I have a theory that only chefs with kids of their own understand what children really want when it comes to dining out – or perhaps, who know how fussy they can be and what a trial that can be for parents, especially when travelling. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that Gary Durrant, head chef at Hunter 486 restaurant at The Arch Hotel in London’s Marylebone, is a father of two who regularly eats out with his kids.
Gary’s new kids' menu features upscale versions of reliable children’s favourites such as spaghetti Napolitano, pizza, chicken strips, and fish fingers with tartare sauce, followed by banana split, fresh-fruit salad or ice cream with hot chocolate sauce – all more than fairly priced given the quality.
Kid-size cutlery and colouring books are all on hand. But the restaurant is also great for teens and older children who like to be a bit bolder than their younger siblings – as a family with both very fussy and very adventurous kids, we can find striking this balance a bit of a challenge sometimes.
Named after the 1950s dialling code for Marylebone and featuring leather booths (some of which you can curtain off if you wish) and an open kitchen for prime chef-watching, Hunter 486 has a timeless glamour suited to its location – and one that makes it a great choice for a special occasion with the family. The menu is a judicious mix of familiar dishes such as fish and chips, steak or posh burgers, and creative modern cuisine including the likes of chilled cucumber and avocado soup with brown shrimp, tomato risotto with basil oil and Parmesan crisp, and orange, pomegranate and almonds with rose-flower water and mascarpone sorbet.
Breakfast is similarly fantastic. If you’re feeling virtuous, there are fruit or vegetable smoothies, a ‘Nutritious Breakfast’ comprising a fruit plate and an egg-white omelette with feta and spinach, or a grain-based breakfast for the gluten intolerant. But it’s hard to resist indulgent treats done well: Canadian pancakes with berries, bacon and maple syrup, or Eggs Royale, for instance. There are also amazing – and again, well-priced – afternoon teas including roast-beef and horseradish sandwiches, scones, and buttermilk panacotta with fruit compôte.
And the really great thing about The Arch is that if you stay, kids under-12 eat for free. Family packages are available – some tying in with Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park just over the road, with its ice rink, circus, rollercoasters and rides for all ages, and festive food stalls. That said, you’ll be hard-pushed to muster the appetite for German sausages or churros if you’ve allowed yourselves to be tempted by The Arch’s special Christmas afternoon tea with its cinnamon-spiced cupcakes, chocolate Yule log and mulled-wine pear tart. It’s also in a great spot for Christmas shopping in London.
The Arch is a child-friendly boutique hotel, with a well-stocked toy-box for kids in its lobby-lounge, teddy bears that younger kids can take home with them, and children’s bathrobes and toiletries. Older kids, meanwhile, love the James Bond style gadgets – full-size TVs in the bathroom so they can watch their favourite movies while soaking, digital displays outside bedrooms so you can avoid unwelcome intrusions or summon maid service, and ‘press to refresh’ service buttons in the Martini Library, where complimentary cookies and milk can be served.
Meanwhile, after all that decadent dining, parents might take it in turns to go for like a run in Hyde Park or work out the start-of-the-art gym in the former wine cellars, including a yoga and Pilates space in a vaulted arch.
This is a hotel with an intimate feel; there are 71 rooms and 11 suites but it feels smaller because they are spread across a row of five Georgian townhouses. Cosy but spacious rooms have a stylish, warm vibe and bespoke wallpaper; Executive rooms or higher have space for an extra bed or a cot, or there are interconnecting rooms. Luscious toiletries by Malin+Goetz are scented with coriander, peppermint and even rum, making bathtime fun for adults too (if you can get the kids out of the tub!). There are also Nespresso coffee machines and, in some suites, handy kitchenettes and/or private terraces.
Lastly, The Arch is somewhere you may like to consider if you’re staying in London with your pooch – dog-friendly amenities include dog beds, bowls, doggy dishes cooked to ordered by a chef, and even a dog-walking service.
You’re unlikely to just happen upon the restaurant or hotel – though only a two-minute walk from Marble Arch tube station and Oxford Street, it’s on a quiet mainly residential street (it’s opposite Madonna’s London home, in fact). But whether you come to stay or to eat, it’s worth going out of your way for.
Find out more about The Arch Hotel and check out our family-friendly London destination guide, including things to see and do with kids.