Taking a one-year-old and a four-year-old out for an evening meal in a restaurant is a risky business, often more trouble than it’s worth.
But if we took that attitude all the time, we’d probably never leave the house.
And we’d like the gruesome twosome to at least become “restaurant broken” before they’re teenagers.
So my wife Liz and I packed a few distractions, took a few deep breaths, bribed our four-year-old son Will with the promise of 20 minutes of Sonic The Hedgehog gaming when we got home, and headed out for a Sunday evening meal at Greaves Park, in Bowerham Road, Lancaster.
Now owned and run by Chameleon Bar and Dining, based in the Tees Valley, the Grade II listed building was renovated around two years ago, and the company also runs The Keys in Slyne.
This was our first visit, and we were impressed by the building itself and the internal layout.
It was busy with diners and a few people having a quiet drink, and we were welcomed by friendly waiting staff and shown to a table at the rear of the restaurant, with windows looking out onto the garden.
Once seated, our daughter Zoe in a highchair, we ordered some drinks and checked out the menu.
It’s a big list, with starters, meat and poultry, traditional favourites, from thesea and pasta, pizza and salad sections making it easy to navigate. There is also a good kids’ menu as well, with a “Baby Deli”, tortilla wrap and small portions section to consider.
This settled our minds a bit, knowing the restaurant catered particularly for children as well.
I was drawn to the meat and poultry section, with options of lamb leg steak, pork belly, duck, fajitas and Lancashire chicken.
I decide on the pork belly and chorizo, described as “slow roasted rare breed Saddleback pork belly and a red onion, Port, balsamic and chorizo sauce, served on mashed potato with tempura courgettes”.
Sounds good to me.
Liz initially requested the lamb, but it had all been eaten, so she went for the roasted duck breast and Kopparberg instead.
We ordered starters of gin and tonic calamari, and Morecambe whitebait.
Will settled on a homemade cheeseburger with chips and beans, and for Zoe we chose sausage and mash.
Our 15-minute wait for the starters was filled with lemon eating competitions between the kids (slices of lemon and lime kindly provided by our friendly and knowledgeable waiter) and various short walks around the tables for Zoe, who usually lasts around three minutes in a high chair without food, and is currently finding her stride.
The kids’ meals came with our starters, and Zoe decided she liked the look of my squid rings more than her sausage and mash, and a short battle ensued.
That aside, the starters were very good, the tempura batter for the calamari, was, as advertised, light, but I couldn’t really taste any gin or tonic. The mixed leaves and basil lime mayo they came with were a nice complement though.
The whitebait was good too, and Will took great delight in eating one or two “eyes and all”.
The kids’ meals pleased us in that the ingredients were high quality. Indeed, the sausage and mash came with a rich gravy, peas and a Yorkshire pud, and was well worth the £4.75 price tag.
Our main meals arrived as the kids were finishing off theirs, and luckily, ice cream was at hand to keep loud mouths full.
Both main meals were presented very well.
The Gressingham duck was moist, and came with a lovely Kopparberg fruit sauce with blackberries.
I had a nice big piece of pork belly, cooked excellently, with only a slight bit of toughness in the skin. But that, of course, is pig skin for you.
The sauce too was very good, with chunks of chorizo adding a bit of spice to the dish. And the courgettes are worth a mention, slightly battered I think, but really tasty without a hint of “courgette slush”.
Both mains were big meals, and definitely worth the price of £14 for the duck and £12.50 for the pork.
At all the right points during our meal we were asked if everything was okay, and if we needed anything, and at all times the staff had an easy smile, despite being very busy.
We were pleased by our waiter’s interaction with the kids as well – as I’ve said before in previous reviews, it makes a massive difference to our experience to know our kids are welcome, despite their sometimes raucous and devious public behaviour.
There’s only so much control you can place over excited children in a new and unexplored place, and it’s always good to be met halfway.
The Greaves Park is split up into four or five restaurant sections, joined up by the long bar, creating a cosy and intimate feel within the large space.
We paid just over £57 for the food and drinks, including a very refreshing Swedish pear cider.
I’d be very happy bringing the children back to Greaves Park, or returning with a group of friends or family.