|Three Children, Three Buggies, Three Coffees, Three hours. Don't do that|
Children are the centre of a parent's life, but no one would claim they make life easier. And eating out with children can become problematic, even if one manages to distract them while walking past McDonalds. It is easy to take the path of least resistance and end up at Lauriston Castle or the Balmwell if outside the centre, but fortunately Edinburgh is now more accepting of children. It is even possible to breastfeed in some places and sensible childrens food (sometimes smaller versions of adult food) are more and more on offer
Of course you still have to take normal precautions. Offering a toddler a slice of pizza with Jalepeno peppers could put the relationship at risk for a long time.
The Restaurant Scene in Edinburgh changes rapidly so rather then review individual places this post gives some guidelines for successful eating out in Edinburgh.
Be nice to the Restaurant or cafe
Very small children are more of a problem than older ones. Buggies take up a lot of room, so small establishments may not be happy if your pride and joy takes up half the space and all you buy is a coffee. A folding buggy folded is much better, especially if a high chair is available. Letting children run around yelling and irritating other diners is just bad manners whatever the owner and parent thinks. If you have problems with access, the door being narrower than the buggy remember it may not be feasible for the owner to widen the entrance. They may not have changing facilities, and if there are only half a dozen tables the toilets may not have room for a changing board. In the city parking may be impossible: with or without children.
If this means you can't sit in the smaller cafes with character that is something else you sacrifice for your children. Some places just cannot change to make it easier for parents with children and if they did their character might change. Understanding the owner's situation makes it easier to plan ahead.
Older children are less of a problem, but may only be allowed up to a certain time. This is because the establishment, if serving alcohol, needs a children's licence and this may restrict the times children are allowed. Remember they get bored easily and a play area for them is almost essential.
If you can, plan ahead before coming to Edinburgh. Google and Bing will help you find child friendly venues, and Google Maps will tell you where they are. In Summer be ready to eat outside - yes it can be warm enough. Your accommodation provider may be able to direct you to a nearby child friendly eatery.
Have a backup plan. Carrying snacks for all allow an impromptu picnic and allow you to explore more, for example Holyrood Park. It is also cheaper if you are on a budget. For older children toilets may not be easily available, or closed. You are less likely to find these via Google so keep your eyes open and work out how to track back to the last one seen: it can be annoying having to buy a drink just to use the toilet, as well as counterproductive.
Some places to try
Gorgie City Farm: A miniature farm with goats, pigs, ponies and hens, play area and café. Entrance is free and the farm is open 9.30-4.30pm. Catch Gorgie Road buses (3, 4, 44 etc) from Haymarket and Princess Street. Tel: 0131 337 4202. It is easy to miss, though the entrace is just before a railway bridge crossing the road, so check the location with Google maps before setting out
Leos Beanery, Howe St Set in a basement so watch the stairs
The Nile Cafe: opposite the University of Edinburgh and next to the Mosque. Some people have experienced bad service and unexpected extras on the bill. But others say the servoce is good and the food excellent.
Eating out with children in Edinburgh is far easier that it used to be. Be sure to plan ahead as far as possible and check online reviews. Remember even pubs with a child licence may only allow children for a limited periods and eateries may be in a basement or up stairs, with the toilets three or four flights of stairs away from the eating area. When out and about keep an eye on likely places and be ready to backtrack. Carry a snack and drinks for emergencies or in case you want to explore a bit off the beaten track (best done with older children). Be ready to eat outside if the weather is fine.