It has become a very rare thing for us to eat out as a family. We always have good intentions of a nice relaxed bonding time over a meal cooked for us in a nice restaurant. The reality of it is, going out for a meal with three small children is one of the most stressful experiences in our family life and I know that may sound a little bit dramatic. We really do try to avoid it and then we were invited to try out the family experience at ASK Italian restaurant.
I strangely felt a mixture of complete excitement for our meal and complete terror. We decided to invite my Grandad along which made me feel a little more at ease knowing the adult to child ratio was evened up. On arrival at the Rayleigh ASK Italian, we were greeted by an extremely friendly waiter who asked us if we needed a highchair for P3. He then said he had set up a round table that was slightly enclosed so the girls could have some space to get down if they needed to. We were handed menus, given a jug of water, the girls were given plastic cups for their water and colouring crayons.
ASK Italian won Mumsnet Family Friendly Gold Winner 2016. The family experience is called Amici Kids, in Italian Amici means “Friends”. There is six key features of the Amici Kids experience whilst at ASK which are:
- They always serve children’s food on cool plates just to be safe.
- They have smaller cutlery for the children.
- ASK have teamed up with MasterCard and the Qkr! with MasterPass app to give you an even easier way to pay at your table straight from your mobile.
- There’s colouring activities on their menu, crayons and a picture wall in the restaurants to keep kids entertained throughout their meal.
- They bring out children’s food nice and quick, usually with the adult starters.
- They have baby changing facilities in all restaurants and highchairs too.
The children’s menu is super good value. For £6.95 the children get a starter, main course, dessert and a babyccino. We wanted to try as many different dishes as we could to give a fair review of the restaurant and it’s offerings, so we ordered a different main for each of the girls. We would normally just buy one meal to share between the three of them or potentially one each for P1 & P2. I definitely knew it would be far too much food for the girls to manage. The waiter could see that us adults were taking our time with ordering our own foods, so he asked if we would like the girls starters served straight away. They each got cute little finger sized garlic bread, cucumber and carrot sticks served with a dressing.
Our starters were served with the girls mains. My Grandad and Hubby both had the Calamari and I had the new Croquettes which were bright green on the inside but very tasty. As expected the girls food was served on cool plates which I think really helps to cool food down quicker. They had Penne Alla Bolognese, Butterfly Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli and a Kids Pizza topped with Chicken and Pepperoni. The girls had completely finished their starters so I wasn’t expecting the girls to make much of a dent in their main meals. They did well though and completely surprised me. They clearly loved the food!
Our waiter was so attentive to us and the girls needs whilst we enjoyed our meals. When it came to dessert time the girls picked to have strawberry flavoured ice lollies. Hubby, my Grandad and I all agreed that they tasted so amazing. They clearly were made out of real strawberries and I think the authentic flavour was a little too much for the girls and they all decided they weren’t keen. The waiter was so sweet and swapped them for the ice cream desserts. This dish included a scoop of ice cream, sprinkles, marshmallows, a meringue and some chopped strawberries. Typically, P2 tucked into the strawberries whilst P1 demolished her ice cream with sweet treats.
My Grandad enjoyed some Pistachio flavoured ice cream whilst Hubby and I shared some Profiteroles. The girls were then given a Babyccino each. The girls had been behaving amicably the duration of our meal. They had played a little travel game I had brought with us, coloured in their menus and were chatting with each other quite nicely. Even P3 was behaving which is a first and spent some time being cuddled by all three of us.
The girls were offered a balloon at the end of our meal. This turned them into little excitable monsters of course. We honestly had such a lovely, calm meal and the waiter was so attentive to us in a friendly and inviting way. I didn’t feel stressed out by the girls or the situation. I was pleasantly surprised. I could tell that my Grandad also had an amazing time too. I will definitely think twice about being so reluctant to meal out with the girls, and of course will be choosing ASK Italian as the restaurant of choice for this.