It's safe to say that if you have kids in Perth you have probably heard of Siena's Italian restaurant in Leederville. Much lauded as a kid-friendly destination it features regularly in lists of Perth's top family restaurants.
On top of the enormous main menu, there is also a dedicated kids menu all priced at $9.50 and consisting of five basic pizzas (such as Margherita and ham and pineapple) and five meals: fish and chips, nuggets and chips and three pasta dishes.
They even have spaghetti in butter sauce, the staple of my fussiest eater. It may not cover any of the necessary food groups, but offering that dish shows true child-focus.
For another $3.50 you can add a juice or soft drink and a scoop of ice cream from Il Gelato next door. Awesome. There are also regular lunch specials every day of the week, plus dinner specials Monday to Wednesday.
The other bonus is that since Siena's doesn't close between its lunch and dinner sittings, if you want to have your dinner at 5pm or earlier, you can. So many wonderful restaurants don't open their doors until 6pm which makes it difficult if you have really little kids.
The Facilities Apart from its authentic Italian food, the other big seller of Siena's is their indoor playroom. It's a great idea: a separate, glass walled room in the middle of the restaurant with play equipment so that kids can play and run around while mum and dad finish their dinner. Tables near the room are usually reserved for families so you can see your kids while you eat.
Note to diners without kids: ask to be seated well away from the playroom if you can. There is al fresco area out the back as well as tables and chairs on the footpath on Oxford Street to watch the world go by.
The playroom is carpeted and has a medium sized plastic and metal climbing centre. Unfortunately the floor is very uneven so toddlers just learning to walk are at the mercy of gravity when navigating the room. Also – and let's be frank – kids are grubby at the best of times, so don't expect the play room to be sparkling clean.
Siena's isn't the only place in Perth to offer an indoor playroom (ie Ninniku Jip in Victoria Park) but it shows commitment to families that they dedicate some of their floor space to entertaining the little people.
The flipside to this is that the rest of the restaurant feels crowded, as extra tables are squashed in to make up for the space given over to the playroom.
There isn't a lot of room to move between tables and if you plan on bringing a pram for your tiny baby, make sure you mention this when you book. When we showed up with an unannounced pram, entire tables had to be moved to make space.
Siena's have an endless supply of Ikea high chairs and as a Mum I think these simple plastic chairs are ten times better than any fussy, padded high chair which ends up collecting food and muck from every child that sits in it. Ikea high chairs are easy to clean and appreciated by mums everywhere.
There is a separate change room in the play area, and while I think it is fantastic that it has been provided, it's looking a little tired and you might want to bring a bunny rug with you.
There is nothing worse for a parent to be in a quiet restaurant when your kid is just being a kid - making a bit of noise, or being a bit silly and wanting to run around – and everyone is staring at you like you are a family of cavemen.
Half the pizza was gone before I pulled my camera out
Siena's is not like that. With plenty of large groups, families and happy couples the atmosphere is buzzing and loud. If your child has a tanty because there is a piece of parsley on the pizza – no one is going to notice or care. Kids are allowed to be kids, and if you don't want to hear them anymore, you can stick them in the playroom.
It is an easy-going, jolly environment and since it's not full of polish and sparkle, it's easy to relax and not worry your children are going to destroy something expensive.
As the sign on the playroom says, the equipment is only for kids aged 4 to 12 and I think this sums up the Siena's experience.
For older kids who don't need a pram, a high chair or a change table this is a great place to come with the family, get a good meal and relax.
For parents with really little kids in tow, perhaps Siena's isn't the best place. Prams can be a nightmare on a busy night, and the playroom isn't really safe for toddlers, especially when it is full of older, marauding kids.