I love cooking but equally love eating good food so I’m always in search of child-friendly places to take our family in order to enjoy a break from my normal kitchen duties. I also want my daughter to develop good restaurant manners (she’s somewhat lacking at the moment) and really the only way to do this is to try and find restaurants that make the family dining experience a pleasant one.
Here’s look at one of my new child-friendly places to eat, the Beefeater restaurant in Coldra is just off the M4 by Newport. It’s got a great atmosphere, relaxed, but polished, and the staff go out of their way to make sure you have a good visit. There’s a lovely Mr Men activity book and crayons for kids, nice and even more importantly clean highchairs and lots of room out in the front garden for a restless child to play.
A few weeks ago I visited Beefeater with my husband, our daughter Pumpkinella and my husband’s parents. It was a bit of a treat for us and also thank you for his grandparents who look after Pumpkinella full time while we work, sometimes for up to 12 hours a day.
As we first approached it, I was pleasantly surprised by the front of the restaurant. This wasn’t the same Beefeater I’d seen advertised on my holiday to Barcelona in February of this year. It wasn’t trying to look like the Beefeater soldiers that stand outside Buckingham palace and the previous red and black theme had gone away. It looked more like a cool burger joint, and that’s not a bad thing at all as I love a good burger.
Parking was free, (actually it was refundable on your food bill) and that was a bonus as you’d agree if you have ever visited Cardiff and have had to park in the St. Davids or John Lewis car parks at between £4-£10 for an average visit.
When we arrived there weren’t many other guests in the restaurant but as it was around that mid afternoon-after lunch but before dinner time, so was understandably quiet. The great thing we found with this was that we pretty much had our pick of tables. We chose a corner of the restaurant where Pumpkinella could run free without hopefully getting in the way of the waiters and waitresses.
Let’s get to the menu shall we? Well well well, certainly not what I was expecting. There was such a wide variety of choices it took me a good 15 minutes to decide. My first choice was the milkshake and oh boy was it yum. I asked for it to be extra thick because I like to be able to taste ice cream rather than just creamy milk. As soon as Pumpkinella saw it she had to have a taste. I spent the next 10 minutes spooning it into her mouth while she kept saying ‘mmm’ in pleasure at her pre-meal treat. I was a little sad that she ate so much of it as it left me having to scrape the sides of the cup to get every little bit that was left. I’d say that this milk shake is better that any of the smoothy shacks in Cardiff central and I dare say it was also better than the one at Ed’s Diner and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. No artificial colourings or flavourings, and definitely worth a visit to your local Beefeater even if you choose not to have a meal.
So onto the food. At the time we arrived there was a daytime menu or the main a la carte menu to choose from. Both looked very similar apart from the fact that the daytime menu had a little less choice but was cheaper. Guess which we chose? Well we went for the cheaper day time menu of course.
We ordered starters which were £2.50 each. They consisted of nachos with a cheese sauce and loaded potato dippers. My low GI eating plan wouldn’t have approved of these choices but cheat days were allowed so I didn’t feel guilty. I normally never like to eat liquified cheese but this seemed like it was a cheese sauce made with cheddar and some additional things added to give it a more runny consistency. There wasn’t any salsa and that would have topped it off nicely. As you can see from the below pictures we polished these off without much effort.
I decided on a steak with salad in the end as I was acceptable for my low glycemic index meal plan which encourages me to eat slow sugar release foods, complex carbs, and lots of vegetables in the hope to keep I fuller for longer, and therefore eat less and hopefully lose some weight.
On our table altogether was a double steak burger with half a pound of prime beef, bacon and cheese, a pea risotto, and two portions of sirloin steak. Now I do think steaks are a bit of a challege to nail as everyone enjoys theirs in a very particular way. I don’t like mine bleeding but I also don’t like it brown and rubbery. It’s been a bit of a hit and miss experience when ordering steak at restaurants and was therefore a good test to see if Beefeater really knew how to serve a good hearty meal. I specifically requested a medium steak with no blood but that was tender and that’s exactly what I got – spot on! The salad had a honey and mustard dressing. Normally I don’t like mustard so while I did taste it I didn’t drizzle it all over the salad. I also had a peppercorn sauce for my burger so that was more than enough.
As I dug into my my meal my mother-in-law started to tuck into her risotto. It was supposed to be a pea risotto but as she dug in there was ham hock in it. We couldn’t find a ham and pea risotto on the day menu so just assumed they’d made a bit of a mistake. It wasn’t a deal-breaker however as it was still nice and as she wasn’t a vegetarian, it wasn’t a major issue. My husband’s family, unlike mine, hate to cause a fuss or mention anything might be wrong when out in a restaurant. I’m sure Beefeater would have rustled up a new risotto if we’d have mentioned it so I didn’t hold it against them. For me, the risotto was a little thick but it was packed with flavour and was appetising so I liked it, and proof my mother-in-law liked it was that she finished every little bit if it.
My husbands burger was HUGE. The waiter had asked whether he’d wanted a single or double burger after he placed his order and he just couldn’t resist asking for a double. It was so tender and juicy that I was confused as to why I hadn’t gone for the same thing myself. It definitely beats your regular burger joint hands down and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a burger that lives by a Beefeater. My husband had to take a break halfway to let it go down before attempting the other half, but he still managed to eat it all with a little help from the rest of us.
After a yummy starter and main, no one on the table felt able to take on dessert but for me and Pumpkinella, it’s one of the main reasons we like to go to restaurants. If it wasn’t for normal etiquette I’d start with desserts to make sure I had room for them. I was intrigued by the caramel apple betty and my husband had the warm chocolate brownie. All five of us shared the two desserts just to see what they tasted like. I’m pleased to tell you they were both yum, certainly better than I would make at home, and that’s not an easy thing to say as I take great pride in my desserts. I’ll definitely be concucting a similar apple-caramel recipe once I can find a way to reduce the amount of sugars in it to suit my low GI meal plan. (unfortunately, we scoffed the two desserts down in seconds and forgot to take pictures!)
All in all, I would recommend everyone reading this to give Beefeater a try. I hadn’t visited for over 15 years before this and it has certainly changed for the better. I don’t particularly love chains as sometimes I feel they can be a bit complacent and service as well as flavour can be bog standard but Beefeater has a yummy fresh menu with lots of variety and has certainly replaced my previously grill-type restaurants including Harvesters and all the previous burger joints I’ve visited. If you’re looking for inspiration give them ago, they won’t disappoint.
Disclaimer: I was given some money off vouchers to visit Beefeater but I still paid for some of the bill and the views shared are all my own.