Best Children’s Menu in Ireland – Spring Review

In February, I set out to assess Children’s menus, for variety, healthiness, availability and appeal. I’ve checked out quite a few at this stage, some directly (with the Children in tow) and some indirectly, just from a look at the menus.

We were invited by Anthony Gray, President of the RAI and owner of Eala Bhán and Trá Bán restaurants in Sligo to dine en famille at Eala Bhán and try out his newly launched “Healthy Kid’s Menu”. With thanks to Anthony for his generous hospitality, this is an honest appraisal. Anthony told us that the menu was devised by himself and his team and with input from Olivia Collins of Food PR.

Kids — Eala Bhán menu

It was very nicely presented, with the usual colouring in / activities on the reverse, though my pair are a bit old for the colouring in at this stage. Everyone got a soup amuse bouche, which is always a great addition!
Amuse Bouche

A review of the Starter options showed that the healthy option for starters was Soup. The fish cake, though listed as “Super Healthy” was deep fried (at least I assume it was or it would have said “baked”) in breadcrumbs. The third choice was sweet potato chips (deep fried again). For Starters, he close the Fish Cake and she went for the soup (vegetable).

The fish cake looked lovely, however, for a child, the presentation and garnish was a bit too fancy to be honest. Many children are not keen on salad or dressing or anything touching the food that they don’t want to eat! I tasted it though, and it was really good. In fact, I ate nearly all of it!!

The soup was excellent – a generous portion, with well balanced seasoning and very nicely presented, with brown bread on the side.

Choices of mains included fish & chips (deep fried), beef burger (chargrilled), deep fried chicken goujons, or vegetable lasagna (sic). For mains, he chose the Chicken Goujons & Chips and she went for the Beef Burger. The verdict on the Chicken and Chips was that the chips were really good – chunky, fresh and crispy, but the chicken was just “ok”. Deep fried so not very healthy. The burger was really super. Lovely soft bap, fab beef from Sherlock’s Butchers, perfect portion size, generous but not too much, overall a winner.

Desserts were chocolate, chocolate or chocolate! There was nothing else. He is quite the connoisseur of the chocolate brownie and said that while this was indeed very good, it was slightly overbaked and so a bit too much like chocolate cake, i.e., not squidgey enough! That said, he ate every pick! She went for fancy, and she is inclined to do, and the Chocolate Fondue was indeed very impressive!

A healthy menu should offer a fruit plate, or fruit skewers or even yogurt. If the menu is supposed to he healthy, then there should be some healthy options for all courses.

Overall, is great to see a restaurant make an effort at a healthy menu, and despite being well presented and tasty, simply calling something “healthy” and listing local suppliers doesn’t make it healthy I’m afraid. Perhaps input from a Nutritionist would help. At the very bottom of the menu in small print, it told us that Child Size portions of all adult meals are available. Fantastic! But this should be front & centre! At the very least, it should really have been pointed out to us by the server. This is where a restaurant can score points and set itself above the others when it comes to beating the competitors in the healthy kids meal stakes. It’s an opportunity that should be capitalised on.

Other quick picks from my travels (and please excuse some very poor photography on my part):

Tyrellspass Castle Restaurant, Co.Westmeath – soup and choices of turkey, beef or ham with veg first followed by the usual deep-fried chicken,sausages etc…
Tyrellspass Castle

Rua, Castlebar – excellent menu, and not a deep-fried goujon or chip in sight, hooray! Will definitely go back here with the kids in tow.
Rua Kids Menu

Shells Cafe, Strandhill – nice little kids menu, great to see that its basically smaller portions of the main menu dishes, with a twist!
Shells Kids Menu

Donaghy’s Pub, Sligo – very very limited kids portions on the menu, just 2 dishes that we could see – chicken nuggets and chips, and Healthy Fish Gougons (sic) for Kids – we weren’t offered a kids menu, if there was one (we didn’t ask either mind you);

Sweet Beat Cafe, Sligo – no children’s portions on the menu so we usually end up splitting dishes between us;

McDonagh’s, Galway – recently visited, but no kids portions offered that we could see (no complaints from the kids though!).

Sheridan’s of Milltown, Co.Galway – a good range of healthier foods for kids here. Spaghetti, mash, chicken curry and rice…and the usual sausages / goujons & chips. Better than some though.
Kids Menu Sheridans Milltown310316

Restaurants would do well to appreciate that, during the day and early evening, parents can be enticed to dine more often with children, if the children were better catered for. Who decided that all kids want to eat is processed meat & chips? Sure, they’ll happily eat it, but its not healthy, as most people know by now. Oh, and P.S., run a spell check on your menus people! There is no excuse for bad grammar, stray apostrophes and spelling errors.

Tune in again at the end of the Summer for the next instalment!

The Search for the Best Children’s Menu in Ireland is on!!

If, like me, you travel frequently with children, whether for day trips or weekends or longer, you will know that the quality and variety of food on menus for children ranges from the very ordinary to the somewhat less ordinary, with only a few exceptionally good ones bucking the trend. So I’m putting out a call to cafes and restaurants – how can you make your menus appealing to children, and by extension to the bill payer?!

For example, recently we stayed in Hotel Westport (again!). They when a great kids club for U12s, the Panda Club. Children eat at 5.15pm. This time though, since one of ours is now 13, the deal was that one night our pair (13 year old fussy boy & 11 year old foodie girl) could eat in the dining-room with us, which was really nice actually.

She loved the Amuse Bouche (fancy!).

Hotel Westport Amuse Bouche

They could choose from the Children’s Menu or the main menu (for an additional charge). The 13 year old did object to the games on the reverse, now that he’s so mature…! I thought that was a good idea though.The selection was pretty good and the quality in Hotel Westport is always up to scratch. The deep-fried goujons were a lot better than the chicken nuggets you see in so many places.

The following evening we went back to The Pantry & Corckscrew – creatures of habit are we! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is one of my favourite places in Ireland. The menu is original, fresh and interesting and the food lives up to expectations.

Children have a really interesting choice here – none of the usual fare and not a nugget in sight! Miss Foodie had an excellent homemade beefburger with lovely bun and chunky chips. The very fussy (discerning?!) 13 year old young man had tempura hake, also with chunky chips (though they could have had mash if they wished). Both super and all eaten very happily with even happier parents looking on.

Tonight we’re heading to our local Dromahair eatery, The Riverbank Restaurant. Its a firm favourite in this house and traditional choice for a Birthday Dinner (it’s mine today, just saying’, ahem!). They have published their Children’s Menu on line – clever people – which is great for anyone thinking of going, wondering about what the children could eat. Check out oonagheats.com on Facebook later tonight for photos!

So, I’m putting out the call – where is really good for children’s meals? I’m looking for recommendations from parents and restauranteurs far and wide. I’ll come and try and spread the word if it passes muster – my two assessors will have final say – after all, they will eat the food, while I’m your target market, i.e., the bill-payer! Once a good list has been established – I’ll publish it widely.

Restaurants should send me their menus and parents / others their recommendations to oonagh@alphaomega.ie

Bring it on!