Only a few short years ago, an evening out could mean many things to my husband and I. It could have meant leaving home at 10pm to hit a few clubs, or spending an hour getting ready for dinner and drinks in the city. Quite regularly it was an impromptu trip to the movies. Since having children, however, the phrase ‘a night out,’ (as well as the word impromptu), have lost all meaning. Most recently, a night out has come to mean one of us escaping the din and enjoying the complete sense of freedom that comes with doing the grocery shopping alone on a Saturday night. We tend to argue over whose turn it is to exercise that simple luxury.
Last weekend, however, I discovered the secret to attaining the best of both worlds – pre and post children – when my husband and I took our 3 year old and 5 year old to the Belrose Hotel for dinner. In fact we were so buoyed at the prospect of a genuine ‘night out’ that we took along our 18 month old nephew and his parents as well.
It was clear upon arrival that the best of both worlds is exactly what is on offer at the Belrose Hotel. The spacious dining area is fitted with a large fireplace set in sandstone, and two generously sized play areas, (one for 0-4 year olds and one for 5-10 year olds). So while the grown-ups enjoyed a warming pre dinner drink by the fire the children were happily entertained mere metres away. The ball pit and smaller climbing frame and slide provided ample enjoyment for my daughter and her small cousin, while my son climbed the impressively large play structure and slide and made great use of the video games in the big kids’ room. Better still, the restaurant houses a number of televisions tuned to various sporting channels for the adults to enjoy with a quiet drink. For smaller children, or those that prefer to stay with mum and dad, colouring pads and pencils are provided on every table.
After prying the children away from the play equipment, we enjoyed a relaxed 3-course meal. Our party ordered a variety of meals from the menu – from hearty pub-style favourites like burgers, schnitzels and steaks to more sophisticated culinary faire such as salmon, lamb loin and gourmet salads. The mains were reasonably priced, ranging from $16 to $24, and generously portioned. The kids meals cost $10, with healthier options at $12.
Each meal came with chips and salad or vegetable side dishes, (I am told the lamb loin with mash was excellent). The verdict from the children was unanimous – my very fussy three year old ate everything on her plate, and my five year old asked me to report that the fish was ‘particularly delicious’. A good measure of a restaurant is often found in their proficiency at preparing both the steak (to the customer’s order), and a seafood dish and on both counts the chef hit the mark.Though we were well and truly satiated by the first two courses, the desserts looked too good to pass up – and they did not disappoint. I highly recommend the warmed muffins with a side of vanilla bean ice cream and the banana bread, both of which we shared across the table.
I noticed that the Belrose Hotel also does Sunday breakfasts where children eat free with an accompanying adult, so breakfasts with friends may indeed beckon in the weeks to come.
But the final verdict for dinner? I can wholeheartedly report that the best of both worlds is indeed possible, the phrase ‘a night out’ is well and truly back on the menu, and Saturday nights are no longer for grocery shopping!
A version of this article appeared on North Shore Mums, (www.northshoremums.com.au)