Healthy choice for children on the menu

FINDING a good pub to take the family for a meal can give parents plenty of food for thought these days – particularly if you have two fussy young children, writes Steve Sims.

A recent experience at one Bedfordshire boozer was a bit of a nightmare, with some of the food simply oozing with grease rather than quality.

So it was with a sense of guarded optimism that I took up the chance to investigate the newly-launched children’s menu at another pub – the White Hart Harvester at Hockliffe.

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We’d driven past the venue numerous times over the years, but never ventured in.

On our approach this time my five-year-old daughter got very excited. “Ooh, we’re going to McDonalds,” she yelped with glee... only to be disappointed when we carried along the A5 another 100 yards to pull up at the White Hart car park.

The new menu offers smaller portions aimed at the under 10s. Choices ranged from chicken, sausages, burgers, fish, and my three-year-old son’s favourite, pasta.

For £4.49 (or £3.99 for smaller appetites) you pick their main course, add a side potato dish, then the veg, plus as much salad as you want from the salad cart.

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There’s also a special Harvey’s Five-A-Day menu, where for £6.49 you get a main, side, two veg, unlimited salad, a drink and desert.

Now I don’t condone lying to your child, but when your son jokingly tells us he wants pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner, whenever you ask him, you can understand why we had to fib that pasta was not on the menu.

Groans didn’t last long though as while we waited for our chosen dishes to arrive we took the kids up to the salad cart where they grabbed a roll, some pasta(!) and various salad items.

We’d opted for spitroast chicken with barbecue sauce for both of our children.

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The meat fell off the bone and wasn’t at all chewy like chicken can be – as I’ve witnessed countless times at home with my son taking a frustrating five minutes of chewing per mouthful, before giving up and spitting it into his hand and passing it over to me!

They finished with Sundae Best, a creamy Cornish Vanilla ice-cream topped with a syrup sauce... and a grin on their faces.

As for the adults, well, both my wife and I opted for the Spicy Crackerjack King Prawns to start and we coincidentally also mirrored each other’s choice with the irrestistable Cadbury Ultimate Sundae.

For mains I had a sirloin steak in peppercorn sauce with fries and veg, while my wife tucked into a flame grilled chicken breast with a chilli, ginger and spring onion sauce, jacket potato and veg.

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It was all washed down with Diet Pepsi – and we didn’t forget to help ourselves to the unlimited refills!

A couple of points to note about the menu. Like it or not, it includes a calorie count on every dish. Useful if you want to know, for instance, that the full rack of ribs option will do nearly four times the damage as a spitroast chicken.

As for the children’s choices, look out for the carrot symbol as that will denote one of their five a day portions of fruit or veg.

Despite it being a busy early evening when we visited, the service was quick. Anyone who has ever had to wait 30-60 minutes between courses as the children become increasingly restless will know just how vital that is.

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We’d bought their Nintendo DS machines with us just in case, but the crayons and kids sheet provided, coupled with speedy service, meant we didn’t need to resort to the consoles.

The Sims family was very impressed by what the White Hart had to offer and will certainly be paying a return visit in the future.

They’re clearly doing something right to be packed out by 5pm on a Thursday and still going strong by the time we left two hours later.

> What’s your recommendation for a family friendly pub in the area? Register to this website and leave your comment at the foot of this article.

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