Eating Out

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

Eating OutEating out with children is often quite a stressful time and one which can lead a parent to wishing they had left their brood behind and sneaked off for a quiet coffee by themselves.  We all have stories to tell of badly behaved children at restaurants and cafes, but it’s different when they are yours!  Obviously any parent taking their child out to a proper restaurant complete with silver service, pristine table settings and Mozart in the background is asking for trouble if they expect their child to sit there the whole time, minding its Ps and Qs and waiting patiently as each course is served.


However, for most of us eating out with children means trying by all means to get them to sit still for at least five minutes, not playing under the table and not dissecting their food with their hands, spilling their milkshake, or having a tantrum and disturbing other diners. Unfortunately, despite our good weather, Zambia does not offer much in the way of outside dining and not everywhere caters for the needs of children.


Shopping at one of Lusaka’s large shopping malls can be a daunting experience when you have children to tow around.  The Mugg and Bean at Manda Hill offers a children’s activity area which has proved a life saver for me on more than one occasion.  However, on our last visit there, I was quite disappointed to find that the toys had disappeared and only colouring books were available – for the children to borrow – as the first time we went there both my children were given an activity book to take away.  Its proximity to the lift also caused a problem as it suddenly became an object of interest while the allure of the colouring books faded and numerous trips up and down levels were called for.


At Arcades, it’s Mike’s Kitchen which offers the desperate parents a place of refuge.  There is a play area inside and a friend of mine tells me that she left her son there under the supervision of one of the members of staff while she and her husband actually managed to eat an entire meal uninterrupted.  The Wimpy across the way also has a couple of those coin-operated rides for younger kids – although these can also lead to a prolonged stay and many tears!  My favourite place at Arcades is actually Spar which offers a children’s activity area next to their cafe and, more importantly, child-size trolleys with which kids can accompany their parents around the shop.  What a pleasure – just mind they don’t smash into any displays of imported wines as it may be a costly experience!


The most relaxing outing one might have with one’s kids in Lusaka is at Jackal & Hide on Leopards Hill Road.  The beautiful surroundings are a balm for any busy mind needing some time out.  Here it is possible to sit outside and have a meal – or even just a cup of tea – without worrying about the carryings on of one’s offspring.  The only drawback is that the recreational area is just that little bit too far from the cafe area to let little children wander off and do their own thing.  Responding to each cry of  ‘Mom!’ can be quite tiring as you traipse back and forth – and all the time your tea goes cold!  Another hazard is that one of the slides is almost vertical which has led to some hair-raising moments for both child and parent!


Unfortunately, Ndola can boast of nothing on the scale of Lusaka’s offerings.  There are no garden cafes and none of the places at which to eat out are child-friendly in any sense.  Perhaps the nearest one can get is the cafe attached to Spar, which does have an outside area, albeit a concrete slab.  At least one doesn’t feel bad about spilt drinks though!  On the way to Ndola from Lusaka, probably the only place worth stopping at is The Figtree Cafe just outside of Kabwe.  Although a little pricey, it’s great to have a place to stop where the kids can run around after spending a couple of hours in the car.  A few minutes on the trampoline is good for burning up some energy and releasing frustration (it’s good for adults, too!)


Perhaps the best place in Zambia for those needing a five minute break which will not end in tears for both child and parent, is the Wimpy in Kitwe.  For those who are put off by the idea of anything to do with fast food or chain restaurants, think again.  Number one, there is an activity playground outside of the main eating area where one can join other harassed parents for a bit of time out while the children let off steam by crawling through large plastic tubes.  You don’t feel as though you are disturbing the people inside and the waiters are very attentive and don’t ‘forget’ to serve those accompanied by little brats.  Secondly, the food is not bad and it’s not as if somewhere else would offer anything better.  In fact, you probably wouldn’t find the same value for money and at least it’s food that kids actually eat.


Nobody minds if you make a mess or your child opens all the little packets of sugar over the table (and floor) or the milkshake spills as everything on the table, and including the table, is easily wipeable.  Relief at last!  The play area is near enough to keep an eye on your little ones and yet at a suitable distance so that you can relax.  At the end of it all, perhaps the best thing about it is that some of the meals attract the added bonus of a ‘present’ when you leave – last time we were there it was a Strawberry Shortcake lilo.  So when it’s time to go, there are no tears or demands to stay there the night.  All depart for the car with happy faces – for once!


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