We chat to Melissa Elders and Flora Tan from Nibble+squeak, – a dining experience for kids and parents that’s taking London by storm.
D.A.D: How did the idea of Nibble+squeak come about?
ME: Nibble+squeak was really about reclaiming a sense of myself after becoming a parent. When my daughter was born, pretty much from day one, she came everywhere with me, strapped against me in her carrier. I turned up for loads of daytime activities, mostly to entertain her between naps and to meet other local parents, but I found I most looked forward to weekly parent-and-baby screenings at the Barbican because they were refreshingly adult-focused – no singing, no special gear needed, no cartoonish gimmicks, just a “normal” cinema experience (apart from the occasional squeal or boob or bouncing).
Especially at that vulnerable time, I desperately needed to do something to treat myself. Like many new mamas, I was feeding an infant and carrying her around everywhere, and I was exhausted – but of course, I was also ravenous! And for someone who loved to cook, I was getting really tired of my one-handed prep diet of bananas and yogurt and toast.
Every once in a while, another food-loving, baby-carrying friend (Flora, who is now the head of our London chapter!) and I would treat ourselves to a restaurant meal and it was so nice – not just the change of cuisine, but the whole experience of being cared for by a staff that was focused on hospitality and returning to things that were exciting to me in my pre-parent days, you know, like only a few weeks earlier?!
I needed to find a way that parents could relax and not worry about disturbing other diners with noise, and mothers could feed openly without fussing over covering up. Lunch didn’t always have to be on-the-go or fast. We had time…which felt endless some days, even if it was heavily peppered with feeding and changing and rocking and napping. So Nibble+squeak is the solution; a welcoming and relaxed environment for dining with pipsqueaks-in-tow.
D.A.D: Can you tell us a bit about a Nibble+squeak event?
FT: Nibble+squeak tends to attract parents who love food, who like a bit of fun and who are tired beyond belief. We all convene to discuss our war wounds over delicious food prepared by someone else and even better, cleaned up by someone else. The events are very relaxed, where everyone comes with a baby or toddler in their party so we all know the drill and we are all forgiving of each other’s sprogs. It’s a great way to treat yourself to a nice meal and introduce your child to new food.
It starts with a ticket purchase online on our website. You purchase your seat in advance so that we can organise high chairs and anything required for babies. It also means that you simply show up, eat, mingle and leave without any fuss.
We try to choose central London restaurants so that people can easily get to them. The venues vary from local, fresh and seasonal, buzzy and new and Michelin-starred restaurants.
We often have lunch events since small ones nap at various times and dinners can be tricky depending on bedtime routines and travel time for families. As people trickle in, drinks are usually served and once guests have arrived we serve food. We know that the little people keep us on a tight schedule so we try to make sure that we have bread or other carbs available for them on the offset and crayons and place mats to keep them occupied.
Midway through any event, you’ll often find toddlers under tables or running around the restaurant exploring the space with new found friends. It’s lovely to see and experience your child enjoying themselves while you get to sit back at a Michelin star restaurant without having to worry about other diners.
By mid-meal, we end up with lots of little ones crawling under tables, sharing toys or running around but nothing gets ruined.
D.A.D: How do you prevent kids ruining posh restaurants?
FT: We often provide plastic cutlery and plates so that the restaurant and diners don’t have to worry about things breaking throughout the meal. We also work with the restaurant so that they know the number of children in attendance beforehand and can be prepared for the extra food crumbs and noise.
You might be worried in a room filled with children but kids when left to their own devices aren’t naturally destructive, they are inquisitive, energetic and observant. We find that when there are so many wee ones, they are curious about what the other little people are eating and doing next to them. By mid-meal, we end up with lots of little ones crawling under tables, sharing toys or running around but nothing gets ruined.
D.A.D: How has the reception been for the restaurants?
FT: It’s been welcomed overall and most restaurants have been supportive. A lot of venues have embraced the idea and have provided excellent service to both parents and babies. We understand that having babies and small children in a restaurant isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and we respect that. But as we grow and gain more press, I’m finding that restaurants are becoming more receptive.
D.A.D: What are your aims with Nibble+squeak?
FT: Nibble+squeak’s mission is to get parents to share some really special meals with like-minded company. We are building a supportive community around the table. We also hope to help restaurants show their family-friendly side, and learn how to make the experience even better for families. To enjoy restaurant dining with our pipsqueaks-in-tow all over the world!
D.A.D: What restaurants are on your wish list?
FT: London has an abundance of restaurants to choose from, I could eat out 365 days a year for every meal and still not have tried every restaurant!
If I could pencil in some of the below for 2018, I would be thoroughly chuffed.
– It would be great to visit some of London’s contemporary restaurants such as: Clove Club, Restaurant Story and Chiltern Firehouse.
– Some of the classics venues like The Ledbury and Club Gascon are on my personal list of places I have yet to try.
– And if only there was enough table space for high chairs (something we require for hosting so many wee ones), I would love to host a Nibble+squeak event at one of the many gems that serves food at the bar or small tables like Barbary, Morito Exmouth Market, Kricket and Sushi Tetsu.
Nibble+squeak’s next event is at The Manor in Clapham on Saturday 23 September 2017. They are hosting lunch at 12:00 and you can purchase tickets online at: www.nibbleandsqueak.com/london/the-manor
Also look out for an exclusive D.A.D x Nibble+squeak event soon!