I love food, I really do. My husband likes to embellish the story of our first date, and say that I finished my dinner, then finished his, and if he’s really on a roll, he’ll say I licked the plate. Plate licking did not happen. I have some standards (for first dates). In reality I ordered an entrée, main and dessert, and finished them all with gusto – which apparently was quite a thing for a blonde in her early 20’s in the early 2000’s.
We’ve tried to instil a healthy respect for food with our daughters, but have found eating at restaurants with two troublemakers can be a somewhat confronting experience. Cafes are pretty much fine, because there are tiny cups of frothy milk with marshmallows on the side to rip into, but dinner at restaurants is a whole different story. One family dinner outing ended prematurely when Amy sobbed hard about not wanting her food, and a newly mobile Tilly kicked the table so hard she knocked over my wine – it was a FULL GLASS, you guys! We scuttled out, un-fed and completely sober.
Mixed results have followed, but to be honest I’d thought that with a two year old and four-and-a-half year old we’d be nailing restaurant visits by now. Most food-based outings seem to consist of smiles and bribes for an entrée, tears and threats for the main course, and regrets and lectures for dessert. Adding insult to injury is the credit card dent hangover, with only a slight memory of having actually eaten anything.
Then, last Sunday, something magical happened. We hit the sweet spot of a shared dining experience at BurgerBurger in Ponsonby Central. I’m always a little bit apprehensive about Ponsonby Central, because I’m worried my clothes are all wrong in a non-ironic way, or that I’ll order the wrong type of craft beverage (for my non-New Zealand friends, Ponsonby is a bit like Fitzroy in Melbourne, or a very tiny version of Portland in the U.S.). Maybe it was because it was Valentine’s Day and the city was feeling particularly full of love, maybe it was because we fluked a quiet time as we have no idea what time actual grown ups eat anymore, or maybe it’s just a really awesome place.
The kids’ menu had multiple options that weren’t nuggets! They even had stuff like kid-sized portions of charred broccoli and pea and haloumi salad! I felt like I was Adulting Responsibly because I was ordering from a menu that had healthy options…but I still ordered fries as their side dish, and regret nothing. Before you think, “off your high horse, lady, it’s a burger joint, of COURSE they liked it”, I need to point out that the burgers are gourmet brioche bunned, summer slawed, pulled pork or panko crumbed fish sorts of affairs.
I’d already said sorry in advance to other nearby diners before we sat down (this is my usual strategy as I feel it sets an apologetic tone in case of misadventure, and if the girls are great then it’s a pleasant surprise for us all), but when a group of models arrived and occupied the table next to us, our girls were so happily tucking into their brioche bunned plates of goodness that no advance-apologies seemed necessary. Now, these were no ordinary “oh wow, they’re so pretty and their legs are so long!” models. These were alabaster-skinned, black haired, angular, high-waisted pants wearing, serious, non-smiling types. Several of them had undercuts and one had even shaved off her eyebrows like the chick out of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. I think they were models, or perhaps they’re in a cult, but you know, a really good-looking cult.
I took a moment away from my people watching to tell Tilly not to eat the little berry that she’d just plucked from the floral centrepiece with her chubby toddler fingers, then had my attention diverted by Amy who was demurely asking about ice cream, “because we’ve been so good and eaten everything”. When I turned back, the berry was gone.
Me: *in calm tones* “Tilly…where’s the berry?”
Tilly: *proudly* “I put it somewhere”
Me: *panic rising, wondering about the poison factor of a hipster floral berry* “Did you eat it?”
Tilly: *shocked* “No! You said not eat it, so I not eat it”
Me: *disbelieving, hunting the table and floor for signs of the offending berry* “Then where is it?!”
Tilly: *with a chuffed smile* “I put it in my nose!”
A quick nasal inspection revealed that yes, there was indeed a purple berry lodged in her little two-year-old honker. Super-cool model (or cult) girls and all other diners be damned, I was right in there trying to hook it out with my pinky fingernail, then getting covered in snot (she’s on the tail end of a cold) as I loudly instructed her to “blow! Blow very hard through your nose at Mummy!” while covering the other nostril. A trip to A&E was happily diverted when the snot-covered berry finally flew out onto my shirt amid happy shrieks from cheerleading Amy. My husband quickly downed his BeerBeer (I’m not making that up, it’s what one of their tap beers is called, and it was good!) and we slunk out.
So we’ve finally nailed it. We found a place offering proper great food and plenty of booze that we can all enjoy with no tantrums nor swears. A choir of angels should sing and a beam of holy light should shine on down.
I mean, obviously thanks to Tilly we can never go back again, but for that fleeting hour, we had reached Family Dining Mecca.