Taking young children out for a meal in a swish city centre restaurant can be a bit like walking a tight rope – one wrong move and it can all go horribly wrong.
But if you do feel brave enough, I would highly recommend the ASK Italian restaurant in Cardiff as a good place to take the risk.
This stylish yet affordable restaurant has it pitched just right for every member of the family.
We were eating out with young children before heading to a show at the nearby Cardiff Motorpoint Arena.
The excitement levels were fever pitch and we were concerned that taking them out for a meal could descend into chaos.
But from the minute we sat down at our ideal table – which was perfect as it was near the kitchen and away from the main hub of the restaurant – they acted like little angels.
We told staff about the time constraints because of the show and our food was served quickly and efficiently.
The staff were excellent, eager to explain the menu, happy to answer the children’s questions and attentive throughout.
As for the food, there was a wide selections of Italian dishes from pizza to pasta and specials such as the chicken in Marsala sauce or the fillet of Scottish salmon served with butter beans, black olives, red onions and cherry tomatoes in a white wine and green pesto sauce.
But it was the children’s menu at ASK italian restaurant that really caught the eye.
It can often be difficult to get good, healthy food when you eat out with children.
Some menus tend to be unimaginative with chicken nuggets, sausages or fish fingers the staple dish.
When there is a pasta option on offer, I’ve never really understood why pasta with a bland tomato sauce should suffice for kids when the adult pasta dishes are varied and offer a bit of protein, of nothing else.
At ASK Italian, there is plenty to choose from and we left feeling that the children had ate well.
Their starters were celery and carrot sticks, served with fresh garlic pitta bread and accompanied by a dip that turned out to be a mix of tomato sauce and mayonnaise.
They wolfed that dish down and got a bit angry when the mums tried to “taste test” the food – just to make sure it was, er, tasty.
Half of the children went for pizza, one pepperoni and the other a cheese and tomato, and the others for the spaghetti alla bolognese.
There were also a ham and mushroom pizza on the menu and spaghetti carbonara and Spaghetti in a tasty plum tomato sauce, with fresh Santos tomatoes and a tiny bit of garlic, finished with fresh basil.
Dessert was the biggest surprise for us; while the children were otherwise occupied with the colouring pages and competitions that were provided, we ordered the frutti – strawberries, raspberries and grapes. We expecting cries of complaint, but they were served in such an exciting manner, in large multicoloured bowls, that they had them finished before they realised there was no ice cream.
We could, however, have gone with the ice cream with sprinkles, or the pineapple delizia, which is a combination of caramelised pineapple with vanilla gelato on a biscuit base.
But we just didn’t want to deal with any sugar rushes on top of a high octane children’s show.
The babyccinos to finish were the ideal treat to finish off the meal and keep them occupied as the mums caught up.
And if all that is not enough, it is a great price, too.
A starter, main course, dessert and babyccino is only £5.95 – a really reasonable deal for the quality of the food in our book.
It wasn’t all about the children, as the mums had a lovely meal as well.
My Stromboli pizza of pepperoni on a tomato and mozzarella didn’t need the extra chillies on offer. A nice, doughy base with just the right amount of topping.
The Italian way is for big family get togethers and the children are always involved. If the children always behaved like this, you can see why.
I have since been back with older children and had just as good a meal and service.
ASK Italian Restaurant , Wyndham Arcade , Mill Lane, Cardiff
Tel: 029 2034 4665