Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Festival fever

It's really pervading Edinburgh now - all that cultural activity that makes August an amazing time to be in our city. And the great news is that children are catered for really well too. On Monday my three year old went with her father to the 'Tiddler' show at the Udderbelly, a dramatisation of some of Julia Donaldson's lesser-known (than the Gruffalo) children's books. She loved it so much, she was upset when the time came to leave. Since the show we've been reading the books that were covered and she's asking all sorts of fresh questions about them - so she's obviously seeing them in a new light. Her father was impressed too - particularly with the show's value for money. 'Amazing energy for 55 minutes - we definitely got our money's worth', was his verdict. So, a real family event.

Next week Edinburgh for Under Fives itself appears at the Festival - not putting a dramatisation of the book (I think we'd be OK with Edinburgh Castle, but not so much with Leith Library or Loanhead Leisure Centre), but taking the storytelling slot 'Are you sitting comfortably?' at the Book Festival. It's a free event and completely sold out (gulp!). We're really looking forward to it. Hope to see you there!

Until next time,


Monday, 5 August 2013

Defining the little touches that make a big difference.

Yesterday we pitched up at the Scran & Scallie on Comely Bank Road. My sister’s in town and is seven months pregnant, needing fed on a regular basis. So after a play and a walk in Inverleith Park, we were looking for somewhere nearby to eat by 11.30. Having heard great things about it, I’d been meaning to go to Tom and Michaela Kitchin’s new venture. It was a good opportunity for a treat for our guest, plus we hadn’t had the chance to celebrate my husband’s birthday, which was last week.

We were given a very warm welcome and shown where we could park our buggy (the place absorbs them pretty well – two more came in while we were there and were easily found a place). There were lots of staff milling around who were all lovely and liked children (or at least did a good impression of it). A clean, nicely designed highchair was provided at once for our eight month old. They didn’t mind when I got out his food and started feeding him immediately. While this was going on our three year old was delighted to find the play area, complete with two boxes of very clean toys and books, beanbags for sitting on and a DVD player. It was behind a glass wall so we could watch her every move from our nearby table.

The food was Scottish posh-pub fare – simple, amazingly fresh, with some great ideas on the menu. I would have liked to try the Sheip’s Heid Broth but went for the chowder which was lovely. The fish and chips and the burger (which they provided well done for my sister) were also delicious. There’s a limited children’s menu (fish and chips, burger and chips, sausage and mash) but the ‘scallies’ can have half portions of whatever’s on the main menu, too. For the children, the food wasn’t the main event really, although my three year old enjoyed her sausage (which was a proper one, with a high proportion of meat in it). She also loved the little pink cup she was given for her water. For the adults, however, the food is obviously pretty important if they're visiting a gastro-pub, and the place’s child-friendly features and touches ease their with-kids dining experience. When our eight month old got a bit fractious, we just took him into the play area for a bit of variety and so as not to disturb the other diners. By the time he got out, after 10 minutes of playing and a quick feed from me (the beanbags are great for breastfeeding) he was asleep on my shoulder. The three year old honestly would have stayed there all day, which isn’t what you can say of every restaurant. And, as you’d expect of a venue with a child-friendly slant, the nappy changing and toilet facilities were just great and absolutely spotless.

It really was just what we needed and we left happy and refreshed. As you should every time you spend your well-earned money on a meal with the children, right? Well, as we all know, it’s not always that simple. But my trip to the Scran & Scallie made me think about the little, as well as the big, things that make a child-friendly venue. It’s one of those venues that do it really, really well, through the attitude of the staff, the buggy parking, the great play area – which wasn’t all that big, it doesn’t need to be – the spotless toys, the consideration of where parents should be seated, the bits and pieces that children love (like the special cups just for them). It’s just about putting yourself in the parents’ position (and Tom and Michaela are parents). It’s not rocket science, it’s not even very expensive to do, but too many venues do it in a half-hearted way. And that’s a shame, because when there is somewhere that does these simple things well, they really do become the stuff of legend amongst parents and are visited again and again. Sometimes the argument is made that if places become too child-friendly they’ll attract hoards of screaming kids disturbing everyone else. But keep the kids happy and catered for, and there’ll be less opportunity for screaming (of course it won’t be ruled out altogether, but …). There were certainly lots of child-free diners at the Scran & Scallie, and they seemed to be having a lovely time too.

I’d say the Scran & Scallie was outstanding for child friendliness – in that it stands out from the rest. We’re on the search for similarly outstanding places in and around Edinburgh, as case studies to show other businesses how it can be done. If you have any ideas about stand-out venues we could include, drop me an email on
Until next week, happy exploring!