We took the kids for tapas last weekend – not because they’re really into Spanish-style eating and not because we’re trying to broaden their cultural horizons – it was more of an accident really. We went to see fireworks in Dun Laoghaire, and once they were over, we tried a few of the nearby restaurants, but they were all full. We kept walking, and then I remembered a tapas restaurant that my husband and I both love, so we headed in that direction. I’d been there recently for breakfast, and spotted a great children’s menu, so had it in my head that we should bring the kids there. Plus, have I mentioned that we love it?
We queued, we waited, we asked for a table, there was humming and hawing, and eventually the very nice staff member found us a spot.
“We’ll need it back in an hour though,” he said. “Is that OK?”
“Ha! We’ll be out of here in twenty minutes,” I said, eying up the three tired, hungry kids. On the taking-kids-to-restaurants scale, we’ve gone past “only if there’s a high chair” and “no way are we doing this without bags of colouring books and rice cakes” but we’re not yet at “we’ll have coffee and dessert and chill out for a while now.” It’s main-course-and-run, every time.
There were only three chairs at the table we were given, and it took all my power to convince the kids that the staff were bringing two more, and all my strength to stop the three-year-old from taking a seat from another customer’s table. Then they started the obligatory “No I want to sit here!” argument while simultaneously examining wine glasses and sharp knives. It was very relaxing.
“Let’s look at the menu!” I said, trying to distract them.
“Where’s the kids’ food?” asked the eldest, turning her menu over and back.
“Um, well, this is a tapas restaurant you see. It’s very grown-up. They don’t have a kids’ menu in the evenings…” Something that had not dawned on me when I suggested going there.
The change-averse eight-year-old looked like she was going to cry. The exhausted six-year-old, who had stayed up to watch the TV3 Toy Show the night before, was already crying. The three-year-old was under the table. It was really enjoyable. Really.
My husband gave me the “let’s get out of here” look. And he was probably right. But the idea of gathering them up and exiting the now quite full restaurant, after all the effort it had taken to finally sit down, was just plain exhausting. Back out into the cold with nothing eaten, admitting defeat. And part of me stubbornly wanted to stay precisely because there was no kids’ menu – for once they’d have to eat something other than sausage and chips. We were staying.
“I’ll just order things I know they’ll eat,” I said. “Let’s stay.”
So we went for breads and dips, olives, patatas bravas, sweet potato chips, meat balls and steak crostini, smiling throughout the ordering process, ignoring the horrified sausage-and-chip seeking faces. It was going to be great. Just great.
After initial confusion about why the food was arriving at different times and being put in the middle of the table (“it’s so grown up isn’t it kids!”) they finally decided to give it a try.
It wasn’t pretty. The small boy ate meatballs with his hands, smearing sauce all over his face. He sucked on some patatas bravas and didn’t like them, so passed them on to my plate. I love patatas braves but not so much when they’ve been sucked. Everyone liked the olives. The kids said “ugh” without trying the hummus dips. They drank the pesto from the bowl. Someone spilled the water, and they all plunged their hands into their glasses to take out their lemon slices. The six-year-old loved the steak but not the bread it came with; the small boy happily at her leftovers. Our claims that the sweet potato chips were special Spanish chips fell on deaf ears, and only the grown-ups ate them. The table was destroyed. The restaurant filled up with many, many adults, out for Saturday night dates and parties, and no other children. It was time to go.
“But when is my real dinner coming?” asked the confused three-year-old.
“Can we have dessert?” asked the girls.
“I don’t think they have dessert, but do you want to go down to the fairground for a go on the chair-planes?”
“Yay!” they said, and five minutes later, we tumbled back out into the dark street, bill paid, and nothing broken.
“That was amazing!” said the eight-year-old.
“Best day ever,” agreed the six-year-old (she has form – she says this most weekends.)
“That is the nicest restaurant in the whole world,” said the small boy. “Can we go there every single night?”
Sure. Of course we can. I can’t think of anything else I’d like to do.
And the thing is, they were all in wonderful form, and all said they’d had a brilliant night. And I don’t know if it counts as brilliant if it’s just because it came good at the end, or perhaps because they all found something they liked, or only because forgot that they had cried for the first ten minutes.
But maybe that’s how it works. If it’s all turns out OK, and we have some photos of the good bits, and we go on the chair-planes after, it’s another good memory in the bank, and none of them is any the wiser. Until they grow up and read this. But yes, actually, it was great. This time I mean it.