2 year old food critic takes on local gastropub
It’s not uncommon for the odd invitation to drop into my inbox asking me to review food or a restaurant, but a couple of weeks ago I received something a bit different. A company not seeking my opinion but instead asking for the Half Pint to give his…
The Anchor in Aspley Guise is a quintessentially British gastropub that impressed me with their chic interiors but homely and welcoming staff when I first visited them last year.
I couldn’t deny their passion for food, so it wasn’t a big surprise to hear about The Anchor’s newer, healthier and more interactive children’s menu they created with the help of a local nutritionist (and mum), Dotty’s Kitchin.
The final menu was chosen out of a shortlist of dishes by 24 local pupils from Aspley Guise Lower School, Eversholt Lower School and Husborne Crawley Lower School at a tasting session at the pub last month.
I love how the menu hasn’t only been approached from a nutritional point of view but with a clear understanding of children eating out. Crudites and dip are included as part of every children’s meal and are served first whilst the rest of the food is being prepared. This is a fab idea and a godsend for parents who dread keeping active little ones sat still in a restaurant environment whilst the chefs whip up dishes. Food is the only thing that will get my little boy to sit still for a length of time and quite rightly too!
Even the drinks menu has been very carefully thought out. I can imagine lots of children loving being able to enjoy some herbal or decaff tea in a real teapot to be “just like mummy and daddy”. Fruit puree with sparkling water to create a more natural fizzy drinks for little ones really gets the thumbs up from me too. Seeing milks of hot, cold and babychino varieties are also comforting reassurances that children here are important, welcome and not an afterthought. I have been on the receiving end of a blank expression when asking serving staff in different eateries for milk for our Half Pint or a funny look because we ask what else is on offer other than traditional soda fountain drinks.
The paper menu given in the pub doubles up as a colouring sheet but a colouring book and lots of crayons were also provided. Half pint had a quick scribble on the menu but as the Crudites and Dip arrived pretty sharpish his thoughts turned to food.
The Half Pint has an aversion to vegetables, unless they are hidden in sauces he will tend to ignore their existence in the world but I also know that I have to keep offering them and encouraging them through my own eating habits and know that one day he’ll eat them. That said, I was impressed that he was extremely happy to use the vegetables in a playful manner, handling them all, examining and even using them as vessels for him to eat the dip. Small steps Half Pint, small steps.
To start off our exploration into the main menu ingredients were brought out for him to make his own pizzas. Parents will know why Make-Your-Own Pizza-Wraps are a clever addition to a children’s menu. Tasty, yes but especially because the Half Pint loves (like most kids) feeling part of the cooking process. It’s super-dooper easy and 9 times out of 10 he’ll always eat pizza!
The Half Pint had to pick his choice of toppings from chicken, ham or pepperoni. Then start constructing his pizza wrap with lots of cheese too.
He thoroughly enjoyed making up his pizzas, I think he thought he was making sandwiches as he wanted to tuck in straight away until we explained that they were going in the oven to be made into pizzas! It’s so great to see him nibbling away at different foods though.
The only thing that I should’ve checked is, was there meant to be tomato sauce for the bases too? Or just grilled cheese wraps? Bad mummy.
Then the pizzas were whipped off back to the kitchen for them to be cooked.
Next up was the Homemade Tomato Soup with Pesto Drizzle and Cheese on Toast Soldiers.
The soup was sweet, tasty and had that lovely homemade rustic vibe to it. It’s also full of hidden veg too! Pssst. Maybe a mention of that on the menu would make parents even happier that they can fill their kids with the good stuff without them realising?
The Half Pint enjoyed dipping the soldiers into the soup. Like most kids he adores dipping food into soups, sauces, my hair etc.
Next on the menu was the Bolognese with 5-A-Day Veg Sauce.
This bolognese is delicious and one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of having out. It has a homely, wholesome taste and definitely down to the rich flavours given from the five hidden veg inside the sauce. Confirmation that vegetables help pack so much flavour into meals without us having to sit eating kale leaves on their own (sod that).
The pasta was fresh and very soft. The Half Pint is a big pasta fan at home and he enjoyed the pasta pieces covered in that secret sauce. If he was to get the bolognese served alone, I think he’d have a good go at eating the whole plate (he’d be looking for a side of garlic bread with it too!).
The Fish Pie was up next. Served with broccoli, I was actually surprised to see this was a pastry pie! I wrongly assumed it was going to be one of those mash topped jobbies that more often than not is a sloppy affair.
Crisp pastry and proper chunks of fish inside. Very tasty! The Half Pint isn’t too accustomed to pastry but Mr LouBou and I thought it was wonderful. Worthy of a place on the adult’s menu.
Last but not least is the Turkey, Apple and Courgette Mini Burger with sweet potato fries and superfood-for-superhero’s-slaw (try and get your kids to say that, it’s funny!).
This was the half pint’s favourite dish of the menu. He adored the sweet potato fries and the burger, the slaw he didn’t really pay much attention to (no surprise there).
The turkey patty went down a treat with him and I couldn’t believe he was eating something with courgette in it. WHOOP!
Sweet potato fries and tomato ketchup disappeared at a rapid pace.
After getting his hands on all that food, you’d think the Half Pint would be stuffed but nothing was going to dissuade him from eating the leftover grated cheese from the pizza wraps! He’s so cheese mad.
Then it was onto desserts. There’s a choice of two on the children’s dessert menu and cookies on the all day snacks menu (gutted I didn’t get to try the cookies but next time we will for sure).
Fruit kebabs were made up with banana, blackberries, strawberries and melon served up with a chocolate sauce for dipping.
The Half Pint is fruit mad and started devouring the kebabs at record speed without even noticing the chocolate sauce LOL. His daddy saved a banana piece and showed him the joys of chocolate dipping sauce but it wasn’t an epiphany and he wasn’t bothered about the rest of the sauce (tasty choc though).
The alternative dessert is Seasonal Fruit Crumble with a granola topping and served with custard.
I have fond memories of the custard from my previous visit to The Anchor. They know how to make a delicious custard.
The granola style topped fruit crumble had a delicate cinnamon flavour to it and was zingy, fruity and warming.
Both the desserts focus on being fruit based with little added sugar. The fruit kebabs would win in a battle for the Half Pint’s heart who would eat fresh fruit for every meal (and usually does).
The Anchor with the help of Dotty’s Kitchin has definitely succeeded with creating a menu that shows thought and attention from a nutritional standpoint. From my side of things, the success just lies with being appealing to children. If it’s what our Half Pint will eat, that ultimately will be the most important thing to me. On our next visit I think he’d eat the crudites, the turkey burger and the fruit kebabs.
Thanks to The Anchor for inviting the Half Pint (and us) to discover their new menu. It was a fun experience with lots of hands on food playing, exploring and tasting.
And to all those people who cannot believe I actually eat out with a very energetic toddler, newborn baby and my scrappy Mr LouBou because my food pictures look too perfect, I assure you.
We eat just like any other young family as you can see…
… and the last picture is after I had a “mummy” clean up (as most parents do) and the server was only just commencing operation remove-any-trace-that-we-were-ever-there.
One of my parenting must-dos: If I’m eating out with the kids I will always hop and pay preemptively before the Half Pint has completely burnt out every inch of his patience, he has just been sitting still for a good 90 minutes which I think is pretty amazing for a two year old!
Oh, and if you still can’t believe I adore eating out with my young family… there’s always perks…
…you just got to know where to look.
Date of visit: 15.03.2017