The Empty Plate: Children's restaurant options

The Empty Plate: Children’s restaurant options

At Le Train Bleu in Paris, a restaurant in a railway station whose belle-époque beauty and splendour almost defy belief, the children’s menu costs 25 euros ($37). Wait, don’t get cross. As long as you are under 10 years old, you can choose from sea bass, swordfish, beef steak tartare or a child’s portion of chef Michel Rostang’s famous roast leg of lamb, carved from the trolley at the table and served with potato gratin dauphinois. Your child can choose fruit juice, a soft drink or mineral water to drink, and finish with either a guanaja chocolate tartlet or a selection of ice-creams and sorbets.

Credit:Simon Letch

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Now you can get cross. Because we don’t have enough restaurants here that treat our children as just very short adults with perfectly good palates and minds of their own. Instead, they’re treated as miniature bogans and fed a diet of deep-fried chicken nuggets and crumbed schnitzels and chips. If you’re really lucky, there’ll be spag bol.

Granted, a few meals of chicken nuggets aren’t going to ruin anyone for life. But there’s a difference between damage control – keeping the kids quiet for 10 minutes – and introducing them to the joys of dining out à la Train Bleu.

Most young parents I know bring their kids up to eat the same food as they do at home and in restaurants. They’ll go to Italian for pizza and pasta, Greek and Turkish for dips and grills, Vietnamese for pho and Chinese for yum cha.

How hard can it be, chefs, to plan and price smaller portions of your dishes?

“Stick with those cultures that value families eating together,” says my son, an expert in the field. Further strategies include ordering something for the kids that the parents can take over and finish when, inevitably, it’s abandoned. He has grown acccustomed to eating cold pizza and pasta.

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His three-and-a-half-year-old daughter adores steak and chips so, for a special occasion recently, her parents asked the restaurant for a children’s serve, even though it’s not listed on the menu. Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne won this challenge in a canter and it would be great to see this sort of generosity and flexibility at more places, high and low. How hard can it be, chefs, to plan and price smaller portions of your dishes?

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