[ADVERT]The definition of kid friendly changes depending on what age your children are, but what most parents look for include clean high chairs, a decent kids menu, staff who don't hyperventilate when they see a two year old, distractions and quick food service.
Jamie's Italian in the city has all those things, and as such we found lunch with four kids under seven a relatively painless and even fun experience.
The semi-no-booking policy means that queues start forming on the street even before it opens at 11am. By semi-no-booking I mean that you technically can book online for groups of 1-12, but they only reserve a small number of tables and the vast bulk of tables are kept for walk-ins. Even though it is still immensely popular and there were queues, there were plenty of tables available so being there before it opens is probably not necessary, although the website does recommend being there before 11.30am if you don't want to wait.
Just inside the door is a semi-enclosed area where you can watch fresh pasta being made. It is a welcome distraction while waiting to be seated, although it can form a bit of a log-jam inside the front door.
The space inside Jamie's is open, bright and quite simple (except for the massive and unexpected chandelier). There is a choice of ordinary table seating and vinyl booths which seat larger groups. We found the booths seating six were perfect for our brood, as it meant we could trap the kids at the table: no chasing after little people. We had a dedicated waitress and she was brilliant. She knew exactly when to appear, when to give us time, and when to intervene.
As we sat down the kids were each handed a colouring-in sheet and a bucket of crayons was placed on the table to share. The kids menu came in two pieces: a laminated sheet for adults to peruse, and an old-style view-finder which the kids could look through to see what meal they would like to order.
Brilliant - the kids menu is on an old-style view finder so kids can see exactly what they will get
This is a simple yet brilliant move on the part of Jamie's. Kids knew exactly what they were going to get before it arrived no arguments or complaints. It also was a great distraction as we waited for our meals.
The novelty factor of the salad is enough to make kids want to try it
Kids meals are $9.50 each and come with a drink of juice and a dinky little salad in a jar that says 'shake me'. I couldn't detect a dressing on the salad, which was a generous (but not onerous) mix of cubed lettuce, tomato, capsicum, sprouts, carrot and cucumber. The novelty of having salad in a jar was enough to make at least two of the non-salad-eating kids actually try it. Another big tick for Jamie's.
There are a choice of six kids meals, all freshly made, including spaghetti bolognaise, a pasta bake, fish and chips, mini sliders, mini hot dogs and chicken 'lollypops'. All but the pasta dishes come with thick cut, fresh potato wedges on neat little wooden boards.
The tables are already set when you arrive, but on seeing there are kids at a table, the large adult-sized cutlery is switched to smaller (metal) kid-sized cutlery. Juice with cute stripy straws (orange or apple) arrives quickly and there is an ample supply of colouring-in for the proficient colourers.
Plenty of colouring in, although all the same design
The wait for food is not long, especially seeing how busy it can be. We were through the door at 11am, were third to be seated, had ordered by 11.20pm and were eating about fifteen minutes later.
While waiting for the food to arrive, our waitress came by twice: first to offer to take the kids to see the pasta making station by the front door, and then to bring us a bowl of mixed (uncooked) pasta shapes to show the kids the various types made on the premises. The adults found them even more intriguing than the kids, though at least we were smart enough not to try and eat them.
For an extra $2 you can order a scoop of ice cream and fresh fruit to finish the children's meals, but all our kids were sufficiently full not to need it. The dishes are tasty but not fancy, simple but not bland.
This is a big, open industrial space with a casual yet busy feel. It's noisy. The floors are concrete and there are no fussy white tablecloths or expensive stem wear. What this means is that while adults can enjoy a great meal (I had the new pumpkin ravioli and a serve of polenta fries) kids can come along and be kids.
Kids will be well-fed, kept amused but not kept waiting. The staff seemed happy to see them, not just fake smiles of tolerance. Jamie's Italian seemed to have realised that if you keep kids happy, then you keep parents happy. Recommended.
We too had a lovely dining experience with kids at Jamie's. The food was perfect for kids and imaginative too, and the little extras such as the view finder and stickers made the experience lots of fun too.