Sunday, June 12, 2011

There's no such thing as a free lunch

Recently the lovely people at contacted me and asked if I would like to participate in a new project of theirs called The Most Wanted Fuss Free Dining Report.  The idea is to get to the bottom of which nationwide restaurants really are the most child-friendly, welcoming and serve up the best value-for-money fare.  Now I must admit that I don’t normally look forward to taking my feral brood out to eat, add to that it was now the end of a long hair-tearing half term and I was about to turn their kind offer down.  Then I spotted the words “and it’s on us” and I was sold.
After a quick conflab with the family, it was decided that we would visit Prezzo in South Woodford during Saturday lunchtime.  Prezzo sets its stall out as an Italian Restaurant chain and I had eaten there before, albeit without the kids, and had enjoyed the experience.  Now to find out how it would cope with the Harding’s en masse.
We arrived at 1.40pm and had missed most of the lunchtime rush, so we were ushered straight to a table that was within view of the chef who was making pizzas in a wood fire oven.  I have to say the ‘front of house’ welcome wasn’t exactly the warmest I’ve received, as my Dad always says “A smile doesn’t cost a penny”.  I considered passing this snippet onto our waitress, but her icy stare stopped me short.
I hate to use the word ‘posher’ but as I can’t think of a suitable alternative it will have to do.  Prezzo is a bit posher than  the Pizzas Huts, Harvesters or any of the chains with a play area, which is why we don’t normally bring the kids here, they tend do need to run about between courses.  Luckily for us (and the other diners) the kids had realised that they were in somewhere a bit nicer than Kathy’s Café and were behaving appropriately.

The waitress brought over the obligatory ‘kids menus that doubles as a puzzle/drawing mat’, but neglected to bring pencils as they had run out.  Kaede started to express her outrage at such service and the waitress quickly found two pencils that had fallen behind the till, a lucky escape.  Plus they had a good mixture of puzzles and drawing on them, so they would be a welcome distraction.  I promised my 17 year old daughter Storm that I wouldn’t mention that she got stuck on the crossword, so that never happened OK?
Our waitress then went through her super speedy spiel and took our drinks orders.  To my horror Kaede asked for a beer only for Nate to tell her they were only allowed Daddy’s beer at home.  I ignored my Wife’s stare of shame and buried my head in the menu.  Luckily for me they have a good wine list, so I ordered a bucket of wine for the Mrs and a super-sized Peroni for myself.
The kids starters arrived quite quickly, pizza dough garlic bread, and I used the rare moment of silence to take in the ambience of the place and enjoy my beer.  With starters finished and a change of waitress, we were asked if we were now ready for our mains, thus giving us the chance to move the meal along at a faster pace if we wanted. 
The new waitress overheard Kaede say that she was going to run her own pizza and pasta joint when she grows up.  Her speciality is going to be the cheese-free pizza, in honour of her mouldy milk hating Dad.  She asked Kaede if she would like to watch the chef make the pizzas to which she got an excited ‘yes’ answer.  This was Kaede’s equivalent of being asked into the cockpit of a plane to meet the pilot and she was gone like a shot.
After another round of drinks our mains arrived.  Fusilli Alla Rusticana for Storm, Spicy Beef pizza for the Mrs, Pepperoni Pizzas for the little’uns and Spaghetti with King Prawns for me.  Again, the silence gave testament to how good the food was.  Everybody enjoyed their meal, including my Wife the wannabe food critic, who has walked me out of more restaurants than she’s walked me in.  The kids deal was £4.95 for three courses plus a drink which really represented value for money.  The portion sizes were more than generous and yet the kids still had room for the obligatory ice-cream dessert. 
The toilets were clean, spacious and included baby changing facilities, although I count my blessings that I no longer have to avail of those.  Something we also no longer need is a high chair, but my good wife informed me that the ones they have there are the good ones, the ones she always felt safe (?) with.  Although Prezzo doesn’t pitch itself as a kiddie restaurant, you aren’t made to feel unwelcome for dragging your little monsters in with you.  It does act as a good stepping stone between the noisy play area eateries and the kind of restaurant you wouldn’t dream of bringing children to.
All in all the whole meal was a success and one I hope to repeat soon. have asked us to score Prezzo, so here are our all important score cards.


Heather Leavers said...

And now I'm hungry. Why weren't there opportunities like this 20 years ago when my kids were small? (Apologies to Storm, who of course isn't.


Storm got stuck on the crossword.
Sorry Storm.
Great review, watching the chef should be added to the kid's meal deal at all restaurants, so the parents can get rid of their kids for a while.
Storm got stuck on the crossword.
Really, sorry Storm.