While Dublin is jam-packed with eateries to die for, finding family-friendly restaurants can be tricky at best. Sometimes just getting a buggy through the door can be a challenge in itself, and once inside even the most well-behaved of children often get the evil eye. It’s no wonder chains like Nando’s, Wagamama and Milano tend to top the lists of parents’ go-to places for family lunch in town. But while said restaurants are safe options, with never-ending supplies of high chairs and crayons, one of the true charms of Dublin’s food scene is its knack for independent eateries, and there is no reason why parents should have to miss out. Here are three family-friendly restaurants that prove happy kids and gorgeous food are far from mutually exclusive.
The Market Bar
Ask any food-loving Dubliner with kids and they will mention The Market Bar as one of the top three family-friendly restaurants. Though geared towards a grown-up clientele, this sky-lit warehouse, with its distinctive red-brick walls and huge floor-to-ceiling display of clogs, offers acoustics that do an amazing job of drowning out toddler tantrums. You walk in with a huge double buggy, and no one bats an eyelid. The attentive, friendly staff bring over some toys and a high chair. You order a handful of tapas plates to share: patatas bravas and meatballs for the kids, seafood and a piri piri chicken salad for you, and somehow, everyone’s happy! As more clay plates arrive, you’ve still had nothing but smiles from neighbouring diners. You sit back and admire the vast ceilings of this former factory, thinking that perhaps you’ve found the rare instance of a child-friendly restaurant that caters just as much for the parents.
It’s a near-therapeutic experience, seeing the high-ceilinged Wintergarden Café to your right, as you walk through the doors of the National Gallery of Ireland building with a restless and hungry toddler. The natural light flooding through the glass ceiling and the indoor trees make the experience feel almost like al fresco dining and you can’t believe your luck when you realise that there’s a playroom stuffed full of toys in the middle of the café. Queuing along the counter with a tray might not be luxurious, but you’re glad that you won’t have to wait around at the table. The quiche is simple, but hits the spot, and you even manage to enjoy a juicy slice of carrot cake without the toddler noticing. This is as close to a peaceful retreat as a parent gets.
Taste Food Co. Café
Call it a wild card, but Taste Food Co. Café is anything but a family-friendly restaurant by most standards. It’s just that they make it so easy to be awkward here. You apologise as you squeeze your buggy through the narrow door, but the staff greet you with a smile and move a few chairs out of your way. You request a specific table and feel bad, but again, they just shuffle things around and tell you it’s no trouble at all. Before you know it, your kids are sipping water through straws and the staff are cooing next to them. Who needs a dedicated kids’ menu when the kitchen staff are happy to make a bowl of plain penne and some cucumber sticks? But you soon realise, it’s the food on the menu that makes this place a real winner. You tuck into a heavenly roast sweet potato and goat’s cheese salad and savour every last bite. Don’t be surprised if your biggest complaint when leaving is that Dublin has made you a very generous tipper.