The Grumbling Tummy does not often use this blog to actually grumble …. but I am going to make an exception!
Before I had my beautiful daughter BC and I ate out regularly in a wide range of restaurants. Some were posh and some less so but it was always a very adult affair. Once ‘mini me’ came along I swore that we would continue to frequent the lovely restaurants and not a thing would change. In the same breath I also swore that I would not set foot in the type of place that was full of screaming kids and substandard food. I shall pause for a moment whilst parents of small children reading this recover from laughing at my naive delusions.
Ok so now we know that this is not how it works in the real world. Often we have found that going to a really nice restaurant with toddler in tow involves you both indulging in the pretence that you are enjoying the experience whilst your two-year old lobs pasta across the room, attracting disapproving looks and tuts (not totally unjustified either) from other diners. You never actually finish a conversation with your partner and when you pay your bill you both feel a little resentful about the entire experience. Of course your kids may be angels – HA!
Don’t get me wrong there are lots of restaurants around that are really child friendly and I will be talking about some of them in a future blog for Visit St Andrews. But my gripe today is not really about restaurants and whether they are child friendly or not, it is specifically about soft play facilities and the large chain restaurants which house soft play areas – the types of places ONLY frequented by parents and their offspring.
Lets face it soft play centres are a bloody godsend – they keep the kiddiewinks happy as sandmen and allow parents to actually talk in complete sentences. The massive downside is that more often than not the environment is tired, uninspired and quite frankly a little mucky. The service is routinely dreadful and the food often deplorable. I have been to three soft play centres in my local area and whilst the kids are in heaven, I find the experience more than a little challenging. The dining choices seem to centre around chips, pom bears, sausage rolls and chocolate (pack a sarnie!). Sure you don’t have to go along at lunchtime but it is nice to have something decent to eat and drink whilst waiting for them to wear themselves out.
The restaurant chains that incorporate Soft Play are at least more attractive to sit in, but to be honest the food still leaves a lot to be desired. We recently took ‘mini me’ to Home View near Kirkcaldy which is actually really pleasant with a fantastic kids soft play area. However I found myself sending my beef chilli back to the kitchen as I found it hard to locate any beef in the sloppy gravy. This is not unusual. Sad thing is I won’t stop going there because I actually quite like talking to my husband sometimes, without a constant distraction – they have you by the short and curlies.
I find myself getting more and more frustrated. Why should parents have to put up with this? For the love of the big man, can somebody not see this gap in the market and open a soft play facility which is totally child AND parent friendly. Imagine the scene. A clean and fresh soft play area where the wee ones can have fun with minimum supervision. Now imagine if you will that alongside this is an attractive, tasteful seating area with nice lighting, waitress service (not compulsory) and a menu which includes HEALTHY and homemade kids choices and lovely seasonal home cooked choices for the adults ( perhaps wine is going too far but you can dream). I am not suggesting Michelin standards here just an environment which values the food and service as well as the soft play element. Somewhere that is not drowning in chips would be nice.
The only exceptions I have found are the Ceramic Experience in Dunfermline, they have a tiny little soft play area (not their main objective really). You can however have a decent toastie, some healthy kids snacks and hold an adult conversation. The other is Clayton Caravan Park near St Andrews which has a small soft play area next to a very nice restaurant (but you can’t really supervise the kids and eat at the same time, unless they are a wee bit older).
You may say that it’s all about the kids and as long as they are having fun then we should just suck it up but I don’t really see why it is too much to ask to have a facility where you can have the best of both worlds.
So please if you have a pot of cash handy and are just looking for a great idea then open a nice clean soft play with a restaurant area that is fresh, tasteful and serves lovely food – pretty please!
Perhaps in your area such a mecca exists and you are outraged at my ranting – if so then please let me know where it is…