November 1, 2017
If you want to win auntie / uncle / Godparent points with tweens (kids aged approximately from nine to 12), Shuang Shuang, in London’s Chinatown, knocks notches off more familiar family-friendly restaurants.
Seating is around a counter. Not only is communal eating educational and more sociable, it avoids awkward silences…although note: you’re probably a lot more aware of these than the kid is – children are generally easier in their own skin than we are.
It’s a chance to actively avoid brown food. There isn’t a chip or a nugget on offer. You simply choose from four broths – from ‘sweet and soothing’ Black Bird (made from rare breed black chicken) to the mouth-anaesthetising Mala (generally to be avoided unless you’ve an afternoon free to spend waiting in an A&E). Some minutes later, a member of staff brings an urn brimming with your chosen broth and decants it into your own personal hot pot. The heat is switched to high and you wait for it to bubble.
Meanwhile, you and your charge can start selecting ingredients from tiny plates of free-range chicken, pork belly, marinated beef rump, squid, prawns and salmon. Greens and root vegetables, too, including pak choi, chrysanthemum leaves and shiitake mushrooms. And lastly your Chinese carbs: tofu and bean curd, and all kinds of rice and noodles. Anyone who’s visited a branch of a similar-sounding Japanese set-up may now be fearful of those grabby little hands / seizure-inducing bills situations. Rest assured, though, things move much slower when they’re cooking for themselves. At Shuang Shuang the brain has time to register fullness before the eyes begin re-scanning.
64 Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho W1D 6LU
Approx £30 pp
An easily-missed local favourite, Buona Sera at the Jam is a tiny restaurant that wins big-style on inventiveness. They’ve doubled their seating capacity by having a second tier of tables reached by ladders. The climb into your bunk-bed-style cubicle is somewhat awkward – you’ll be amazed at the aplomb with which the waiting staff achieve this, plates in hand – but absolutely worth it. The appealing, Italian-influenced menu is extensive and unpretentious – ideal if you’ve a fussy eater in tow.
289a King’s Road, Chelsea SW3 5EW
Approx £35 pp
A Soho hangout may seem a strange place to take a kid, but it’s the nearest thing to New York-style brunchtime in London. Huevos rancheros and buttermilk fried chicken, steak and eggs with Cajun-spiced sweet potato fries on the side – it’s all there. Grown-ups feeling more detox than diner can have their eggs ‘Health Nut’ style (an egg white omelette with goat cheese and spinach). There are no kids’ menus or crayons at Jackson + Rye – but being allowed to draw on the tablecloth more than makes up for it.
56 Wardour Street, Soho W1D 4JG
Approx £35 pp
By: Mischa Mack