Family friendly eating out in Leeds


Sometime last year I had the brilliant idea of writing a blog post about places to eat out with kids in Leeds. It was inspired by a blog post by Andrew Critchett from way back which you can read here. And a guest post from Rebekka Kill about her family’s favourites which you’ll find here.

I’m always a bit stumped when it comes to eating out with the kids so quite selfishly I thought a list recommended by others would be a good place to start. For those of you without kids there are some keys requirements (in my book):

  1. Service needs to be relatively fast. I’m not talking fast food but eating out with a hungry 5 year old doesn’t lend itself well to waiting half an hour for your main course.
  2. Kid friendly food – this definitely does not mean chicken nuggets and chips but it does smaller portions, in my perfect world it would mean choosing from the adult menu in half portions.
  3. General kiddie friendliness – if the staff are actually friendly and treat the kids like real people that’s a massive bonus. Maybe even chat to them, they are after all a customer.
  4. If you can get colouring sheets and supply pencils that aren’t blunt then you’ve scored a brownie point with me (giving a child a colouring pencil that is blunt infuriates me).

So like any good Culture Vulture blogger does I asked Twitter about favourite places to eat out in Leeds with kids and this is what I got back. I haven’t checked these places out so if you hate them, leave your comments, if you love them, leave a comment, if I’ve missed one out, leave a comment. You get the idea.


  1. I took my 4 & 7 year old boys to carluccios on Greek street last week and I have to say it was brilliant. They had their own special parcel which contained their menu, puzzle & colouring sheet. A colour on jigsaw & a fresh pack of pencils. Their food was lovely, although rather small for my 7yo – but then he does eat more than your average adult (and he’s dead skinny too – whats that all about hey!). Anyhow, aside from all the great food, the service was brilliant & the amazing waitress who looked after us really made a fuss of the boys which they loved! All in all – 9/10 from me. 🙂

  2. When my son was little (he’s now 11 and eats bigger meals than me!)the issue was always finding vegetarian meals for kids. “Kids Menus” tend to be full of things like sausages and fish fingers.

  3. At Pizza Express on a Wednesday (admittedly a bad time to go) we waited about 40 minutes for our pizza, not the fault of the restaurant exactly just a lot of people in there at once – However my one year old had just learnt that we react when she starts making a “hooting” noise, despite taking her for walks round the back she was pretty noisy… A customer actually came over and complained to us – I don’t think I have ever been so mad in all my life, pretty much destroyed the meal for my wife and I, it was a “shame” that I saw him outside and got the opportunity to explain to him how he had managed to ruin the meal… That said other people in the restaurant actually commented on how nice my daughter was and basically telling us that guy was basically a … well fill in the blank.

    1. If my friend is drunk and being loud or obnoxious, I would make him leave the restaurant. If we were in a large party and were making lots of noise, I would expect the staff to ask us to quieten down. Why is it that people are expected to put up with children being noisy or misbehaved? I understand that children are noisy at times, but if they are noisy/misbehaved in an inappropriate setting (like a restaurant where other people are trying to have a nice meal), then to me it makes sense that they are removed by the parents. Granted this is inconvenient for the parents, but it sets a standard of behaviour expected in a public place designed for everyone (as opposed to say a playground, where i would expect children to be noisy because it’s designed specifically for them).

      I find it really sad that you dismissed this man’s opinions and complained that he ruined your meal. Had I been there, and your child was being noisy enough that someone felt the need to complain to you (and by your own admission your child was being noisy), your child would have ruined my meal. This man had paid every bit as much as you had, but it seems like he was not as entitled as you were to the restaurant experience he expected.

      I’m not against children being in restaurants etc, far from it. They need to be exposed to places to learn how to behave in them. However, it seems like if everyone was a bit more considerate about people with children AND people without, then everything would work a little better.

    2. It sounds like this was one of those situations where you’d have to have been there.

      It depends exactly how the gentleman approached. If he was well mannered then I don’t see the problem in having a quiet word. On the other hand, if he sat and boiled and then flipped his lid then he handled it badly.

      Pizza Express is a family orientated restaurant and it’s not unreasonable to expect kids in there.

      People do need to realise, however, that there’s very little you can do with a one year old. They’re at the worst age for restaurants. They can’t understand instructions, have a zero attention span, and only communicate in high pitched noises.

      Personally, I find large noisy groups of adults to be more likely to ruin a meal than children.

      1. So if there very little you can do with a one year old, and they’re the worst age for restaurants, should maybe they wait until they’re a bit older to be introduced to that concept? In the same way that I’d advise that very young children maybe wait until they’re old enough to sit still for the requisite time before taking them to the theatre? I appreciate that Pizza Express is a restaurant favoured by families (though I rarely see their advertising denoting it as a family destination), which is why I avoid it like the plague.

        1. We now have two ‘darlings’ and to be honest we do tend to avoid restaurants that aren’t burger chains – my children are not perfect, but seriously if you ‘politely have a word’ with someone whose clearly struggling to keep their child behaving perfect after a long wait for food, parents who don’t tend to get out much, well your ‘braver’ than I am…

          I think things have definitely changed in my life time, restaurants, in the day at least, are probably more family friendly nowadays which is probably a good reason for those who don’t want that atmosphere to choose somewhere else.

  4. We found the staff at The Olive Tree to be particularly friendly and accommodating to our young ones. Good food too, and loads of it.

    We’ve also had good experiences dining with the kids at the Clarence Dock Mumtaz. They staff always make a fuss of them, and the atmosphere is generally a little less rowdy than your average curry house because they don’t serve alcohol, which means it’s OK to take the kids in on a Friday or Saturday night.

  5. I can also confirm that Little Tokyo was a good place to take the kids. They didn’t provide colouring sheets, but the food arrived very quickly and the surroundings are interesting enough to keep them entertained so it wasn’t a big issue.

    I’ve sometimes found the provision of colouring sheets to be a warning that the services is going to be slow.

  6. Interesting comments there and whilst I have no kids myself, I often eat out with my friend and her godson( 1 years old) and it never seems to be very child friendly, I get the feeling the children are always put second.

    Another thing I think more restaurants should do is give balloons to children, children love balloons and the parents will appreciate the gesture.

    When we open, we want children to be in our place, after all they are always having fun and are still customers. Restaurants who don’t go that extra mile for children will ultimately pay for it as parents go elsewhere.

    1. Hi George, thanks for the comment and have to say you’re spot on with he balloons idea. If you’d like us to do a family review for you when you open just give me a shout.

    1. I don’t have children. I’m aware that will make many people suddenly say “oh well of COURSE you don’t have a clue what it’s like”, but I was offering a perspective from the other diner’s point of view.

      However, I can tell you what *I* did when I was young – I went to family-oriented restaurants from an age where I could be taught to sit quietly and engage with my family rather than the whole restaurant. If I misbehaved (including being noisy to the point it disturbed others) then my parents would leave the meal early to take me home. I learnt that if I misbehaved I didn’t get to go to fun places and have nice food (including the treat of a dessert!), so I behaved.

      1. This thread made my blood boil! (Kirsty) but firstly, keeping to the purpose of the thread – 2 places we enjoy eating at are

        1. Salvos Sulameria – During the day this is great for coffee and cake, they make a real fuss of children and there are a few toys and books to entertain kids long enough to eat your cake! Amazing pasta here and you can always take away some deli bits if baby is complaining too much.

        2. Jamie s Italian – maybe not the cheapest option but worth it as the staff are amazing with the kids, and the food is always toddler friendly. It also arrives before the adult food which is a huge bonus. Plenty of other kids dining there and even if yours is loud the chances are there is a louder kid round the corner. You get the crayons and paper to distract, and can drink a delicious cocktail while you wait for the adult food to arrive. Perfect!

        Secondly, just cos I have to say it! …Before I had my son I worked full time, and eating out was a lovely relaxing thing to do – but when I heard a child cry, particularly a young one I didn’t at one point think that this child was “misbehaving” and should be removed from the restaurant, or taken out of all social eating until he could “behave” What an unreasonable stance to take. Clearly not very well thought out argument there.

    1. Not really busted, I never claimed to have children. I don’t have children precisely so I can go out for nice meals without having to worry about whether or not I’m offending people, how loud is too loud, how will I entertain the others in my group if the food takes ages to come. It’s the same reason I avoid establishments that advertise themselves as very family-focused. Eating out, for me, is a pleasant treat. If I had children I would see them as the pleasant treat and would enjoy cooking with them, going to fun restaurants etc that I don’t do now.

      1. Maybe it would be nice if you could name some of these ‘fun restaurants’ that you would take your children to, should you have them, as that, to me, seems to be the point of this article. I am always looking for interesting and inclusive places that I can take my family, to learn about the world, and how to behave as part of the human race. I find Italian restaurants are usually great (although service can sometimes be slow in chains) as they tend to be noisier (in a good way)than your average restaurant anyway. Great suggestions so far people, thank you.

  7. I have 3 kids. Finding places to take them to eat can be very tricky. I am very aware that I want my children to behave nicely and not disturb fellow diners. I try and take them to placed where other families and children will be and at a time appropriate for children. If they are misbehaving we do leave, or if they are too hyped up beforehand we won’t even try and take them out to eat.

    I haven’t tried many of the places on your list but the restaurants we use and find family friendly are Carluccio’s, Brio Pizza in The Light, Pizza Express, Divinos in Adel and Gustos in Cookridge. Is there a reason why they all seem to be Italian style establishments? Colouring things seem to be the norm, but in Gustos they have gone a step further with iPod touches preloaded with games for the kids to play with!!!! Nandos is a fairly good family friendly chain too.
    I am always keen to hear of any other family friendly food establishments so well done for highlighting this issue.

  8. Ooh must try more on the list. I have a 5yo and a 3yo and in the city centre we tend to go to Tampopo or Wagamama for the reasons listed. Also like Pizza Express food but the service is not always very ‘express’.
    But our favourite meal out as a family (and before we had a family) is Hansa’s sunday lunch buffet. The curries are a little spicy but there are loads of salads, delicious rice and breads, and the boys love drinking lassi.

  9. Seriously why on earth should I have my evening ruined by screaming children, can’t you stick to Macdonalds and not high end restaurants. I had a whole day out ruined in a nice cafe where a woman decided to make a honking sound like a deranged goose everytime her spoilt brat pushed her nose. I never went to restaurants with my parents until I was eight and could behave like a normal person. I say ban all kids from eveywhere except KFC and other low brow fast food chains where you can mix with all the other unrestrained yobs

    1. Well then it becomes the issue of eating unhealthy not teaching a child. I took my daughter out when she was young but I wouldn’t let her misbehave. I find that some adults are absolute idiots when they go out too loud swear a lot. So its not just a child thing.

  10. Thanks for everyone’s comments so far. Always good to have a debate. I can see it from both sides. I have to say if I’m after a quiet meal out then I’d avoid Pizza Express (and plenty of other places). It’s full of families and young people once the families go home so it’s always noisy.

    As a parent there are plenty of places I wouldn’t dream of taking the kids … the Leeds Live It, Love It website lists 155 places to eat on their website. Plenty of choice and something for everyone.

    And if you need guidance on restaurants that families like, you’ve arrived at the right blog post – I’d suggest JD Mulder and Kirsty both avoid the restaurants on this list.

  11. I think it’s important when bringing up kids to help them learn the manners and soft social skills so important to all the posters here. I teach them great table manners at home, but like most people on the continent, I find it incredible how many people in the UK seem to think that once we have children we should retreat into our homes and burger chains until they emerge as teenagers magically able to navigate adult social spaces.

    I believe that children should be welcome in any restaurant (well, one that is interested in my business) and perhaps we should think about a watershed as with TV programmes- if you don’t want to be around children may I suggest you go out and dine at 9pm rather than at 6pm?

    I would advise any parents of young children to go Italian with children. Salvos in Headingley is excellent, it is noisy, and that’s part of their experience. I also like Pizza Express for more casual lunches. Casa Mia Millenium does half portions of their main menu dishes (I don’t think all children want nuggets). I find young families are very price sensitive, so avoiding restaurants offering children’s meals and half portions would mean you don’t have to dine with families.

    Of course, I also teach my children that it is rude to comment on other peoples manners. The best way to ensure social skills is by good role modelling, not by accusing people in public.

    1. This raises a very good point. How can we expect children to learn about social situations without without putting them into those situations?

      If I only ever took my kids to burger chains, where excess noise is acceptable, how do I ever take them to a restaurant where they need to be quiet? They’d just be as noisy there as they’d become accustomed to being at the burger chain.

      If anything it’s bored, hungry children who create the most noise and that’s almost always due to slow service, something I can do little about. Provide me with the food I ordered and the kids will magically shut up.

  12. The only bad experiences I’ve had when eating out with family in the UK have been when the food was terrible or the wait too long. I’ve never experienced children running amok, however I’ve had many meals disturbed by drunken adults who don’t know they’re being loud and obnoxious because *they* think its fun to be drunk. Saying that, we do stick to Italian, Spanish and Indian or chains mostly. For a really good, friendly experience and excellent food I’d recommend Akbars on Bradford road. Kids do get bored waiting, but why rely on the restaurant to provide entertainment? Its not much trouble to stick some pens and paper in your bag, or an ipod with headphones is marvellous till the food comes and even allows me to talk to my husband without interruption. Once the food arrives they are occupied with eating and talking and its fine, even when they are small.Family friendy to me means actual friendliness, talking to the kids and having a laugh with them,making them feel welcome, its not about nuggets and colouring to me. The least friendly places are those kind of pubs with play areas, perversly. It goes without saying that if a very young child starts crying or making a lot of noise you’d take them for a walk round the block while the food arrived but this is as much for the child’d comfort as the other diners. There does seem to be an undercurrent of venom towards children in the UK, usually from those without kids, but not always, which I don’t like and find alarming, having lived for some time in Spain, where you would be considered quite deranged for expressing the kind of sentiments in some of the posts above.

  13. Do you know who I can’t stand in restaurants? Old people. All dribbly & gross. Also disabled people – the ones with the massive chairs are the worst. Oh and fat people, I mean, who wants to see that? All those people should stop being so selfish & just stay at home. Or go to Macdonalds. 

    Of course, if those were my true feelings then that would make me a complete arsehole. So I’m not sure why people in this country think it’s ok to apply the same thinking to kids. They are as much a part of society as anyone else & if your feelings of revulsion are so strong then you should be the one staying at home. 

    In answer to the question though, I’ve found Tampopo to be quite child friendly (crayons, not pencils). Salvos in Headingley is good too, the staff were great & the menu interesting. You can also have half portions of some of the mains. Also in Headingley, Bryan’s fish & chip restaurant. They have a little play section with Lego tables to keep them entertained while you’re waiting (not that you wait very long, as it’s fish & chips!). 

    We mostly struggle finding quick snack places for lunch, a lot of the cafes don’t have high chairs & you do feel a bit ripped off shelling out £££ for a sandwich that possibly won’t be eaten. M&S is alright tho, nice in there since they redecorated & they do little sandwiches with the crusts cut off for kids (cheap too), plus smoothies. Over in Meanwood, the cafe in Waitrose is also fine for lunchtime snacks & they do lunch boxes for kids, with sandwiches, raisins, a little cake & a smoothie or juice. Bit expensive but the box means you get to take the leftovers home with you 😉

  14. Can I put a quick word in for IKEA on the M62 which has a fab, fee soft play area for the kids while you consume.

    The food is decent quality and reasonbly priced and the cafe area has a play area for kids. V child friendly.

    Ok, I know it is a big company but big can be good too.

  15. Ha, this thread made me laugh! Come to it a bit late I know but I’ll give you my tips anyway: I live in Chapel Allerton so it’s full of middle class parents with wonderfully polite and well behaved children (ahem). I’d go to Seven Arts or Casa Mia or the Mustard Pot if you can sit outside. If I’m in town I’ll only eat out if I’m with other parents – I’m a single mum with one child so it’s usually easier to buy a pasty and sit in a bus stop (don’t tell David Cameron). Otherwise Las Iguanas is good with kids, plus Wagamamas, Cafe Rouge, Pizza Express and Pasta Romagna of course. As a general rule I’ll look through the window to see if there are any other kids in first so I get made to feel like a leper. To people with no children I’d say if you are eating out on a lunchtime on a weekend there are going to be kids in restaurants – deal with it!

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