Once a year my childhood friends and I gather up the kids and meet up for a big Christmas meal. It’s a tradition we’ve managed to keep going for decades now in order to stay in touch and make sure we don’t gradually lose contact.
It’s the usual question every year, where do we go which can host a large group, serves quality food but it’s also good value, and caters to children without it feeling like we are sat in a chain restaurant?
We’ve managed to squeeze nearly twenty of us into one of our homes in the past but it’s not ideal, so a restaurant is usually preferred. One place we keep coming back to answer our question is Wildwood.
Wildwood is a perfectly balanced restaurant, which pulls off the trick of making you feel like you aren’t in a chain restaurant while getting the value of being in one. Another one of its main appeals is how good it is for parents, as it has a set children’s menu, a playroom, and a tabletop football table. This really helps keep the kids entertained so we can catch up in peace.
For starters, I ordered smoked salmon served with horse radish mayo, carpers, and toasted sourdough. This, for me, was absolutely superb and one of the highlights of the evening. I thought the salmon portion especially was incredibly generous for £8.
We also had a burrata for starters which consisted of red pepper tapenade, rocket, walnuts, sand chili dressing.
My boy had a hand-made ‘calabrese artisan pizza’ which was served with dry cured pork sausage, speck, Milano salami, and cherry bell peppers, all on top a riserva cheese topping. Pizzas are a Wildwood speciality, so I was expecting a lot here and they didn’t disappoint. The size was decent, the pizza was succulent, and the ingredients were good quality. I can see myself ordering something like this in the future as it looks fantastic.
I ordered the 10oz ribeye steak, with chips, and watercress with peppercorn sauce. I must admit, this was the first time I have had steak at Wildwood and have not had good experiences with steak in chain restaurants in the past but was pleasantly surprised by the quality. Four of us had steak in total, I asked for mine medium and it was exactly on point. A friend of mine asked for it medium but unfortunately was served rare but another ordered it rare and said it was exactly right. The medium rare was served perfectly too, which gives us a healthy 3/4 in execution.
The steak was just under £20 in total, which is about right for the quality, especially keeping in mind the rising cost of living. I don’t think anyone coming here is going to have any complaints with the steak and we were all in agreement that they were happy with the quality.
One of us had the seafood linguine, which was unfortunately described as “bland and flavourless”. I did not get a photo of this dish as I was sat on the other side of the table but I do recall it looking very ordinary.
All the desserts were very nice. The chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream went down very well and my ‘lotus biscuit’ caramel cheesecake was utterly sensational. These were hovering around the £6-7 mark, which was getting on towards the higher end of what I would like to pay for a dessert but I feel they just about justified the cost. Luckily children had their desserts covered in the children’s menu, so in total the desserts did not add up too much.
With all this said, the restaurant is not a place we would consider if it didn’t cater for the children. The playroom made the evening so much easier for us to get a chat without being harassed by little terrors (especially with some of us bringing up to 4 children each). It was paramount that we were able to feed them cheaply and that’s what Wildwood provided.
The kids menu offers a set of mains, dessert, and a drink for £7.25. It’s all familiar food you’d eat at home so you don’t have to worry about children being picky or fussy. Sadly, my twelve year old son eats more than I do but for little children or ones without a huge appetite this likely saved some of us between £20-30.
One thing I miss about Wildwood is the ‘candyfloss’ machine, which they used to give out free at the end of meals for children. This was a real pull for us when going out, as there is something magical for children watching it being made. This has been discontinued for years now but I would love to see come back.
Overall, the meal was a huge success. The service is always fantastic and everything was brought out in a good amount of time. The children were served first to avoid drama and the waitresses were friendly and engaging. The playroom made the evening quieter for us parents and the surroundings were very modern and tasteful, which almost made us feel like we were out as fully functioning adults.
This isn’t going to be a place for foodies (especially if you like seafood linguine) as the menu is very generic but you’ll always get a good meal at a fair price but for parents I can’t think of a better place which ticks all the boxes quite like this.
Same time next year and merry Xmas! 🌲