Apart from wrinkles and their insistence on prodding their index finger on a touchscreen thing, your grandparents are basically you wearing prosthetics. No point denying it, just accept it. With that in mind, you need to think about how you want to be treated and where you want to be eating in half a century’s time. That walk-in only restaurant with 96% counter seating and one toilet doesn’t sound so convenient now, does it?
But that doesn’t mean going somewhere boring. It means going somewhere that’s equals parts cool and comfortable, with a bit of atmosphere. Because remember, these folks have got stories to tell. Long, usually interesting, but sometimes mind numbing stories. So here are some excellent restaurants where you can listen, talk, occasionally zone out, and eat some great food with your grandparents.
If your grandparents have survived a war and witnessed the birth of three great-grandchildren, but still deem finally getting a conservatory as the greatest moment of their lives, then you should take them to The Quince Tree. This entirely charming cafe and lunch spot occupies one of the greenhouses inside Clifton Nurseries in Little Venice and feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of central London. Head here for a casual lunch - think pesto gnocchi and superfood salads - or just for some coffee and cake mid-afternoon. Afterwards you can potter around the nurseries and witness your relatives argue over how much of their pension can reasonably go on wildlife-shaped topiary.
Last Tuesday your nan sent a text saying ‘wwwould like met dinner next week no more burger for grandad blood pressure when you free tell mum say hi love love’ and you think it means they want to go for dinner. You think. Radici in Islington is one of those laid back, entirely inoffensive, spacious restaurants where both you and your grandparents can get comfy on the banquette seating without having to worry about anything being either too fancy, or too casual. There’s everything from cacio e pepe to pork belly on the menu, and although things can get expensive if you go all in here, their £19 three course set menu keeps things pretty cheap and cheerful.
Ah, sweet, sweet grandparents. Literally, sweet. They spent your childhood giving you a steady supply of tuck-shop goodies and Werther’s Originals from their glove box behind your parents backs. Finally repay the favour with a trip to Colbert. This seriously French all-day brasserie on Sloane Square has plenty of patisserie, from pistachio macarons to rich chocolate gateaux, as well as mains like steak tartare and duck confit. Inside you’ll find old school French movie posters and comfy red leather seating, but there’s also a boulevard style terrace out front if that takes their fancy on a sunny day.
Few restaurants in London ‘get it’ as much as Trullo do. This grown-up Italian restaurant in Highbury and Islington is almost impossible to dislike, even by someone who dislikes everything. The white table clothed room is buzzy but calming, like a yoga class that feeds you pappardelle. At night it becomes a bit more candlelit and moody, which will probably make for an evening of holiday reminiscing and quail juice stains. Trullo isn’t the perfect restaurant, because there’s no such thing, but it is perfect for your grandparents, and lots of other situations.
Nothing excites your grandparents more than a reference they know. Like when you talk about The X Factor, or that ex-friend they met once at your eighth birthday party. That’s what’s so great about The River Cafe: it’s so well known. But even if your grandparents don’t know it, they’ll like it. This restaurant pioneered Italian food in London: it’s got a big story, and also some big prices. That said, being on the Thames, eating delicious linguine or Dover sole, and feeling like you’ve made it (in an understated classy way, not a Kardashian one) is a pretty irresistible combination.
Whether it’s an anniversary, or a birthday, or you just want to give your nan an excuse to crack out her Sunday best, Colony Grill Room at The Beaumont in Mayfair is a great choice. There are dressed up American classics like macaroni cheese and ‘design your own’ sundaes. There are portraits of Hollywood stars on the walls. And there are red leather booths that are both swish and comfy.
La Goccia is a small plates Italian restaurant inside The Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden with fresh flowers and foliage aplenty, and if you’ve ever seen an absolutely plastered student stumble upon a fried chicken shop by mistake, then you’ve got a pretty clear idea of how grandmothers react to fresh flowers. In the summer you can sit outside in their courtyard with a botanical cocktail or a negroni-style mocktail, and in the winter you can get cosy in the restaurant with a carafe of red and a pizzetta.
Your grandparents love telling you stories - ostly of your mother’s ‘naughty’ teenage years - and there’s nowhere better in London for storytelling, or fish pie, than Maggie Jones’s. This old school British restaurant feels more like it should be in Shropshire than Kensington. The ceiling is covered in baskets of barley, dried flowers, and rocking horses, whilst pretty much every available surface is covered in candles. All of which makes it perfect for sharing an apple crumble whilst conspiring about your mum’s Joan Jett phase.
Grandparents are invariably from a different generation, which probably means different eating habits, which likely means some will look at a salad as if it just farted in a lift. If yours are a bit like that then we suspect St. John will suit them quite well. This is the restaurant that first pushed ‘nose to tail’ eating in London, which roughly translates to: let’s eat all the meat. It’s an elegant and excellent place. The kind where eating pie crust with your fingers can (and should) segway into picking up a glass of champagne. Empty stomachs and schedules for the day are recommended.
In restaurant terms, Kitty Fisher’s is definitely one we’d classify as a treat, and that’s one of the reasons we think it’s an excellent choice to go to with your grandparents. That and its insanely delicious food. This cramped Mayfair restaurant matches classic and modern in everything it does. A lot of the food reads meat and two veg plopped on the plate, but when you eat and look at the lamb with onions, it tastes anything but that. The room is very Jane Austen BBC adaptation: candles, velvet. But you won’t find any snootiness here.
Your grandad has been telling you that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ since you referred to your own stomach as ‘tum-tum’ whilst pointing at your knee. Take him to E. Pellicci. This proper East End cafe has been serving up some of the best full English’s in London since 1900, and has enough history to rival any living person. Be warned though, it’s always busy so it can get a little cramped.
Harry Redknapp is a 70-something former football manager who also won I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Harry Redknapp refers to food as ‘grub’. Harry Redknapp reads a menu by holding it high, leaning back, and squinting. Harry Redknapp rubs his hands together when food is put in front of him. Harry Redknapp is the essence of a grandad. Harry Redknapp is the kind of guy who would go to Kerridge’s, a hotel restaurant near Embankment. He’s the kind of guy would spend big money on beautified British classics: fish and chips, pie, chocolate pud. Why? Because Harry Redknapp knows how to treat himself, and that’s how you should treat your grandparents. (N.B. Yes, we once saw Harry Redknapp at Kerridge’s.)
If your grandparents are big fans of the lost art of napkin folding, or salmon tablecloths, or salmon curtains, or salmon food, they’ll love Oslo Court. This place has been open since 1982 and honestly, apart from the appearance of a card machine, this place hasn’t changed one bit. It’s at the bottom of a big block of flats in St John’s Wood, so as soon as you get past the idea that you’re in the wrong place you can start the task of picking dinner from their long menu of British classics. The food can be a little hit and miss, and if you’re offended by steamed vegetables, cauliflower in your crudite, or waiters that describe every dessert as if it’s the Da Vinci code, then this might not be the place for you. There’s only one three course set menu choice available for £48, so only go when you and your elders are super hungry.
Grandparents love specificity. They watch TV in the lounge. They have a cuppa in the garden. They don’t eat spaghetti, scroll through iPlayer, and semi-listen to a podcast whilst lying on their bedroom floor. Holborn Dining Room is a very straightforward restaurant in a hotel. For a start it’s got dining room in its name, and secondly you only come here to eat one thing. That one thing is pie. Pie, pie, and more pie. Chicken and mushroom pie. Curried mutton pie. Potato, cheese, and onion pie. All the bloody pies.
London prices can be pretty shocking for everyone, not least a demographic of people who bought a house for 10p and pack of scampi fries. That’s why having a BYOB option is a savvy move. Even when you’re with your grandparents. Tayaabs is one our favourites in London. The Punjabi food at this legendary Whitechapel spot is delicious and moreish - not least their famous lamb chops - and the fact you won’t be paying for booze means it’s naans all round.