KENT’S BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS
For those of us with children, finding a family-friendly restaurant can be a tough job. Just because there is a climbing frame in the beer garden, it doesn’t mean that children will be welcomed with open arms. And just because there’s a kids’ menu, it doesn’t mean that the food is going to be something you’d be happy to serve your little ones.
It takes something special to make a truly family-friendly restaurant, and searching them out can be a thankless – and many times a fruitless – task. Eating out with family, including young children, shouldn’t be hard. It should be something to enjoy, but going to the wrong restaurant can result in being uncomfortable and wishing you just hadn’t bothered. Disapproving looks from other diners – even when the kiddies are being well behaved – do nothing for the appetite.
This month, insideKENT has rounded up a great selection of truly family-friendly places to eat across Kent, so you can spend less time looking and more time eating (and playing, and colouring…)!
The Venue at Hempstead Valley, Gillingham
With Nando’s, Frankie and Benny’s, Friendly Phil’s, and Bella Italia all in one place, at The Venue in Gillingham’s Hemptead Valley Shopping Centre you have your choice when it comes to excellent restaurants to treat the family in. Each of these four restaurants is known for being the ideal place to take your entire family, and everyone from the youngest to the oldest will enjoy the wide range of food and drink available.
Kids’ meal deals, activities, staff who will make the time to talk to your little ones as well as you… it all makes a difference as to how much you will enjoy your dining experience, and at The Venue, you get all of that and more.
The Canterbury Bell, Broadstairs
There is a wide range of food on offer at the very child-friendly Canterbury Bell in Broadstairs. The menu is all about good, hearty, pub grub that is elevated to the next level thanks to the care and attention that the chefs are able to give it. When it comes to the children, there is a dedicated children’s menu featuring all their favourites including fish fingers, sausages and chicken nuggets. And if burgers are what your family love, then they’ll adore the burger bar where they get to design their own. There is a meal deal that includes any main, dessert and a drink for £5.99, and what with the play areas the entire family will love eating here.
The Veg Box, Canterbury
Eating at a vegetarian restaurant is certainly one way to ensure that your children have at least some of their five a day; they’ll have no choice! But at The Veg Box in Canterbury they won’t mind that in the least. Food includes the salad box where you can choose your own salad ingredients, tasty homemade soup (different every day) and plenty of cake – all made in the café itself. There is no separate menu for children, as everything is made with everyone in mind. And if the youngsters do get a little bored while their parents sit and relax for a while, that’s just fine; at The Veg Box there is a play area filled with books and toys – the kids can even eat there.
Castle Lake Brewers Fayre, Leybourne
The Castle Lake Brewers Fayre is in the perfect place for a great family dinner if you’ve been for a great day out at Leeds Castle, Kent Life, or even Rochester. Located in Leybourne, West Malling, it’s a great way to enjoy some good, honest food at a great price after a family day of fun – or even just because you fancy going out! Inside there is a huge soft play area and climbing frame as well as a quieter chill out area for children which has a TV and loads of bean bags to relax on. There is also a large climbing frame outside, so no matter what time of year, or time of day, the children will be entertained whilst you get to actually finish an entire meal. They probably won’t want to leave, so why not treat yourself to a coffee to finish things off nicely? The kids’ menu is extensive so there is going to be at least one thing your children like including the ‘nacho splatcho’ served with cucumber sticks and a cheesy yoghurt dip, the Bash Street Burger and mini doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce.
Papa’s Barn, Ditton
Using only the finest and freshest fish in their dishes, this is possibly the very best fish and chip restaurant in the area – and when it comes to welcoming children, the atmosphere is totally child friendly. Parents don’t need to worry about the quality of the food; it’s excellent, and everything is cooked on the premises ensuring premium products. Although this is a traditional fish and chip restaurant, there is more on the menu besides (just in case the children don’t fancy fish, as is sometimes the case). You can also order burgers, pies, an all day breakfast or even a steak. There is even a breakfast menu. Plus – bonus – kids eat free on Sundays!
Deeson’s is a privately owned restaurant in Canterbury that uses – wherever possible – locally sourced ingredients in the dishes served, even down to growing and rearing some of the vegetables and meat on the attached smallholding. The cuisine is what might be described as ‘British’, and that means that it is hearty and delicious, and the kids will love it. The children’s menu is diverse, and has favourites such as sausage and mash on it as well as a child’s rump steak. For younger diners there is even a platter of finger foods consisting of salad, cheese, boiled egg, bread and a dip. It’s perfect for those who are just starting to feel themselves and who don’t want to worry about cutlery (it’s great for parents too as they can enjoy their own meal without needing to feed the children!).
Waggon at Hale, Chatham
This small and friendly restaurant treats children as people in their own right, meaning that they can join in and be part of the family occasion themselves. They will immediately be made to feel welcome and at home, and the lovely children’s menu (which includes ‘Kent Korker’ sausages, spaghetti bolognaise and a variety of sandwiches all served with fries or creamy mash and peas, beans or salad) is freshly cooked or made to order. The beer garden is the star of the show, and includes a fabulous play area for the kids which, because the outside space is large, doesn’t get in the way and allows the children to run around to their heart’s content. Perhaps the real surprise is the mini farm which is open for everyone to enjoy.
The food at Griggs is a wonderful variety of fish with a twist (a bacon and scallop roll, for example, or a crab and cheese croquette with chilli jam). It is different enough for the children to be intrigued, and want to try it, but familiar enough (fish goujons) for there to always be something they will definitely eat if all else fails. But apart from the great food – always fresh, always delicious – it’s the location that makes this such a family-friendly place to eat. Enjoy lunch on the beach at perfectly placed picnic tables where you can watch the fisherman land their catch of the day. Just check opening times before you head here though, as Griggs isn’t open every day, and it shuts in the afternoons.
Elliot’s at Number 1 Harbour Street, Whitstable
Just two minutes away from Whitstable Harbour is Elliot’s at Number 1 Harbour Street, a roomy, wide open kind of restaurant that champions local producers and growers. That means the food offered here is not only local, but fresh and healthy, and with different offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as cakes, local juices and great coffee, that makes it ideal for a full meal or a quick snack. The staff here really know how to engage the children and keep them happy, which keeps everyone happy. Food includes Elliot’s burger and fries, an open steak sandwich, a sausage and egg muffin plus a special children’s menu too.
Bernie’s Chocolate Bar, Margate
As the name suggests, there is a lot of chocolate involved on the menu at this extremely child-friendly café in marvellous Margate. Fresh waffles, homemade hot chocolate, cakes and pastries a-plenty, as well as loads of kids’ activities and entertainment whether it’s term time or the holidays. And if you’re worried about the little ones having a bit too much sugar, never fear; the café provides child-sized portions of everything.
The Plough, Ivy Hatch
Ivy Hatch is a picturesque village near Sevenoaks, and the Plough is a picturesque pub and restaurant nestled nicely within it. It’s close to Ightham Mote, so a good day out at this National Trust treasure that has plenty for the children to do could start or end with a great meal at the Plough. There are fantastic – impressively large – rare breed steaks on the menu, as well as beer battered haddock with rustic chips, wild boar and apple sausages with mash, roast haunch of Chart Farm venison and a sumptuous array of desserts such as salted caramel cheesecake and chocolate and hazelnut brownies. There is a well thought out children’s menu too, but if the little ones want anything from the main menu, it’s usually possible for the kitchen to make it for them in a smaller portion.
The Junction Inn, Groombridge
Surrounded by stunning scenery, the Junction Inn is child friendly indeed. It’s baby friendly, come to that, even dog friendly if the entire family wants to go out for a great meal and a good time. What might be surprising is that the food on offer at The Junction Inn is not necessarily all British ‘traditional’ as there is plenty of authentic Asian influences thrown in too. And why not? After all, the owners are from Hong Kong and Malaysia. Thai chicken nuggets with sweet chilli and plum sauce, homemade steak and ale pie served with chips and vegetables, Malaysian lamb curry with ground almonds, poppadum and rice and Cumberland sausage with creamed potato and garden peas are just some of the wonderful dishes that grace the menu. Outside is an excellent play area that will keep the children occupied for as long as you need to enjoy your fabulous home-cooked meal in comfort.
7 Hotel & Diner, Halstead
The 7 Hotel & Diner is a bit of a gem in Kent. It’s a lively, colourful diner in the American 1950’s kind of style, and the menu is a good choice of burgers, hot dogs, chicken dishes and more. When we say a good choice, we definitely mean it. There are many different variations of these classics that you can choose from including the Sweet Carolina (a burger smothered in barbecue sauce), the Elvis (with peanut butter and bacon) and the Area 51 with 7 Diner’s special liquid fire hot sauce and cheese! Hot dogs have the same great choice, and there are plenty of sharing platters too. It’s the kids’ menu that really makes this place stand out though, and that has a great range on it such as The Cod Father (fisher fingers in a bun) and the Mini New York Hot Dog. As well as all this, the milkshakes here are thick and delicious and come in some unusual flavours (bubblegum, salted caramel, Skittles…) and to top everything off there is a fantastic children’s play area outside!
Bridges Community Café, Edenbridge
Bridges Community Café is well named, as it really is at the heart of the community in Edenbridge. It’s a great place for friends to meet for a cup of coffee and a tasty snack, and the play area is a safe and fun one for children. On occasion there is a storytime reading here, giving parents a much needed break and the children something to really look forward to. Run by friendly volunteers, you are guaranteed a warm welcome here.
The Poacher and Partridge, Tudeley
The Poacher and Partridge in idyllic Tudeley near Tonbridge has a unique way of cooking the delicious food on offer; it’s all down to the fantastic wood fired oven, and the speciality of the house is pizza and steak. Other food includes pea and mint soup, Rye Bay seabass fillet, English prime beef burger and a rather impressive sounding mixed grill. For the children there are pizzas, sandwiches, and a nice selection of traditional dishes that will satisfy even the biggest little hunger! The outside play area will let the kids run off their lunch with ease, and the lovely beer garden means you can relax and enjoy their antics at a safe distance.
Located in Albion House, Townley’s is right beside the sea in Ramsgate. The restaurant is composed of the elegant Georgian rooms overlooking Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour and the impressive Mayors’ Chamber. Townley’s food philosophy is to buy the best ingredients and prepare dishes in a simple and uncomplicated way. Menus change regularly and reflect the ingredients which the head chef feels are the best on offer. Children are always welcome, and families are the lifeblood of Townley’s.
The Potting Shed, Langley
There is a lot of space at The Potting Shed, and that’s ideal for families, giving everyone room to move. Kids and adults alike will love watching the work going on in the open kitchen, and if the weather is good then there is a lovely outside area complete with play equipment – you can even see the vegetable garden where so many of the ingredients for the great menu come from. Enjoy a sharing platter of tapas, or a freshly cooked pizza in a comfortable, friendly environment where families can spend quality time together.
The Captain Digby, Broadstairs
The Captain Digby is all about families. It’s an award-winning restaurant, always popular thanks to its freshly prepared food and the amazing menu that gives everyone something that they want including mild ‘n’ wild chicken fillets, hand battered cod, chicken fajitas and garlic prawn salad. There are daily specials for those who want to try something a little different. The indoor play area is something that will keep the little ones entertained for a good long while, and if your children are looking for a fun place to have their birthday party, the Captain Digby can provide all the food, drink and entertainment that they could possibly want.
The Limes, Faversham
The Limes Public House and Dining in Preston Street, Faversham serves delicious British classics and a variety of specials from their seasonally changing lunch and dinner menu. The team understand that Kent has a lot to offer and therefore so much of their produce is sourced locally, from their cheeses and meats to their ales and wines. They use only 100 percent British beef, lamb and pork from a Faversham premium butcher, and their fish is delivered daily from the Hythe landing beach. Specialist ales are brewed in the local town of Faversham and even their bar nibbles are produced locally.
insideKENT’s top pick for family dining:
With a whopping 30 restaurant choices that include fabulous fare for kids, Bluewater is the place to be when it comes to family-friendly dining. Here are just a few of our favourites…
Parents can savour all of their wagamama favourites, while the kiddos enjoy mini grilled chicken with noodles, carrot, sweetcorn and cucumber (eaten with chopsticks just for kids!), followed by a natural fruit ice lolly.
You can’t go wrong with pizza, and with plenty of grown-up options for mum and dad (like the Fiorentina or Veneziana pizzas), kids can enjoy delicious penne pasta Bolognese or La Reine pizza with ham, black olives and mushrooms.
Food and fun make a great combo, and at Wahaca, kids can build their own tacos with crunchy MSC cod and tortilla chip dippers, while the rest of the family samples Mexican favourites such as four cheese empanadas or hibiscus-roasted aubergine salad.
When thinking of where to eat with the kids, don’t overlook Loch Fyne – there’s more than just fish! Parents can choose their favourite seafood, while kids can follow suit by ordering Fish and Chips or Mighty Mussels, or go with the Beefy Burger, Cheeky Chicken or Saucy Tomato Pasta.
Have a family meal with a French twist at Café Rouge. How about boeuf bourguignon or lamb cassoulet for mum and dad, while kids dig into delicious bangers and mash with peas and sweetcorn, ending with chocolate crêpes, but of course!
Kids can learn to roll like a pro with a sushi-making class designed just for mini ninjas! YO! Sushi will teach kids how to make three kinds of sushi with fun facts and easy steps and they’ll receive their very own certificate.