Marcus Wareing's new Tredwell's restaurant offers eight-course tasting menu... for children

The menu is part of a new 'Culinary Kids' campaign launched this week

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Ask the average child to name their favourite dish and it seems unlikely they’ll opt for goat’s cheese, courgette-and-pea dumplings or harissa-glazed aubergine.

Yet these are among the dishes on a new junior taster menu developed by chef Marcus Wareing’s restaurant Tredwell’s, in London, which launches on Monday. It’s the first tasting menu to be devised for children, according to the Restaurant Association.

The Tredwell’s menu is part of a new “Culinary Kids” campaign being launched this week to encourage restaurants to try harder when it comes to catering for children. Some of Britain’s biggest hospitality chains, from Café Rouge and Zizzi  to TGI and Chiquitos, are on board.

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‘This menu lets children experience the same food the grown-ups eat’ (Teri Pengilley)

The campaign was triggered by new research that reveals widespread ignorance of some common foods among youngsters and broad dissatisfaction among parents with menu options offered to children.

More than one in three children has never been offered either avocado, coconut or aubergine by their parents, says research commissioned by restaurant booking service Bookatable.co.uk. One in seven (16 per cent) has never tasted green beans and one in 10 has yet to be offered red meat at home.

When it comes to eating out, most parents (78 per cent) complained of a lack of options offered to their children at restaurants. And more than half of parents (59 per cent) thought children’s options in restaurants were unhealthy, dull and in need of an overhaul.

“There is no doubt that improvements need to be made to children’s diets across the country – whether that is inside or outside the home,” said Joe Steele, chief executive of Bookatable.co.uk. “While children’s restaurant menus have come a long way over the years, there is still some distance to go. All too often the usual suspects pop up on kids menus, such as chicken nuggets and pizzas. And the more that children eat those things, the more they are likely to choose what they know instead of trying new, healthier foods.”

 

At Tredwell’s, which is the latest outpost from MasterChef: The Professionals judge and Michelin-star holder Mr Wareing, the ambitious, eight-course Junior Taste menu costs £17. Among its offerings are dishes such as chorizo-jam, egg-yolk and avocado tartlets; harissa-glazed aubergine; and courgette-and-pea dumplings.

More conventional choices include chocolate brownies. A Tredwell’s spokesperson said: “It’s really important for restaurants to offer a greater variety of dishes for children ... the kids’ menu gives little ones the chance to experience the same delicious food the grown-ups are eating.”

Road-testing 'Junior Taste'

Persuading young diners to try new things is often easier said than done. The IoS invited Danielle Owusu Ansah and Adam Bassoumba, year-five pupils at Surrey Square Primary School, south London, to try Tredwell’s Junior Taste menu – and the pair’s reaction was distinctly mixed.

Danielle, nine, said she is a fan of African food “because that’s where my family is from”. One of her favourite dishes is jollof rice with chicken, salad and potatoes. “I like fish fingers and chips, too,” she added.

Adam, aged 10, described himself as “a big meat eater”. On his preferred dishes, he said: “It depends on what mood I’m in, but steak is one of my favourites. And chicken nuggets, too.”

The Tredwell’s menu included quite a few foods that neither had tried before, including goat’s cheese, courgette, avocado and salted-caramel ice-cream.

Asked how she would handle these new experiences, Danielle showed considerable understanding of restaurant fare: “It depends on the presentation; the better the presentation, the better the food.”

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The Tredwell’s menu is part of a new “Culinary Kids” campaign being launched this week to encourage restaurants to try harder when it comes to catering for children (Teri Pengilley)

Some dishes went down better than others. The “cheeky chorizo-jam, egg-yolk and avocado tartlets” were a hit. But the students were less keen on the “happy heritage tomatoes, with goat’s cheese, music bread and balsamic vinegar”. Courgette-and-pea dumplings with a creamy coconut chili sauce, sounded “weird” to Adam, but he enjoyed them. Danielle wasn’t so sure and wiggled her hand when asked for her verdict.

As more dishes arrived, Adam tucked in but Danielle took one bite of the pulled-pork apple-and-ginger super slider and declared the “odd” flavour not to her taste. She tried the harissa-glazed aubergine with cool coconut and coriander and sat unable to speak, before discreetly spitting it out.

The desserts – salted-caramel ice-cream, chocolate brownie and a yuzu parfait with lemon confit – met with more universal acclaim. Adam punctuated his mouthfuls with comments on how the food was “nice” and “really good”. And Danielle beamed when asked for her verdict on the ice-cream: “I like it a lot.”

They are both fans of Nando’s, but both agreed that Tredwell’s salted-caramel dessert topped what you would get at the grilled-chicken chain. What was their favourite savoury option? Well, nothing. They preferred the plate of barbecued chicken wings that I had shared with them, but which weren’t on the Junior Taster menu. But most importantly – in a message that all parents and restaurateurs should heed – they were willing to try everything.

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