Before children OH and I used to live in Putney, literally just moments from the high street and a myriad of restaurants.
Because this cafe lifestyle was so accessible didn’t take advantage of it nearly as often as we should have. Then, the children arrived… and that was the end of our carefree, cosmopolitan life as we knew it.
Dining out with one child was doable, but awkward. The reality was, dining with two children under two-and-a-half just wasn’t much fun. One would be constantly running off, while the other squirmed and whinged, and threw their cutlery on the floor. And then we entered the tantrum zone *shudders at the memory*.
In the end I gave up the pretence that ‘the children would fit in around our lifestyle’ and admitted the truth – for the time being, I was essentially housebound.
Lil Sis was about five-and-a-half before I noticed a shift – finally both girls could both sit down for more than five minutes at a time, and even engage in conversations. We began to venture out – first to the local cafes, then to child friendly restaurants. Going to dinner with the girls was no longer a stressful chore, it was fun again!
Now, eating out it’s one of our favourite things to do as a family, so when we were invited to the Giggling Squid Thai restaurant, in Marlow, South Buckinghamshire, it was an easy ‘yes’.
When Andy and Pranee Laurillard set up the very first GIGGLING SQUID in Brighton in 2002, they simply wanted to introduce people to rustic, fresh Thai food, served traditional ‘tapas style’ to encourage tasting and sharing. Their idea proved so successful that they now have more than 20 child friendly restaurants – with many more planned.
But what really appealed to me was the kids’ tasting menu, which allows you to mix and match a couple of plates to encourage kids to eat ‘outside the food box’.
I wasn’t worried so much about Big Sis, as she’s always been quite adventurous – we travelled to St Lucia when she was just 20 months old, and I was worried about what she’d eat while we were there. I needn’t have, as she was literally shovelling down salt fish, rice and black-eyed beans. Then, on our family trip to Bali she utterly fell in love with the local nasi goreng, and had the spicy rice every morning for breakfast.
Lil Sis, however, is a lot more trepidatious when it comes to food – she likes what she knows, and she knows what she likes – and it can take some convincing to get her try something new.
We ordered four small plates for them to try – spring rolls, pad thai noodles, sirloin steak strips, chicken satay (rice also comes as a free side) washed down with two glasses of mango juice. OH and I had vegetable tempura, salt and pepper squid, papaya salad, spring rolls and a Thai beef salad, accompanied by a stunning New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
I watched Lil Sis out the corner of my eye: picking up a satay stick, she stuck out her tongue and gave it a tentative lick, then she took the tiniest nibble, then a larger bite. ‘I like it!’ she announced.
The coveted and rarely awarded Lil Sis stamp of approval – high praise indeed.
Big Sis loved all the food, but her favourites where the pad thai noodles, and the steak strips. Lil Sis demolished all her rice, some chicken satay sticks, and took a surprising shine to the salt and pepper squid.
Afterwards, the girls had a scoop of chocolate ice cream, while I had the deliciously creamy banana and honey.
‘Would you like to come back again?’ we asked the girls afterwards, and they both shouted, ‘YES!’.
Not only was the food fresh, and different and absolutely delicious, the waiting staff were friendly and lovely, and nothing was too much trouble. The location was gorgeous too – set in a restored Tudor building near the top of Marlow’s high street, it had a relaxing, rustic feel, with exposed wooden beams and door frames you had to duck to get under.
Spread over two levels, there are loads of delightful little nooks and crannies, and seating ranges from standard table and chairs, to large banquettes (take a sneak peek of the upstairs restaurant, below, including a 360º degree video view).
Thanks so much for the delicious family meal, Giggling Squid; we’ll definitely be back soon.
Looking for more child friendly restaurants? Read our reviews of FRANKIE & BENNY’S
• our food and drinks were provided for the purpose of review