I'm a big fan of eating out with the kids; mainly because I like them to be able to experience different cuisines, although not having to cook is also a contributing factor ;)
I like to take them to authentic restaurants, which isn't necessarily always their idea of fun, but I think it's important that children learn about different cultures from an early age and knowing how to behave in restaurant and similar surroundings is an important social skill. When I let them choose where we eat, it's usually YO! Sushi, or Wagamama, which suits me just fine, but on occasion they have been known to ask to visit a theme restaurant, like Frankie & Benny's, or TGI Fridays. I'm not going to lie: this is my idea of hell. The food is never great, the atmosphere is always crazy and busy - but the kids always have a good time, and that's the important thing right?
When we were asked to review The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, a restaurant based on the Forrest Gump film and situated just behind Piccadilly Circus, I wasn't overly excited at the prospect. But Forrest Gump is one of my favourite films, and the kids were really keen to go, so I accepted and off we went for an early mid-week dinner during half term.
The restaurant is on Coventry Street, in-between Piccadilly and Leicester Square - which is a pretty good location if you're up in town doing touristy things. It's on the first floor of the building on the corner with Rupert Street, which means you have to enter and leave through their gift shop (always a nightmare when you are out with kids).
On arrival, we were met at the front desk by a lovely lady who gave the girls balloons. We were early (that never happens, ha!) so we sat on the iconic bench from the film while we waited for our table to be set. When it was ready, we were taken up to the restaurant, seated and handed over to our waitress for the evening. She then talked us through the menu, took our drinks order and told us to use the 'Run Forrest Run' and 'Stop Forrest Stop' signs on the table to let waiting staff know when we needed them.
The restaurant was huge - a large open space with a large bar as the focal point, which was surrounded by round tables and rows of booths leading off to the sides. The decor was fabulous! Shelves of knick knacks and quotes relating to the film everywhere, with industrial lighting and extra comfy leather seats!
We ordered Oreo milkshakes (for the kids) and a beer (for me) and on the recommendation of our waitress went for the Run Across America sampler to start, which was a sharing platter of different kinds of shrimp, plus chips and dip. We loved Mama Blue's fried shrimp the best, and Evie enjoyed peeling the chilled shrimp for me ;)
For our mains, the girls ordered the kids meals; Evie went for the Holy Moly Macaroni Cheese Pleeze and Daisy opted for Mama Gump's chicken strips. They came served in a little cardboard boat, with sides of fries, a segment of orange and a little pot of jelly for pudding.
I chose the Shrimp New Orleans; tender shrimp broiled with butter, garlic and spices and served with rice and a slice of garlic bread. I was told it would be spicy but it was pretty mild which was disappointing.
Then the girls chose to build their own sundaes which was heaps of fun and really reasonably priced at £3.50. They were given bowls of vanilla ice cream with separate servings of chocolate sauce, snickers pieces, Oreo crumbs, sprinkles and whipped cream which they could then mix up together.
I couldn't fault the serving staff; they were absolutely brilliant - on the ball and very good with all the children in the restaurant (and there were lots of little diners!). I watched them deal with a number of spillages, plus an incident involving a lost balloon, incredibly well and was really impressed at their kindness, patience and professionalism.
Bubba Gump is a brilliant place to take kids if you're in the neighbourhood. They cater for their little diners really well; the activity packs to keep them entertained are brilliant for all ages, and the food is pretty decent, plus it's reasonably priced too - which is great when you're in a tourist hotspot in central London. However I have to say I wasn't massively fond of the grown up's menu. Perhaps I made a mistake ordering double shrimp (there are also burgers, steak and salads on the menu) but it wasn't the best meal I've ever had, and it was rather expensive for what it was. Despite this, we genuinely had a great time, and I'm pleased we got to experience it. I would definitely take the girls back, although it would probably be a lunchtime visit next time, so that they can eat a decent meal but wouldn't feel bad just grabbing a coffee.
Our meal was complimentary in exchange for this entirely honest review. Thanks to Bubba Gump for inviting us down to try their menu.