There is a wealth of restaurant options across the UAE to please both adults and children.
I remember, as a child, finding eating out in restaurants interminable. Far from recognising it as the treat it was, I found listening to my parents witter on to their friends for hours as they ate (so slowly!) pure torture. Then, just when you thought it was over, along came coffee. Gah. Back then, food was merely fuel; to be consumed as quickly as possible before we could escape and do something more interesting.
Imagine my excitement, then, to discover that the UAE is full of restaurants that cater for children as well as adults. And I don't mean nightmarish TGI Friday's-type places (although every parent will surely be forced to go there at some point), but genuinely classy establishments serving delicious food, with a side serving of top-notch entertainment to keep the little ones busy while you, of course, chat to your friends for hours. Here is our choice of the best family-friendly restaurants in town:
Fanr, Manarat Al Saadiyat
The space, housed in TDIC's huge exhibition centre on Saadiyat Island, is gorgeous - light and airy and with a fabulous outside area for the kids to run around in. Inside, they have thoughtfully set aside an area for little ones, complete with toys and drawing equipment. Not surprisingly, it has become a popular mums' hangout during the day. The menu is excellent and very reasonably priced, with a separate selection for children. Check out the photography exhibition, Emirati Expressions, that is currently showing next door, and get your photo taken in the adjoining JR booth. Open 10am to 10pm Sunday to Thursday, 10am to midnight at weekends. Call 02 657 5888.
CuiScene, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr
CuiScene has earned a reputation as serving one of the best brunches in the city. The food is indeed excellent, with a pleasing nod towards seasonal fare. A dedicated "kids' corner" featuring interactive games, and Xbox and Wii, as well as colouring kits and special kids' treats such as smoothies and candy floss, will keep them busy so you can appreciate it. Friday, 12.30pm to 4pm. Prices for adults start at Dh289, kids 0 to five go free, Dh144 for kids six to 12. Call 02 654 3238.
The Village, One to One Hotel
The One to One offers a concept unique in Abu Dhabi - that of the traditional "pub garden". Its barbecue brunch on Fridays has a lovely relaxed vibe. Although not cutting-edge, the food is reliably good. It's the huge grassed garden that people really come for, though, and that kids will love. The play area has a trampoline, slide and swing and there's a clown on hand to entertain. Friday, noon to 4pm. Adults Dh140, kids under five go free, Dh70 for kids six to 12. Call 02 495 2000.
Beach Barbecue Party, Traders Hotel
Traders' Friday beach barbecue parties run until December 31 and are a great way for the family to make the most of the balmy weather. Grilled meat and seafood are served on the beach from 5pm and there are plenty of options for the kids, too. As if the beach wasn't entertainment enough, there is also face painting on hand, a bouncy castle and a playground. Friday, 5pm to 11.30pm. Dh120 for adults, kidsunder five go free, Dh70 for kids six to 12. Call 02 510 8818.
Al Forsan International Sports Resort
Children can take part in their very own pentathlon at Al Forsan, the new state-of-the-art sports resort that offers motor sports, paintballing, water sports, shooting and equestrian activities. Have lunch at the resort's bright, airy Café, which offers international cuisine as well as a kids' menu. Young children (age two to five) will have access to the supervised indoor playground, while great views of the go-karting and watersports areas will keep older children entertained until it's their turn. Call 02 556 8555 or go to www.alforsan.com for more information.
Bubbalicious, the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort
This, really, is the mother of all brunches, particularly when it comes to kids. While adults can load up their plates from three of the hotel's restaurants (Blue Orange, Hunters and Spice Emporium), children will be transported into a kind of Wonderland, where they will find a kids' cinema, a bouncy castle, a video games area and even a petting zoo. Try dragging them away from that one. Friday, 1pm to 4pm. Prices start at Dh350, kids up to age five go free, Dh190 for kids six to 12. Call 04 399 4141.
Fun'ch, Emirates Golf Club,
Parents will be able to keep the kids at the table just long enough to wolf down their food from the international buffet before they're off to play tabletop football and mini-golf at this well-established Friday family brunch. Best of all, kids under 12 go free. Friday, 12pm to 4pm. Prices for adults starts at Dh125. Call 04 380 2222.
Having kids doesn't mean you can't treat yourselves to one of the best restaurants in town. Zuma's Japanese Friday brunch features all of their signature dishes, as well as the usual sushi and sashimi. For little ones who are less keen on raw fish, there are chicken nuggets, fish and chips and pasta on offer, as well as a supervised kids' play area where they will happily while away the afternoon. Friday, 12.30pm to 4pm. Prices for adults start at Dh315, kids under 11 go free. Call 04 425 5660.
Mazina, The Address, Dubai Marina
It is the supervised play area, complete with face painting, a bouncy castle and a designated kid's buffet, that makes this restaurant's international Saturday buffet a favourite with families. The fare for adults is good, too, and reasonably priced. Saturday 12.30pm to 4pm. Prices for adults start at Dh180. Kids up to age five go free, Dh90 for kids six to 12. Call 04 436 7777.
Café Céramique, Dubai Festival City and Jumeirah Town Centre
It's not a new idea, but it's certainly a good one: come and have lunch and paint your own ceramics while you're there. There's a lovely, peaceful atmosphere in this much-loved cafe. The kids' menu features simple staples such as cheesy macaroni and chicken nuggets. Prices start at Dh150. Open daily 9am to midnight. Call 04 344 7331.