Marylebone is a popular destination for those looking for great food - we have some of the best restaurants and bars in London in the area. There has been a massive change in the area over the last few years though, and some of the tried and true locals favourites have moved on, as well as many of the chains which (though boring) were great stalwarts when out with younger children. Amongst others we have lost Giraffe which was truly great for kids, and more recently Carluccio's where the staff overlooked the noise and mess that comes with kids and was always an easy and affordable option. Thankfully a few places like Cote that are reasonably priced, where kids are welcomed and not just tolerated do still exist in the area.
Some of the newcomer restaurants that have opened are not particularly kid friendly in their menus, or do not encourage children (to put it politely), or are just too expensive to go to regularly and not really value for money.
Yet we do have a few little gems in the area, such as The Ivy Cafe on Marylebone Lane.
Recently, I was invited by The Ivy Cafe to have lunch with a friend at their Marylebone branch. As you may know, The Ivy Cafe has been growing rapidly as a group with branches is many of the "nice" areas of London and the South East such as St John's Wood and Richmond. The Ivy brand has a great reputation but when I first heard they were coming to Marylebone I was not convinced we needed something like that in the area and had my concerns about whether it could be a place where locals want to go rather attracting mainly the destination diners that many restaurants focus on.
Well, I was totally wrong!
Not only do the team at The Ivy Cafe welcome families with children, they also provide tasty food at a price level that is justifiable, in lovely surroundings and most importantly welcoming to locals. In fact during my lunch there I not only saw 2 people I know from the area but also bumped into my cousin who lives and works in the neighbourhood who was having a business lunch there and who confirmed that it is definitely one of his go-to places for a meal. It is definitely a place for locals - which is lovely to see.
The Ivy Cafe has a varied menu, with something for everyone. Comfort food is definitely prevalent but there are lots of lighter and healthier options too. I enjoyed my prawn cocktail starter with beautiful large prawns, and couldn't resist the Shepherd's Pie which is always comforting, delicious and far better than anything I ever make at home! My dining companion used her test of a restaurant by ordering the fried calamari which was crispy yet tender (passing the test with flying colours) and proclaimed her sea bass main delicious and light. We indulged with a chocolate mousse and tarte tatin for dessert which were both lovely as well as some much-needed coffee to carry us through the afternoon after a rather larger-than-usual lunch!
The manager chatted to us and mentioned that a few of the local restaurants have pitched together and can share child seats if they have a larger than normal number of little ones dining with them, which I think is a great idea and nice to see the community working together. They will do small portions and children's options, and I am sure my child would happily eat many of the things from the main menu as the menu has a wide and varied mix with many family favourites that children would be familiar with.
My only negative from the visit was that even though it was a Monday afternoon in early October, the place was packed. I believe they do keep some tables for walk-in diners but given the restaurant's popularity it may not be easy to just pop in at peak times (if like me you are never organised enough to book!). But if you get a table you are almost guaranteed a good meal.
As well as a delicious all-day menu, they have a breakfast menu, a cream tea from 3-5pm every day with scones (guess where you might be able to find me one day very soon?), and a weekend brunch menu as well as a dedicated vegetarian and vegan menu. So there really is something for everyone! It is quite clear why The Ivy Cafe has become a popular place for Marylebone residents and visitors alike.
The Ivy Cafe 96 Marylebone Ln, Marylebone, London W1U 2QA
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine with a guest and did not have to pay for our meal. I will happily return to the venue in the future to dine there with family and friends based on my experience.
The Langham London Hotel has recently launched an Afternoon Tea in association with Hamleys as well as launching family rooms and family packages in the hotel. The Family Getaway package includes options such as a VIP tour of Hamleys, afternoon tea, and even Kidzania tickets. It sounds like a real treat for families visiting London.
We were lucky enough to be invited to sample the afternoon tea just before the launch on 1st August. My 3.5 year old daughter was very excited when I explained that she was going to put on a lovely party dress, and would go to a beautiful hotel to have a tea party. Her expectations were high, and the tea did not disappoint!
The Langham, London Children’s Afternoon Tea is available in the Palm Court. In partnership with Hamleys, the Afternoon Tea is part of a series of initiatives aimed at providing families an enjoyable experience within Regent Street’s Grand Hotel. It is available to children aged 12 years and under and each child receives a complimentary Hamleys teddy bear as a token giveaway of their time at The Langham, London.
The tea has been created by Cherish Finden, Executive Pastry Chef together with Chris King, Executive Chef of The Langham, London. For those of you who watched Bake Off Creme de la Creme may recognise Cherish as one of the judges. As soon as I realised this, I was a little bit (ok, a lot) excited as I was a big fan of the show and was amazed by Cherish's exacting standards. I was very keen to experience her creations.
Three seatings are available in Palm Court: 1pm, 3.15pm and 5.30pm. We were at the 1pm sitting and in the future I will always chose this as it was an alternative to lunch and (more importantly) left us the whole afternoon to burn off the higher than usual amount of food (and sugar) that we had consumed by a long afternoon visit to the park!
When we arrived we were offered drinks. Children have a choice of strawberry and kiwi tea, hot chocolate, fruit juice , or as my little one chose, cold chocolate milk. It was delicious and it was great to have some many options for picky palates.
Then the main event. The most beautiful and carefully thought through afternoon tea. A jigsaw of delicious sandwiches, a Carousel Cup Cake Swirl, a Cookie Monster Macaroon, a Maltesers Chocolate Mousse and a Langham Cold Chocolate along with a Sweet Surprise Bag of assorted candy and classic sweets. Not only did it look stunning but everything tasted amazing. My daughter couldn't bring herself to eat Cookie Monster so I devoured him in true Cookie Monster style! (he was delicious)
The Children’s Langham Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood is priced at £27.50 per child.
Adults can indulge in the Wedgwood Afternoon tea. The cakes were some of the lightest and most delicious I have ever tasted and looked stunning. And of course no tea is complete without freshly baked, light fluffy scones.
The decor and atmosphere of the Palm Court are a fantastic mix of modern and traditional. There was no stuffy, old feel at all and the children were warmly welcomed. My daughter proclaimed it to be "amazing" and "the best fun".
I'm often asked for good places for afternoon tea and in the future I will recommend this as my top place, especially if you have kids, but even without. I have been lucky enough to tea at most of the main tea venues in London and this is definitely up there with the best.