With 46 restaurants across the UK (and one at Dubai International Airport!), Giraffe is a UK born and bred dining institution that delivers breakfast, brunch, sharing, mains and kids menus as well as ‘Feel Good’, vegetarian and gluten- dairy- and nuts-free options on their brilliantly diverse and ‘something-for-everyone’ menu. 

It all started in 1998 in Hampstead, where the founders – Juliette and Russel Joffe and Andrew Jacobs – set out to create “somewhere relaxed where people could have a great coffee and freshly cooked food at any time of day”. It’s a great option for casual family dining with everyone from young families to older school kids. The food is so wholesome that even the beer battered haddock delivers none of the usual grease and fatty batter so oft accompanying ‘fish and chips’. And options such as the Super Veggie and Feta Salad – a combination of marinated feta, broccoli, sugar snap, avocado, bulgar wheat, toasted seeds, rocket, cherry tomatoes & baby spinach in a herby salsa verde dressing – are truly exceptional.

For a restaurant that prides itself on serving healthy food choices, this popular chain ticks all the right boxes for good family dining

As for entertaining the kids – well, the ‘flagship’ branch at the Southbank Centre (located at the front of the Royal Festival Hall) has hosts with balloons at the ready, even whilst you are still in line, so there is very little need to lure your children here – they will be dragging you. Packs of crayons, sheets of games and kid’s menus await at the spacious tables that are arranged in such a way that even a pushchair can be easily accommodated. And the variation of food on the menu is outstanding – often having a diverse menu means that nothing quite makes it into the excellent category. Here, everything is either good to outstanding, and that’s a pretty mean feat!

The only mistake we made was to allow our kids to order their smoothie drinks before the food came as they were so filling it took the edge off their appetite. However, once our mini mezze, edamamae and corn on the cob starters arrived, there was no need for instruction. Our waiter was so attentive he didn’t bat an eyelid when our four-year-old son Jake managed to spill his drink everywhere; you get a feeling they are used to this happening a lot!

Despite fussy eating habits I was very surprised to witness Jake devour his fish and chips. Even my older boys, who normally opt for pizza in a restaurant, declared their falafel burgers delicious!

Giraffe was acquired in March 2013 by Tesco as part of its strategy to utilise some of the space in their larger stores, creating retail destinations that offer customers, in particular families, a compelling experience outside of their weekly shopping trip, but it is still operated on a day-to-day basis by the original founders.

Why go? Excellent variety of dishes on the menu in handy locations across London where you can trust that the food is actually as good as it sounds like it will be on the menu.
Best for Fussy eaters and those with allergies – as there is something for everyone from kids to vegetarians and those allergic to nuts, diary, or gluten
Our Favourite Bit The combination of food that really tastes and feels nutritious and super kid-friendly staff.
Top Tip Such is the popularity at Giraffe that it works on a first-come/first-served policy on weekends. There will often be a queue, but don’t let that put you off, as it does move quickly; plus, while you wait the kids can be entertained by the mix of pros and kids in the ‘cool’ skatepark next to the restaurant trying out daredevil tricks or in summer, a temporary kids beach play area is set up almost directly outside (between the restaurant and the Thames).
Don’t Go Specifically to eat at Giraffe. While the food is great, this is more about being a great place to eat whilst perusing the attractions of Southbank (or Spitalfields, or Marylebone High Street). While there are some excellent eating alternatives at Southbank, this is probably the most kid-friendly of them all and will ensure you leave with a balloon, a few plastic giraffe ‘toys’ (actually, their drink stirrers) and a nutritiously fed child.
While You’re Here From Southbank, you are a few hops and skips from many other London institutions including the London Eye, Aquarium, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern. Or it is an easy walk back over the Thames to Covent Garden Market. But if it is summer, definitely allow some time for a 15 minute stop to watch the skateboarders in their urban chic graffiti hangout (you can’t miss them directly next to the restaurant). And if you are there with toddlers or young school-age children – make time for half an hour of play at the pop-up ‘beach’ that appears in summer.