhile, the kids can munch on the usual kid’s fare, as well as ice-cream, when they need a break from playing in the park’s very fantastic playground. On a Saturday, you will feel like you are in a bit of Israel given the ambience and clientele.
When you Google “family friendly restaurants in London,” Giraffe will be one of the first results to pop up. We went to the location in Belsize Park near our hotel, but there are Giraffe restaurants all over London. Kids can eat for £3.95 and have options like fish & chips with peas, meatballs & pasta, pizza, hamburger, chicken and lots of dessert and drinks options. They give out crayons and an activity before the meal and have a lot of options for adults including salads, Mexican, burgers and more. The only thing I advise not to order is the salad. The UK doesn’t have their salad-making abilities just yet, they need some help on that front.
In the middle of Hampstead’s busy High Street is a crepe stand that has been in the same spot for years. There’s always a line, anytime of day. You can order sweet or savory crepes; of course my kids chose the chocolate ones. They cost only a few pounds and melt in your mouth. This was a place I have never forgotten and still holds true to its promise. The chocolate ones are quite messy, so take wipes. There is no seating, but there are wipes nearby to sit on while you carefully devour a crepe made in heaven.
No visit to London is complete without having a full blown curry. One of our kids loves Indian food; the other is not so sure. But we absolutely adore it. So, on our last night in town, we dragged them to a local Indian restaurant to get our annual dose at Curry Manjil. It has good ambience and very solid food. You can probably get spicier, cheaper food in Brick Lane or Bayswater, but if you’re in Northern London, this is a good choice.
Located in a floating boat, this was an unexpected treat and quite a find. The menu offers English fare and has indoor and outdoor seating. They serve breakfast and lunch or you can have sweets and tea. The prices are really reasonable. The kids ordered eggs on toast, and I had a salad with hummus and pita. Afterwards, you can walk around the canals.
And now for some hotel advice:
We actually stayed in various Premiere Inns the entire time we were in London. Breakfast is £7.50 per adults; kids are free. It’s a full buffet, offering everything from hot to cold foods. It’s a very good English breakfast. If you are looking for a reasonable hotel stay in the city of London, the Premiere Inn is definitely checking out. Hotel rooms are not cheap, and this will be one of your less expensive options. For your information, we paid £50 pounds for a family room in Manchester, breakfast included; £129 pounds in Belsize Park, just outside the center of London, breakfast not included. The London location was particularly good; it was a short walk to the tube that takes you right to the center of town, and also a short walk to the lovely Hampstead Heath.
London has so many culinary options and hotels; this is only a short list. But if you have a trip planned and want to have some family-friendly options on hand, keep these in mind.
Some of my favorite neighborhoods to eat at in London are Chelsea (they have a terrific crepe restaurant called My Old Dutch), Camden (there are loads of options to consider while exploring the market’s stalls), Islington, Chalk Farm, Highgate and Belsize Park. Pubs offer great chow (“pub grub”). You usually order off the black board and have a seat, order some ale and relax. In the suburbs, these are proper country pubs. Many have soft play areas for kids.
One last mention about where to stay in London. The more central you stay, the smaller your room, and the more expensive the room. The further out you go, the more space you get (which is good for kids) and the less you’ll pay. As long as you’re near a tube line, you’ll be in good shape.