Eating out with small children is not an enjoyable experience. There was a long period when fine dining became a distant memory for us. MacDonalds became our restaurant of choice because THEY HAD A PLAYGROUND. Anyone who has tried to keep toddlers or preschoolers confined to a seat for any longer than three minutes knows the importance of that playground. A meal out meant simply lurching from one disaster to the next – spilt juice, one needs to go to the toilet, one escapes and nearly bowls over a waitress carrying hot food, another screams incessantly because they don’t want to be in a high chair, suddenly nobody likes chicken nuggets – by the time we got home we were exhausted and determined to never leave the house again.
Fast forward a number of years and you would think we could start to enjoy meals in real restaurants again. After all nobody needs a high chair and everyone is toilet trained.
Last night at 6.30pm we made the spontaneous decision to go out for dinner, basically neither of the adults could agree on who should cook so we decided to pay someone else to do it for us. Now normally we would get pizza and eat on the beach or fish and chips and sit on the town green overlooking the river. However, in my infinite wisdom I decided we would do a PROPER RESTAURANT.
First problem, nobody wanted to get to dressed. Shorts and thongs were out and everybody hated my choice of outfits so there was some intense debating and negotiating before we even managed to get into the car. However, like a woman possessed I persisted with the ludicrous idea that we could enjoy an evening out as a family – I even made a BOOKING for a table.
On arrival we discover the local Greek restaurant has essentially become an Italian joint so our tastebuds have to do an about turn and reacclimatise to a more Roman inspired menu than we were expecting but we do.
I’ve arrived with a camera because I’m a blogger now and everything we do is a photo opportunity and a possible blog post. In the back of my mind I have the faint notion I could do a food blogger type review of the restaurant – you know stylised shots of the food, waxing lyrically about the superb presentation, slight concerns about the overuse of conflicting herbs (OK I can’t cook and know nothing about food but I’ve watched Masterchef – it can’t be that hard).
We start off fine the restaurant is right on the river so we get to watch the sunset.
Princess Child has come prepared, she has her I-pod and the latest book she is reading (just in case the company proves too dull for interaction). The book is Once and Then by Morris Gleitzman. Princess Child wants to know who Hitler was, and why was he a bad guy? So much for a fun night out.
We order drinks and the girls elect to have apple juice. Now, many years ago Hippie Child was banned from apple juice because it sent her hypo (I have no medical or scientific evidence to back this up I just know when she drank apple juice she began talking really fast and jumping off furniture). When she orders apple juice I figure it will be alright she would have outgrown that by now.
The first course arrives and I even manage to photograph it.
But after that things go a bit pear-shaped. The apple juice kicks in and Hippie Child becomes highly witty and amusing but talks non-stop and giggles at everything. We begin to wonder if there was alcohol in the juice. Meanwhile Princess child gets dizzy, develops a headache decides she tired and wants to go home. The service is great at the restaurant but there is a delay before our mains arrive. The girls end up outside running along the river to keep themselves amused, of course the meals arrive minutes after we’ve let them go.
Everyone is starving. I forget to photograph the meals. In the end the only shot I get is the empty shells from Mr Shambles mussels in tomato sauce. They were apparently very nice.
Then someone needs to go to the toilet – oh it was me alright – I should have done those pelvic floor exercises they recommended after childbirth.
One of the downsides of having children old enough to be taken to restaurants is they eat like adults. Which means we pay double what we used to for a night out. By the time we get to the dessert menu Mr Shambles and I are doing mental calculations in our head and both decline. The girls enjoy their lemon tart and panacotta and we manage to steal bites when they aren’t looking.
Again, I forget to photograph the food. I decide there are plenty of great food bloggers out there, you don’t need another one.
We eventually make it to the car with our wallet substantially lighter. The girls fight in the back seat all the way home. So ends another night of family bonding activities.