Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published June 23rd 2012
Unless I've got a baby sitter, my choice of restaurant now factors in whether the eatery I'm considering visiting offers a kids' menu. Take that to another level, and call me a picky parent if you will, I'm also looking for a nice meal choice for my son. To spell it out in plain language, I'm seeking more than just chicken nuggets and chips. So many times I happen upon a lovely 'family' restaurant, get excited over the choice of adult food only to find the standard three choices for my son: fish and chips, sausage and chips and, you've guessed it; chicken nuggets and chips. I've got nothing against these foods personally, but it would be nice to be greeted with a little more choice specifically with a dose of nutritional value.
Fun Fact: Kids can eat more than chicken nuggets. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons - Dino17
It seems that restaurateurs world over are missing a key trick in that they fail to identify the marketing opportunity that could arise from providing more nutritious and delicious choices for kids that could result in repeat custom from families. Most commonly the kids' menu is lack lustre and without any imagination or consideration to what kids might enjoy eating. But it's not all doom and gloom; some restaurants have thought outside of the box and it's of these restaurants I'm happy to write about.
Cafe Elixir Featuring six choices of main meals for the kiddies, in addition to three breakfast choices of their own. Portion sizes are ridiculously huge for children, so if you're going along with two toddlers, I'd recommend one portion between two. The kind and attentive waiting staff will provide you with plastic cutlery and a plastic cup, as well as colouring in pens and books. This is a busy cafe especially at weekends, so I would encourage booking if you want to ensure you get a high chair. This cafe is located in the Wanneroo Cultural Centre, so once you've eaten you can pop along to the library or to the Wanneroo Regional Museum in the same building (gold coin donation).
Stringybark Winery This beautiful restaurant is nestled in the gorgeous Chittering Valley and well worth a visit for the food, the wine and the views of the vineyard and countryside. Not a vast children's menu, but what is on offer is beautifully prepared and as a parent, you'll not feel that you have compromised on quality by eating out. My favourites include the mini roast of the day or the small fish of the day. The restaurant also features a lovely range of entree meals, which are perfectly sized for little people. Sunday lunch is popular here, and it's great that the whole family can eat the same meal and no washing up for mum or dad.
Salt on the Beach It's always worth checking out their website prior to a visit to see what fantastic kids events they have organised. Regular events include full moon parties, face painting, craft tables and Friday night kids club. Six great options for kids to feast on with the risotto and the grilled fish being popular choices for my family. This is certainly one of Perth's best family restaurants with it's own play area and chilled out beach location. Your kids literally won't want to leave.
Mad Mex If you're out and about and looking for a healthy take away lunch option that offers more than the average burger, I really enjoy the offering of Mad Mex. This mexican take away (with eat in options), serves up a variety of mexican favourites, just the way you want it with whatever toppings and sauces you fancy. It's where you go to personalise your burrito. For the kids, there are some child friendly nachos, or our favourite is the mini pizza melt which is a kiddie quesadilla and so so tasty. As you can order all main menu items just the way you want them, this means that you can make any of the items child friendly and spice free. Sometimes, you just don't have time to sit down and wait for the food to be ordered, so this quick eat option can be a real winner.
Sorrento Beach Shack Based at the popular Hillarys Boat Harbour complex, this fantastic eatery offers no less than eight choices for the little people. Family favourites for us are the spaghetti bolognese and the calamari. Both generous servings and very tasty. Children's meals are just under $10 and for an extra $4.50 they'll throw in an ice cream sundae and a drink. One meal would easily go for two toddlers, so this makes it a more budget friendly option. There is a kids breakfast on the menu too, but from my experience it's kinder on your purse to order your own breakfast and ask for two plates. You can always add on an extra helping of hash brown or some baked beans.
Based in Subiaco, this is a great spot for a family lunch with an Italian twist. As there is no kids' menu insight, this restaurant at first glance might seem like an impostor to this list of top kids' menus. However, the absence of the kids' menu is a blessing, as instead of serving up the standard kids fodder, you instead get to choose from the main pasta and pizza menu and the chef then works his magic to create a child size portion (for half the price). Our toddler has particular enjoyed the Ravioli Napoletana and the Rissotto of the day. Great choices and I've always found wait staff to be particularly attentive. On a summer's day, try to score a window or street seat, and this will provide your child with plenty of activities and people watching opportunities to keep them well entertained.
Portafinos Benefiting from an outdoor play area, the Portofinos Cafe makes an ideal choice for family dining. Located right next to Quinns Beach, this is a great lunch time option in the summer after you've been for a swim. I'd personally like to see more options added to the kids' menu, but for sheer quality alone, I have to recommend the children's lasagna which comes with a side salad and is a great option for toddlers and children. More than that, the portion is huge, and the wait staff are happy to box up the leftovers for you to take home.
Sienas of Leederville This restaurant offers a great environment for families to dine in where neither parent nor child has had to compromise on their food choice. Kids can choose from ten main menu items each priced at $8.50. There's a great package on offer for kids too, where for $12 they can have their choice of main meal, plus a drink and a scoop of delicious gelato too. The pasta options are particularly delicious for the kids. It's also worth noting that this restaurant includes a small playing area for kids, which has a glass frontage so you can easily see what mischief your kids are up to.
An Indian restaurant might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think about taking your child out for dinner. However, as a dinner option, Masala Indian in Clarkson (near Ocean Keys), has a great buffet offering, featuring enough choices for even the pickiest of eaters including lots of child friendly dessert options. The butter chicken is a great mild option for most kids' palates, and the spiced calamari and tempura fish make great additional options. A real winner - once the savoury courses are over, lie in the array of colourful jellies and ice creams that you can help yourself to. The restaurant has chosen some great quality high chairs, and the benefit of being able to go up and help yourself to the food prevents temper tantrums occurring during the normal wait for food items to appear.
The Laughin' Barrell Restaurant
Located in the beautiful Swan Valley region, and probably my pick for a family lunch option if you're out exploring this area. Kids can make their own pizzas, and staff will provide them with giant white chef's hats in addition to aprons. Possibly a little too advanced for my toddler, but I'm definitely going to be taking him again when he's a little older. Five main course options available for the little guys, and I particularly like how the cheese toastie comes with some fruit pieces too. There's also a playground and indoor playroom for children, so plenty to occupy them during the pizza cooking process, or whilst waiting for their other main course options to arrive.
What other gems have you chanced upon? Do you know of any great kids' menus featuring more than the favoured chicken nuggets? Let us know here at Weekend Notes.
Brooklands Tavern in Southern River is also very good. They have a good kids menu including spaghetti & meatballs and the fish & chips comes with nice quality grilled fish. The kids get an activity pack including crayons, stickers & other things & their placemat has lots to do on it with the crayons. The resteraunt has an indoor playground which is perfect for this time of the year.
Its kids menu may be burgers, but then Grill'd is a burger joint... It has a dedicated kids sized pack, with burger, fries, drink and best of all, colouring-in to distract when they're done eating.
Thanks for the list, I too have been very disappointed with the kids' options at most places so will definitely have to check some of these out. Another good option is Ninniku Jip in East Vic Park. A good range of meal options for the kids and an indoor playground.