Tag Archives: rating

Ask Italian

The Baberoo and I are back in Oxford after our holiday in Canada, so our 2014 adventures around town have begun! After a busy morning in the city centre, the Baberoo fell asleep in her stroller and I decided we’d stop in for lunch at ASK Italian (5 George Street, OX1 2AT).

I started with the small Antipasto Classico Board (£5.95, or £11.95 for the larger size), which included buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, two kinds of salami, rocket and tomato salad, and rosemary-sea salt bread with olive tapenade. While the meats were nothing to write home about (I couldn’t taste the difference between the Milano and finocchiona salami), the bread and olive tapenade were truly enjoyable. I finished the plate while the Baberoo was still sleeping.

Ask Italian antipasti

Knowing the Baberoo would want lunch as soon as she woke up, I ordered the half-size of Spaghetti al Pomodoro to share with her (£6.25 including a side salad, or £7.75 for the regular size without salad), but I switched the pasta to the gluten-free fusilli (which is available for any of the pasta dishes), not because we eat gluten-free but because fusilli is a lot easier for a little hand to grab. We’ve had this pasta dish before at ASK Italian and the Baberoo has enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that she was wearing a brand-new cream-coloured sweater I gave her for her birthday, and I didn’t have one of our impermeable neoprene bibs with me (top mealtime tip: neoprene bibs with sleeves – we use the Ultrabib from Bibetta – are the best thing ever). I put two regular bibs on her, sat her on my lap instead of a high chair so I could hold the bibs in place, and hoped for the best.

Ask Italian pasta

The Baberoo enjoyed her pasta until she suddenly decided that she was done and wanted to get down from Mommy’s lap Right Now, and with an ear-splitting scream started in on one of her delightful tantrums. These are a new thing in our household and I guess we’re lucky it didn’t start earlier (and I know it’ll get way worse in the next couple of years, because at least now I can still contain her squirming with only one arm, but wait until she starts punching and kicking…). But it still sucks when it’s in public. I got my first-ever ‘can’t you control your baby’ look from another diner (lady, I forgive you, but next time try to cut a mom some slack, ok?) and we left in a hurry. Ah well. She was her usual cheerful self five minutes later. Bonus: even with the thrashing around, we miraculously didn’t get any tomato sauce on the cream-coloured sweater.

So, how did ASK Italian rate for baby-friendliness? My five criteria are menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding (more about these on my About page).

Menu: If you need to eat with one hand while holding a baby in the other arm, there’s plenty on the menu that you can choose from. Most of the pastas, risottos, ravioli, and salads would be OK to eat one-handed. The pizzas might be manageable, while the meat dishes and panini would be more difficult.

Space: We were there during a lunch hour that wasn’t too full, so there was enough space between tables to get a baby carriage through the restaurant (even navigating between other prams – there seemed to be a lot of babies there today!). If it had been fuller it wouldn’t have been as easy, and certainly I wouldn’t recommend more than one baby carriage to a table. Some of the booth seating – as I belatedly realized after requesting a booth table – is quite close together, so that might not be your best choice.

Ask Italian interior

Ambiance: It’s a chain restaurant and it looks like a chain restaurant, but it has nice enough decor and good tables and chairs, as well as a wall of drawings done by children (while they waited for their meals, presumably), so it’s not devoid of character. The staff are friendly and helpful and seem to get along very well with each other, always a good thing to see.

Facilities: The baby-changing facilities are easy to access, although in a room that looked quite big I had a little trouble turning the baby carriage around so that I could get it out of the way. The pull-down changing table (made of enamelled (?) metal) is unusual and even kind of pretty compared to the usual plastic ones, but it’s a bit chillier against skin so you might want to put a cloth under your baby.

Ask Italian baby changing facilities

Feeding: It was the Baberoo’s lunchtime so I ordered the half-size pasta from the regular menu, but I see from the ASK Italian website that there’s also a kids’ menu (which we weren’t offered) that has kid-sized mains for £6.25. They’re mainly pizza and pasta with flavours that appeal to children. If you’re breastfeeding, the padded wooden chairs look OK but are on the small side. Booth seats are comfy but awfully close together so you might be jammed up against someone else. With the number of babies in the place, I would guess that the restaurant would be supportive of breastfeeding mothers, although I didn’t try it myself while we were there.

For baby-friendliness I give ASK Italian a 7.25 out of 10. Judging from today’s clientele, many other parents already know that this is a solid choice for somewhere to eat out with a baby.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Giraffe

Giraffe is a chain known for its kid-friendliness, so it came as no surprise that on the day the Baberoo and I visited the central Oxford location (71 George Street, OX1 2BQ) there were kids or babies at almost every table. We were starving from doing so much Christmas shopping and we really needed lunch pronto, and Giraffe is one of the places that I know can be relied upon to get your order to you quickly.

Although Giraffe offers a very reasonably-priced £6.25 lunch special from Monday-Friday, I decided to go for the BBQ chicken and smoked cheddar quesadilla (£9.25) and a Coke (£2.45). The quesadilla was a very generous size and came with a salsa for dipping and a side of slaw. It didn’t press any buttons on my deliciousness barometer, but it was fine and filling and easy to eat while I was feeding the Baberoo.

Giraffe quesadilla

Although we’d brought some fruit from home it wasn’t enough for the Baberoo’s lunch, so I ordered her something from the kids’ menu. The entrees are all under £6 and there’s also a meal deal that includes a main plus a drink for £4.95, all day, any day of the week. I got the Baberoo the Italian pizza bites (£4.05), which come with a side of fries and a salad. It arrived in record time; she only did a little bit of screeching when I didn’t serve her pre-meal grapes as fast as she would have liked. The Baberoo enjoyed the pizza bites, which were made with nice fluffy focaccia bread, and had fun examining the salad leaves minutely before eating them. (Sorry, kiddo, but Mommy had to eat all your fries for you because you’re not allowed to have them yet. Ha ha ha!)

Giraffe pizza bites

Certainly Giraffe is kid-friendly and caters to a family audience. So how does it do when it comes to baby-friendliness? My ratings system (explained in full on my About page) takes into account menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding.

Menu: For parents, there’s plenty on the Giraffe menu that can be eaten one-handed if you need to hold your baby in the other arm. Breakfast/brunch items, salads, pastas and some of the Giraffe ‘favourites’ all give you good choices for one-handed eating. It’s nice that they have a whole kids’ menu, too, and the portions (for both adults and children) are generous.

Space: There’s ample space to move around the restaurant with your baby carriage, although you probably wouldn’t get to park more than one carriage at a table. Go for one of the circular tables rather than the booths because you’ll have more of a choice for where to put your buggy. One annoying thing is that it’s somewhat difficult to enter the restaurant; there are two heavy glass doors and you have to turn a corner. Usually a staff member will be able to help you but it’s too bad the doors don’t open more easily. It seems like a no-brainer to provide easy access in a kid-friendly place.

Giraffe interior

Ambiance: Colourful, festive, and global. The decor in the restaurant will be pleasing to children and babies; it’s bright and fun. The staff are very helpful and friendly to children. We were offered a high chair and a kids’ menu right away. On the day we went, it looked like there were only two members of staff taking care of all the tables, but they were in very good humour and seemed to be having fun despite being run off their feet. They also give out balloons to children, which is always nice (unless your baby is scared of them – I know I was as a child!).

Giraffe wall

Facilities: The bright orange baby-changing/disabled toilet is a fine size and has a good layout, although the bin should be closer to the changing table. On the day we visited it was clean and well-aired despite not having a window. It suffers from a narrow pull-down changing table without a shelf to put your bag on, but there’s space to hang your bag from the corner of the table. If you’re waiting in the corridor for someone to come out, you may have to back up quite a long way when they leave the changing room as it’s a very narrow corridor.

Giraffe baby-changing facilities

Feeding: No one minded that we had brought some of our own food for part of the Baberoo’s lunch. I’ve also fed her entirely with home-prepared food on a different visit and it didn’t raise any eyebrows. I haven’t breastfed her at Giraffe, but the ambiance suggests that it would be welcomed, and you can choose from tables with regular seats or bench seating, whichever is more comfortable for you.

In total, Giraffe gets an 8 out of 10 for baby-friendliness. It’s a reliable place to stop in with a young one and you won’t be kept waiting long for your meal.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pitt Rivers Museum

Yesterday was day 19 of illness in the Oxford Mommy household. Two back-to-back colds have caused us to cancel all our classes, playdates, and outings for the last couple of weeks and we were going stir-crazy. So I was racking my brains for somewhere to take the Baberoo where she wouldn’t touch things that other babies would then touch and get sick, because I would never want to inflict this cold on anyone else. All of a sudden I had an epiphany: a fun place where you don’t touch stuff? A museum, of course! So we set out for the Pitt Rivers Museum (South Parks Road, OX1 3PP, admission free) where I figured that I would get a little boost from looking at the shrunken heads and realizing that I still don’t look that bad, even after two and a half weeks of no sleep.

Pitt Rivers view from top gallery

The Pitt Rivers is a worldwide anthropological collection, with objects displayed by type rather than by culture or age. Whether you’re interested in musical instruments, boomerangs, clothing, body art, spears, or toys, or just coming to browse through the myriad objects and traditions that the museum houses, you’ll always discover something interesting and unusual. The old-style exhibition cases with their tiny handwritten labels give the museum a dark, enchanting atmosphere. But it’s not musty or boring, and during our visit there was a group of schoolchildren on a booked education session who were really enjoying vivid storytelling by a staff member.

Pitt Rivers ball games case

The Baberoo, being a little cranky because of her cold, was not terribly impressed by the collections, but I enjoyed looking at them, especially the textiles and the ‘ball games’ case. I was also pleased to note, after inspecting the ‘Treatment of the Dead’ case, that I did indeed still look better than a shrunken head. (We’ll have to see if that still applies in a week or so if we’re still not sleeping at night, though.) I do think that the Pitt Rivers collections appeal to older children rather than babies, so if you choose this museum as a destination it’ll mainly be for yourself. Once your kid gets to the age where they can ask all sorts of questions, it’ll be a great place for them too.

So how does the Pitt Rivers rate for baby-friendliness? I’m rating it on my ‘attractions’ scale of 8 points, 2 each for space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding. For more about my ratings system, see my About page.

Space: The building the Pitt Rivers shares with the currently-closed Museum of Natural History (reopening in 2014) is an old-style Victorian building and has lots of stairs at the front, so there’s a special entrance at the side for prams and wheelchairs. The signage was good until I got to where I thought I was supposed to go in, and then I was stymied until a staff member helped me. Once inside, there’s a route to follow to get to a lift, which will bring you to the main floor of the Museum of Natural History, which you walk through until you get to the Pitt Rivers. The entrance to the Pitt Rivers is its gift shop, and there’s a platform lift to get to the main court area from there. There’s another (very large) lift that will take you from the court level to the two gallery levels.

Pitt Rivers lift

With all the cases in the court area, you might think there wasn’t enough room to push a baby carriage around, but actually there was plenty of space to get through, even with our very large Uppababy Vista. It was fun to go around corners and be surprised by the contents of the next case, and I never ran into any areas where I couldn’t get through.

Pitt Rivers view from court gallery

Ambiance: Staff were extremely friendly and helpful, which made up for the bad signage at the front. The museum is quite dark and pretty quiet, so it may be a good bet if you want a sleeping baby to stay asleep (unless there’s a school activity going on, in which case you can hear it throughout the space). I also personally appreciate the feeling of being surrounded by things made of natural materials that have taken time, skill, and attention to craft – it’s the kind of atmosphere that can soothe my most uneasy, illness-induced addled-brain feelings.

Facilities: There is a baby-changing area on the court gallery level. It is very pretty. But whoever designed it didn’t think about needing to bring a pushchair in with you, so it is the narrowest possible space. We certainly couldn’t navigate it with our large pushchair and I doubt even the smallest umbrella stroller could make it into the space along with a parent and still have enough room for the door to close. It’s a shame, because it’s a nice-looking room and you can tell the designer tried to maximize the space by putting the changing table directly above the sink.

Pitt Rivers baby changing

However, you are in luck because there’s another baby-changing room elsewhere in the museum, and it’s huge. You need to go back out via the same route you came in, through the Museum of Natural History and down in the lift to the corridor leading to the wheelchair/pram exit. In that corridor there is a massive disabled/baby change toilet which has all the space you need.

Piitt Rivers disabled and baby changing toilet

Feeding: I didn’t feed the Baberoo while we were at the museum, and of course actual food and drink wouldn’t be permitted inside the museum building. As for breastfeeding, I’ve been happy to do so in many other museums, although there aren’t too many seats available at the Pitt Rivers. The only ones I saw were within the court gallery, right amongst the display cases. I don’t think there were any in the non-gallery areas (ie, the corridors, near the lifts, etc), but I did see someone sitting on a bench in the area outside the Pitt Rivers entrance (in the under-construction Museum of Natural History). Your choices are limited for sure, and I would probably go elsewhere for a feed.

The Pitt Rivers Museum gets a 5.75 out of 8 on my baby-friendliness scale. It’s a nice place to go for a quiet and extremely interesting afternoon away from the bright lights and big crowds of central Oxford – not only during this pre-Christmas rush season, but at any time of the year.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baby College

Last week the Baberoo and I attended a session of Baby College, a baby and parent development course that includes physical, multi-sensory, and cognitive games and activities to enjoy together. Baby College runs classes in eight different areas of Oxford and the surrounding area. Note that this review is only for the session at St Anthony of Padua Church Hall in Headington/Marston (115 Headley Way, OX3 7SS); it doesn’t comment on any of the other venues or sessions.

The name Baby College is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the course certainly boasts a varied curriculum. Each session includes movement, singing, exploration, and baby sign language, plus an emailed handout for parents to read which includes details of a different aspect of a baby’s development each week. It’s generally advisable to sign up for the full 12-week course (£72) because places are limited, but you can book a single session for £6.50 if there are spaces available.

We signed up for a trial of the 9-18 month age group since the Baberoo is 10 months old (there’s also an infant session for 0-9 months and a junior session for 18 months-3 years). It was a real change for her to be in a group of babies older than her rather than the same age or younger. I think she might have felt a little daunted by the fact that everyone else was a proficient crawler, while she had only just learned how to crawl a few days before the class. However, she braved most of the activities, and particularly enjoyed the touch-and-feel cards, the parent-baby dancing, and the coloured balls.The Baberoo plays at Baby College

The session we attended focussed on textures, and I have found myself looking at and commenting on more textures at home with the Baberoo as a result – so clearly, it has had an impact! Unfortunately – and this is in no way the fault of the course content – the timing of the course had an unwelcome impact on the Baberoo’s naptimes (why, oh why, must all baby activities be scheduled during morning naptime??), which means that despite enjoying ourselves we’re going to be cutting down on attending most activities until the nap schedule has righted itself.

How did Baby College rate for baby-friendliness? My ratings system for activities is on an 8-point scale, looking at space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding. For more about these, see my About page.

Space: The church hall at St Anthony’s is one huge room that is divided into two for the Baby College sessions. The outer area is a waiting room, with a few chairs and a table and plenty of room for parking your baby carriage. The classroom area is large enough to comfortably fit at least fifteen parents and their babies as well as the assortment of toys, objects, and props that are used in the classes. The high ceilings and large windows ensure a bright, well-lit area. But there’s not much in the way of interesting details in the building; it’s a very new-looking church hall and it’s somehow devoid of personality.

Baby College waiting area

Ambiance: Donna, our instructor (and one of the co-founders of Baby College Oxford), was very welcoming and led the session with aplomb, considering the chaos that can ensue when a dozen toddlers are presented with fun toys and objects to explore. The parents were friendly and welcomed us as newcomers. All the babies and parents were clearly aficionados of the course and had been attending for the whole term (we joined in on week 7 of 12). In general there was a lovely ambiance from the class attendees – especially the babies, who were really enjoying themselves.

Facilities: Surprisingly, there are no baby-changing facilities in the church hall, just regular bathrooms – which is really a shame, and bad planning on the part of the building designers.  Parents can change their babies on the floor in the classroom or in the waiting area, and there’s also a table in the waiting area that can be used, but there isn’t a sink or garbage pail nearby so it’s not very useful if you have a major change to do.

Feeding: If you’re breastfeeding you can sit on one of the chairs in the waiting area. We didn’t do a breastfeed on the day and I didn’t see anyone else using the room for that purpose, but I would have felt fine doing so, although perhaps it wouldn’t have been the most comfortable of seating.

By my ratings system, the Baby College session at St Anthony’s in Headington/Marston scores a 5.5 out of 8 for baby-friendliness. It’s the venue’s lack of facilities, rather than the class content itself, that results in this score. The session itself was a pleasure, and when the Baberoo is back on track with her nap times I may venture back with her again.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jacobs Inn

Like all the food-related bloggers in and around Oxford, it was only a matter of time before I reviewed Jacobs Inn (130 Godstow Road, Wolvercote, OX2 8PG), the new(ish – they opened in July) dining room and public house by the people who brought you Jacobs and Field. I had been looking forward to the day with great anticipation.

The Baberoo, her Gran and I visited the restaurant for a weekday lunch, having booked the day before, and boy was I glad we had. It was jam-packed in there; the Jacobs Inn guys do a great job at PR and they have an almost cult-like following already.  They even have a Twitter account for their chickens (@jacobschickens), which they keep in the back garden along with their pigs. Talk about locally-sourced eating!

To tide us over before our lunch arrived I ordered some pork crackling with apple relish (£3.50). The apple relish was delicious, but the crackling had been overdone to a hardness that was no longer edible – really too bad, since I had been hoping for a crispy treat.

Jacobs Inn pork crackling

It was hard to decide on my main, given all the delicious-sounding meats on the menu. The venison and bacon ragu sounded tempting, but in the end I went with the Blythburg free range pork belly (£13). It was tender and succulent, with a lovely, almost jammy, seared exterior. I offered some to the Baberoo – big mistake, because she liked it so much that she clamoured for more and ended up eating half of it!

Jacobs Inn pork belly

Despite the pork cracklings not turning out well, I enjoyed the meal and the relaxed atmosphere, and would certainly go back to Jacobs Inn. So, how did it fare on the baby-friendliness scale? My ratings system (explained fully on my About page) encompasses five criteria: menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding.

Menu: For a restaurant that revolves mainly around meat, Jacobs Inn has a surprising number of dishes that can be eaten with one hand while you hold a baby in the other arm. Although the big cuts of meat that require both knife and fork aren’t a possibility, a pie, pasta dish, stew, and lots of starter and brunch plates are easily enjoyed one-handed.

Space: The restaurant area is in the back of the inn, easily accessible with a pushchair (although we didn’t have one on the day since we came in a car). There’s not too much room between tables, so groups of parents with babies in carriages might have a hard time, although there were a few nooks and crannies in the dining room where more than one pushchair might fit, if you can get it through a somewhat narrow space in the middle of the restaurant area. Jacobs Inn also has parking – always handy if you have a car and would prefer to make the trip out to Wolvercote without braving public transport, although the number 6 bus does go right by the inn. But be warned: the parking lot can be a pretty tight squeeze, as we learned on our way out (no thanks to the obstinate lady in a Porsche).

Jacobs Inn interior 3

Ambiance: Quintessential laid-back gastropub, complete with roaring fire. It’s a beautiful interior. Staff were very friendly and helpful with the Baberoo. We were offered a high chair immediately and shown the way to the facilities when we needed them. Staff didn’t even blink at the amount of food that the Baberoo threw on the nice cowhide rug underneath our table and told me to leave the mess for them to clean up (I did clean it myself, though – who wants to pick up half-eaten cucumber and muffin?) The Baberoo also received lots of attention from a nearby table of friendly lunching ladies, which tickled us no end.

Jacobs Inn interior 1

Facilities: The baby-changing table at Jacobs Inn is somewhat of a puzzler. It’s a wooden shelf that folds down from the wall and has one leg supporting it. It’s easy to accidentally kick the leg and dislodge it (which I did), and although I could see that the table had supports at the wall, I was still nonplussed at the idea that the leg could be so out of place. I knew the table wasn’t going to fall, but it still didn’t inspire confidence. Otherwise, the bathroom was clean and fresh-smelling and had enough room for a pushchair to fit comfortably. No shelf or area to put your changing bag, though.

Jacobs Inn baby-changing facilities

Feeding: The Baberoo ate a lunch brought from home (along with half of my pork belly); our table was on the small side so if you’re planning on seating your baby in a high chair and feeding them, see if you can get a table with enough surface area for the baby’s lunch (which always turns out to take up twice as much space as you think it will). If you’re breastfeeding, there are some tables with soft bench seating that might be more comfortable than the wooden chairs.

By my ratings scale, Jacobs Inn earns a 7.5 out of 10 for baby-friendliness. It’s best to reserve a table, even for a weekday lunch. Go and relax by the fire and remember not to let your baby eat half your meal.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Big Bang

(Updated August 2015: The Big Bang has now closed.)

One might be forgiven for assuming that all the restaurants in the Oxford Castle Quarter are chains – after all, many well-known names are housed in this restored and reinvigorated ancient castle and prison. But The Big Bang (42 Oxford Castle Quarter, OX1 1AY) is a staunchly independent British restaurant that uses locally sourced ingredients, and is Oxford’s only sausage-and-mash specialist. In addition to boasting a huge selection of sausages, it also hosts jazz evenings and art exhibitions, and is helmed by a most effervescent owner, Max, who greets you personally and even sits down at your table with you to chat. Perhaps I am easily pleased, but when someone calls this soon-to-be-40, permanently-exhausted mommy a ‘young lady’ she is tickled pink. I loved the place as soon as I walked in.

The obvious decision in terms of food is the Big Bang trio (£12.49), which lets you mix and match from the extensive sausage repertoire. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I selected the wild boar and pigeon sausage (‘Don’t even ask, just be brave and try them out’, says the menu), the smoked bacon sausage, and the pork and apple sausage, with spring onion mash and apple cider gravy (£1 extra). The smoked bacon was my favourite, but the wild boar and pigeon came close. I goofed when I ordered the pork and apple sausage, which was more subtle and therefore overpowered by the other two; I should have gone for the garlicky Toulouse instead. Ah well, next time.

The Big Bang trio

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and am kicking myself for not trying The Big Bang earlier – especially during the summer, when they built a beach outside the restaurant, using 36 tonnes of sand and 12 palm trees, and had a Stay-and-Play session for children twice a week all summer long. I don’t know how I missed this, and I will be first in line next year if it happens again.

Here’s how The Big Bang rates for baby-friendliness according to my five criteria of menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding (for more on these, see my About page).

Menu: Since nearly everything on the menu is sausage, you’ll have to be adept at using one hand to eat a banger if you need to hold a baby in the other arm. But this is easily done (best technique: spear the sausage directly in the middle and eat from the ends to the centre – no cutting required as long as you can keep it on the fork!) Mash is easy to eat with one hand, and so are the peas and cabbage that come with each meal.

Space: The best space for anyone with a baby carriage is somewhere near the entrance to the restaurant; there are a few individual tables, which are your best choice, and there are also tables with benches, which could work in a pinch. Further into the restaurant, the tables are quite close together and there isn’t much space for a stroller. When the restaurant is full I doubt you could get one between tables very easily.

The Big Bang seating

Ambiance: The ambiance at The Big Bang is truly wonderful and service is stellar. As I approached the door, one of the Sausageers (yes, that’s what they call the staff!) ran to open it for me. The Baberoo received many compliments, and hilariously, my Sausageer and I were both instructed in Max’s foolproof method to tell a girl baby from a boy baby (it’s all in the eyes, apparently). When we went to visit the baby-changing facilities the doors were also opened for us without my needing to ask. And the homey way that the staff sit down with you (iPads in hand to take your order) while you choose your meal is very appealing. They have truly cracked how to be helpful and personable, and it’s obvious that they love what they’re doing.

Facilities: The baby-changing facility is light and clean and has enough space to move your baby carriage around. There is a slight odour of clogged drain; I’m going to put this down to the fact that the Oxford Castle surroundings are over a thousand years old. The changing table is a pull-down one of the narrower type and there’s no shelf for your changing bag.

The Big Bang baby-changing facilities

Feeding: We were offered a high chair right away, and my Sausageer also brought a plate and spoon for me to use for the Baberoo’s lunch without my even asking. The Baberoo ate her meal (brought from home) with gusto and tried my peas, which she loved. I didn’t breastfeed her on this occasion but if you are breastfeeding you can choose either a table with regular chairs or a table with benches, whichever suits you better. There are also a few squishy, cushy armchairs near the entrance, if you can snag one.

In total, The Big Bang gets a 7.75 out of 10 for baby-friendliness. Go during a weekday lunchtime to ensure that there’s enough space for your baby carriage, and revel in the fun and friendly atmosphere.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Byron

I’ll never be known as the world’s biggest meat eater, but from time to time I feel like I simply must have a big, juicy hamburger RIGHT AWAY. This was one of those days, so the Baberoo and I headed to Byron (33-35 George Street, OX1 2AY) so I could treat myself while she napped.

I ordered the limited-time-only Le Smokey (£9.75, available until 31 October), which comes with basically everything I most want on a burger: crispy bacon, smoked Cheddar, crispy fried onions, pickles, and smoked chilli barbecue sauce. I waited a while to get it (the restaurant was not particularly full but it still took 20 minutes to get to my table), but then again, you can’t rush a good burger and Byron is not a fast-food joint. It was also cooked truly medium-rare, exactly as I had requested. It was delicious in every way. I gobbled it down like there was no tomorrow.

Byron Le Smokey burger

Even though I already had crispy onions on my burger, I made the gluttonous decision to order a side of onion rings (£3.25). I am a huge fan of onion rings and I already know that Byron does them the way I like: huge pieces of onion in with a nicely spiced batter that’s crispy but not overdone. Having practically inhaled the burger before the Baberoo woke up, I took my time with the rings while feeding her. I washed it all down with an A&W root beer (£2.95); oh, the memories of high school that beverage invokes! I haven’t found it served anywhere else in Oxford yet, so for me it is a rare treat.

Byron onion rings

I truly enjoyed my meal and will always go back to Byron, which I’ve loved since my London days. Now, how does Byron rate on the baby-friendliness scale? My five criteria (which are explained further on my About page) are menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding.

Menu: Byron’s hamburgers are big and messy and that’s the way it should be. But they aren’t easy to eat with one hand while holding a squealing baby, as I can attest from today’s experience. The Baberoo woke up from her nap and absolutely refused to sit anywhere but my lap, so I had to hold her while eating. Luckily I had devoured most of the burger already, which meant I could use a fork for the rest, but there is no way you could start on one of these without the use of both hands. There are salads on the menu. The salads look good. But come on, who goes to a place that makes such good burgers and then orders the salad? Do yourself a favour and go when your baby is either napping or in a good enough mood to sit in a high chair so you can use both hands to pick up your burger.

Space: There’s a fair amount of space in the restaurant at lunchtime; you can definitely fit a baby carriage next to a table with no problem. The staff were helpful in selecting a table for me close to the baby-changing facilities and in a location where I wouldn’t be blocking anyone’s way with the buggy. It wouldn’t be suitable for more than one pram at a table, though, and if there are more people in the restaurant it could begin to be a tight squeeze.

Byron restaurant interior

Ambiance: The staff were extremely friendly and helpful with both the baby-changing and the high chair. The restaurant itself is open and welcoming. There are skylights but the general ambiance, especially in the back, is slightly dim, which is great if your baby is napping. There is catchy music playing in the background but not loud enough to wake a sleeping baby.

Facilities: The baby-changing facility requires a key to get in, but the staff will let you know where that is so you can use the room at any time. It’s clean and large enough to manoeuvre your stroller inside. There’s a pull-down changing table, although no shelf for your bag.

Byron baby-changing facilities

Feeding: Byron has several types of chairs at its tables so you can request a table that has chairs that look comfy to you. There’s also bench seating and padded booth seats. I was in a booth but the table was a little close to the seat so it might have been difficult to hold the Baberoo while breastfeeding; however, I didn’t breastfeed her on this occasion so I can’t say for sure. There are high chairs for babies who are eating food, although the Baberoo rejected the chair and made me sit her on my lap while she dropped mango and rice cakes all over me. We did not look elegant while we ate; thank goodness Byron isn’t the kind of place where that’s necessary.

In total, Byron rates a 7.0 out of 10 on the baby-friendliness scale. Because of the messiness of burgers in general, make sure you will have both hands free or go with someone else so you can swap the baby back and forth while you enjoy your meal.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fishers Restaurant

The Baberoo’s Gran took us out for lunch this week at Fishers Restaurant (36/37 St Clements Street, OX4 1AB). Oxford is a landlocked city so it’s not the first place you’d think of for a fish restaurant, but Fishers has its own carriage company which delivers fish from Cornwall on the day of catch. The lunch and early evening menu is served from 12-2:30 and 6-7 pm every day of the week and is £8.95 for two courses or £11.50 for three, which is cheap as chips (or should I say fish and chips?).

I had two courses because I can never manage three, although I wished I could have because the starters looked lovely. My mother-in-law enjoyed her starter of crispy squid with roasted garlic mayonnaise. For our mains we both ordered the hake fillet with roasted root vegetables and basil pesto. The fish was succulent and moist and paired well with the pesto.

Fishers Restaurant hake

My choice for dessert was the sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce. The pudding was light and spongy, all the better with which to soak up the deliciously sticky sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and would certainly go back again.

Fishers Restaurant sticky toffee pudding

Rated against my scoring system for baby-friendliness, which encompasses the five elements of menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding (more details about each of these are available on my About page), here’s how Fishers fares:

Menu: The lunch and early evening menu has three options for each course; it’s a constantly changing menu so there’s no guarantee of which dishes you’ll get to choose from, but the starters and desserts on the day we went would all have been easy to eat with one hand while holding a baby in the other arm. One of the mains will always be fish, so it’s likely that it can be eaten using only one hand as well. Other mains may include a seafood or meat dish that might not be as easily eaten with one hand. But given the tight menu, it’s got quite a lot to choose from with regards to ease of eating while holding a baby.

Space: One of the reasons I’d never ventured into Fishers before was because of the revolving door. I needn’t have worried, because as soon as they saw me trying to get in the staff were very helpful and pushed the door slowly so I could navigate the space. Even my very large baby carriage fit through just fine, although there wouldn’t be enough space for a twin pushchair. The interior of the restaurant has plenty of tables with regular chairs and bench seating; there’s enough space in most areas to put a pram at a table, although I don’t think a group of parents with baby carriages would be able to fit comfortably.

Fishers Restaurant interior

Ambiance: Cheerily nautical: fishing ropes, lifebuoys, nets, and other fish-related paraphernalia adorn the restaurant; the kitchen even has portholes for windows. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly with the Baberoo and service was top-notch. We were offered the choice of two different kinds of high chairs and the Baberoo enjoyed sitting in hers and ripping up the paper tablecloth covers. There are also crayons available so toddlers and older children can amuse themselves.

Facilities: Fishers doesn’t have any baby-changing facilities, but staff did offer me a space on a bench to change the Baberoo (although we waited until we got home). They are currently looking into installing a changing table in one of the bathrooms, but – as with many Oxford buildings of a certain age – the toilets are extremely small and there aren’t many changing tables that can fit into the space. Still, it’s great that they are looking into it. If they manage to find one that fits into the space, you still won’t be able to bring your baby carriage in with you because of the size of the entry to the toilets, so you’ll have to leave it at your table.

Fishers Restaurant toilets

Feeding: The Baberoo ate a meal sitting in her high chair and had a whale of a time throwing oatcakes and peaches on the floor. If I had wanted to breastfeed her I would have been able to choose between a regular chair or a bench. Both would have been fine, although they are unpadded so they wouldn’t be as comfortable as in some other places.

Fishers Restaurant scores a 6.75 out of 10 for baby-friendliness and would have scored higher if they’d had baby-changing facilities. This number is no reflection on the food, which I rate much more highly. If you are a fish lover this is a great place to visit, and the lunch deal simply can’t be beat.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,