Journalist and Baby London columnist Martha Alexander has written about the highs and lows of motherhood since before her daughter, Robin, was even born. She has also written for The Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail and various magazines on topics as diverse as travel, body image and British history and is a former Story producer for BAFTA-winning TV show Made in Chelsea. She is currently battling with the first draft of her first novel and lives in Harlesden, North West London with her husband Mikey, and Robin. She cannot cook but loves eating everything except potato.
1. I’d like a table for…
Three please. Ideally at Wing Yip, a dim sum restaurant in a less-than-bucolic setting overlooking the north circular. What it lacks in vistas it makes up for in taste. We always over order – I have to have at least one plate of seaweed all to myself. My daughter Robin loves dumplings and would eat them whole if she could.
2. Early-birds catch the coffee at…
Alma’s Cafe in Harlesden. It’s Swedish, the pastries are delectable and owner Sofia never forgets a face which is – after hot coffee – the most cheering thing you can ask of a local café.
3. Best brunch with kids?
It’s financially akin to getting mortgage on a maisonette in Zone 2, but brunch in Daylesford, Notting Hill is always extremely civilised, even with an infant. The staff have great manners, are unfazed by rugrats and the poached eggs are perfect. Also, you can haemorrhage more money on delicious groceries before you leave.
4. Children’s menu must-visits…
We have tried to bring Robin up so that she fits in with us and not vice versa. So, we tend to buy her starters – she can’t bear bland food and is excited by new things so we buy lots of small plates and all share. That said, Bob’s Cafe on Salusbury Road does a delicious children’s menu: varied, grown up and healthy. Robin had a chicken kiev last time and the plate barely had a crumb left on it.
5. Where do you grab a bite with mums en masse?
When Robin was a babe in arms I loved going to the pub – any pub – but as she has gotten older I find it less relaxing as most of the time is spent chasing her around and annoying waiting staff. So now I’m into picnicking with wine. I have lots of rugs and blankets and a cool box full of antipasti stuff (I’m a sucker for an M&S Foodhall) and a bottle of Chablis and I’ll arrange to meet a group of friends and their kids anywhere from Queen’s Park to Hampstead Heath or London Fields (that’s the best because, well, Broadway Market = edible joy). The mess at the end is absolutely indescribable.
6. Hidden gem for treating tiny ones?
Toconoco by the canal in Dalston. The name means “kids on the floor” so it’s a complete joy for parents who can completely relax and enjoy their green tea with impunity. The food is healthy and authentic Japanese fare – rice balls and noodles and there are plenty of smaller snacks for children, too.
7. Best piece of advice for dining out with kids?
Bring books and pack patience.
8. Date night – takeaway or take me out?
Take Me Out. My husband and I went on our first six dates to the Chamberlayne in Kensal Rise because when push comes to shove no one does Mac and cheese like the chefs in there. We almost always choose to go there and tend not to feel bad for our lack of originality. However, if we can be tempted into town, Rosa’s in Soho is a treat and Magpie is exactly the sort of place I would love to be taken… (over to you, Mikey).
9. My earliest food memory…
The eye-popping banquets of friends’ birthday parties circa 1988. I never wanted to get down from the table and would sit there feasting on lumps of cheese and Iced Gems while everyone else was passing the parcel.
10. Five mums, one table – who’s joining you?
In an act of brutal disloyalty, I’m going to overlook my actual best friends and, in fact, anyone I have ever met in real life in order to fully indulge the fantasy of hobnobbing with famous people over some sharing plates. I’d say Sharon Horgan, Jo Brand, Zadie Smith and Beyonce (but only if she’d let me raid her wardrobe first).