Do you find that family friendly restaurants are disappearing at an alarming rate?
Gone are the days of sitting in the beer garden whilst the kids charge around a small soft play area or an outdoor climbing frame. Most restaurant chains have a children’s menu, but with the exception of some colouring there is nothing for the kids to do.
We were invited to Aruba, in Bournemouth to see how family friendly they are.
Aruba is set on the entrance to Bournemouth Pier which means it offers panoramic views of Bournemouth Bay, from Hengistbury Head to Old Harry Rocks and Studland. By night it is a popular bar serving fabulous cocktails, but by day it is a family friendly restaurant.
Despite having lived in Bournemouth for too many years to count, I have never eaten in Aruba although I have spent many a fine evening enjoying the delights of the bar.
My first concern was that Aruba is on the first floor and therefore up a flight of stairs and I have never seen a lift. There is a helpful sign at the entrance, simply press the buzzer and someone will come down to assist you and take you to the lift. As I had hubby and the teens with me we decided to carry the buggy up the stairs.
We were warmly greeted at the top of the stairs and quickly shown to our table, which had a fantastic view of the pier. There was a dash for the window seats by the boys, whilst hubby and I established ourselves at the other end of the table with Sebastian in his highchair.
Our drinks order was taken straight away and they happily brought out a pot of water to warm Sebastian’s food whilst we studied the menu.
There were lots of options to choose from that were all reasonably priced. My only grumble was that they didn’t have more salad options. The kids menu was very reasonable and they could have a dinner, drink and dessert for £5.95.
We placed our order and took in the atmosphere. There were other diners with families and also people drinking at the bar. Music was playing in the background, but not so loud your couldn’t hear each other speak. The little ones were provided with colouring pens and paper whilst the older ones took advantage of the free wifi to play on their phones. We also found a snug with colouring books, toys and games for the kids and a TV to watch a film which is a lovely idea.
The food took around 20 minutes to come and was all freshly cooked and beautifully presented. The kids meals were generous with their portions and Kian’s pizza was almost the same size as Callan’s adult one. Fussy Isaac cleared his plate in record time, so the food must have been good. Eliza enjoyed her pasta too, although did struggle with the adult size cutlery.
Sebastian ate his baby food I had brought with me and then proceeded to demand our sweet potato chips…….. I think I will be making them at home for him as he ate more of our food than we did!
Dinner finished it was the time for dessert. The children’s menu offered the kids two scoops of ice cream in the flavour of their choice – Isaac chose mint choc chip and Eliza went for a scoop of strawberry and a scoop of chocolate, or chocolate brownie and ice cream which Kian went for. Callan chose Key West Lime pie……I may have stolen a couple of mouthfuls, it was delicious.
The one thing that lets Aruba down is the toilets. It is obvious that it is a bar and there was a broken door in the gents and the ladies were grubby and in poor condition**. There were baby changing facilities in the disabled toilet which was much cleaner and I think a nice touch would be to provide a toddler toilet seat.
Although there isn’t a playground for the kids, you do have 7 miles of the perfect kids play area outside……the sandy beach as well as an amusement arcade downstairs and numerous fairground rides outside. They have also just opened Rock Reef on the Pier too which is a brand new Adventure Activity Centre that we cannot wait to try.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Aruba and will be back very soon.
**We visited Aruba again in July 2014 for our anniversary and I am happy to say that Aruba have taken onboard our comments about the toilets and they have been transformed with new stalls, sinks and furniture!
Disclaimer: We were provided with a free family meal by the Approved Family Friendly scheme and went as an assessor to raise standards for families. All opinions are my own.