Due to some bad project management on my part – and the lure of the Black Friday sale – we ended up oven-less for about six weeks over the Christmas period. We got by – with a camper stove, slow cooker and microwave – but there were times we just had to get out.
An excuse to go out for a meal? Surely a good thing? Maybe in days gone by but not so much with a 3.5 year old and 17 month old.
We have about a minute-long window – tops – when Blue Eyes sits still and eats his food. Then that’s it, he’s off. Houdini-style, he can wriggle his way out of any high chair. And being out and about is just too damn exciting, he has to explore, befriend other diners, flirt with waitresses.
So, eating out usually involves more crisis management than enjoyment.
Which leads us on to Jamie’s Italian in Exeter. We were very lucky to be given a nice fat voucher towards this meal, in return for a review. We decided to share the love with some NCT-pals and our meal became a birthday celebration.
Immediately on arrival we were taken care of – I arrived with my boys absolutely sodden from a torrential downpour (do you remember the flooding at the end of December?). I wouldn’t say I was in the best of moods but the staff made life easier by letting me abandon the buggy so I could dry off, focus on the boys and peel off Curly Boy’s trousers (not a great day to forget wellies).
Predictably the first thing we did at the table was get stuck into the activity pack. I’m a sucker for a good restaurant activity pack – and Jamie’s was impressive. Do you remember those cool paper things we used to make as kids where you had to answer questions and open flaps? (See pic). Well, the ‘Little Pack of Fun’ had one of those to help kids choose their meal. Amazing.
And there were herb seeds – actual seeds you could take home and plant. It also contained a little spinny thing with ideas for different guessing games.
The menu was pretty special.
Familiar tends to be a safe bet for toddlers but the usual fish fingers and chicken nugget options can get a bit tired.
Jamie’s Italian is much more creative with their kids meals. Instead of chicken nuggets, they had ‘Happy Chicken Lollipops’ – a healthier version of grilled chicken on skewers and no-brainer choice for my 3-year-old. It was served on a chopping board with comic strip paper – very cool. Loving the attention to detail.
Each kids meal came with a little ‘Shake-Me Salad’, which had grapes in it. My boys were delighted with this.
I also like the fact you choose between two sizes: big kid and little kid. Although, Blue Eyes’ little kids meatballs and pasta was still big enough for my boys to share.
If you go, start with the olives on ice (on the main menu) – delicious and a massive hit with my youngest and Curly Boy’s three-year-old buddy.
I had Pumpkin ravioli – have a look at the pic. It was very tasty.
Now, I’ve got to be straight with you. I’d had a hectic morning – I’d tried to fit too many jobs in. The kind that are a doddle on your own, but throw two smalls into the mix and they become impossible. Plus it was pee-ing it down.
By the time we got to Jamie’s Italian, I’d been struck by a killer migraine. So I’m sad I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind for a party or to review the restaurant. However, what could have been a total fail was still a fun meal – we were all well looked after and lunch felt like a real treat.
We’ll definitely be back – so I can properly appreciate it’s loveliness, the trendy decor and sample some more of the menu.
Jamie’s Italian, 20 Bedford Street, Exeter EX1 1GJ https://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/restaurants/exeter/
Where are your favourite child-friendly restaurants in Exeter?
I asked some local mums for their suggestions (feel free to leave your own in the comments):
“Nandos! Allergy awareness excellent” – Bryony
“Wagamamas – friendly staff, crayons and paper for drawing while you wait for food. They’re also happy to sub on the kids menu (eg noodles instead of rice) and have children’s chopsticks which makes the meal fun (though messy)!!” – Amanda
“We love Jamie’s too. And Giraffe – really good kids food option (A loves their griddled salmon fillet with sweet potato fries and salad, eats the lot! M a big fan of their pasta), plus good colouring and a little plastic giraffe in their drinks.” – Cate