When the smoking ban came into effect, there was a lot of blather about pubs smelling like feet. Sure, it’s not a great side-effect but, hey, passive smoking’s not all sunshine and roses.
My newly pregnant self was focused more on the opportunity this ban presented parents: “Does this mean we can, like, bring the kids into the pub?” I tentatively muttered to myself. (Speaking out at this point might have caused much judgment – who brings their baby to a boozer?)
A few years down the line and there’s been an unspoken rule that pub and urchin is a merry match. Baby chairs have started emerging; kiddie menus have gone all gastro fish finger, leaving parents breathing a collective sigh of relief that one more cordoned off fun zone has finally been released to the procreational public.
While parenting under the influence is not to be encouraged (unless, of course, it’s been a code-red-toddler-tantrum kinda day/ you are about to board a 12-hour flight with the life burdens/ it’s a Tuesday), anyone who doesn’t have a tipple or two along the care-giving way is made of nails.
For the rest of us, I couldn’t recommend London’s The Culpeper more for truly embracing this new familial playground. The standard toddler fare of sausages and mash is eschewed for ‘anything you want in smaller portions’. This place doesn’t see kids as a special category that need to have things dumbed down. You want a miniature roast dinner and you’ve got it. Kid fancy trying some roast squash gnocchi with a shaving of pecorino (gosh, could that sound any more middle class)? You’re on.
Perhaps the most triumphant moment in this rustic-chic (think Parisian Metro tiles on the walls and plush wooden furnishings) life sanctuary was the mocktail-making at the bar. My daughter and I simply asked what they had on the drinks menu for kids and the reply was ‘anything you want.’
Instead of delivering a lukewarm glass of squash, the attentive bar tenders asked what flavours she was up for – as every parent comes to realise they’re adults trapped in small bodies and this question alone was enough to keep her shtum.
The result? The mini Mae martini, a bespoke E-colour fuelled medley of blackcurrant, lemonade and, bizarrely, rosemary served in a plastic vessel. She hated it and the posh pecorino-infused gnocchi ended up decorating the floor, but it was the first pub we’d entered where the urchin wasn’t seen as an appendage, but as a person. (In parental terms: she was quiet and entertained for approximately 47 minutes).
That’s as happy as any parental hour gets, no?