Anyone with children knows that dining out with youngsters can be a challenge.
As first-time parents to an energetic 15-month-old, meal times are very different these days.
Gone are our long leisurely lunches or nights out in town at the newest restaurant to open. The toddler just doesn't allow it.
We won't be defeated though and practice makes perfect so on a recent sunny Sunday lunch we headed to The Hart in Harlestone Road Duston to enjoy a family meal.
In September 2016 The Hart underwent a £350,000 refurbishment and a new landlord with an aim to be a good community pub offering something for everyone.
We live a short drive away and have visited The Hart on several occasions following the revamp for lunchtime snacks and drinks. We were impressed so wanted to test out the main menu.
We booked a table which was a good idea because the pub was fairly busy when we arrived. We were asked to order drinks from the bar as the waitress was busy.
I instantly spotted the cocktail menu sat on the bar all priced at £6.95. A nice touch and a reasonable price for a cocktail. Back to reality though!
Our waitress soon came to see us and asked where we wanted to sit which was great because she could see (and was sympathetic as a mother herself) that we had the baby with us.
We chose a table in the big bay window overlooking the car park. Plenty of space for food throwing from a highchair.
Our little boy is still getting to grips with chewing food so we brought his own mushy lunch along with us. However the kids menu for when he's a bit older looked great - chicken dippers, sausages, fish and burgers for £3.95. Plus a slightly more grown-up section for older children including steak, gammon and scampi. Little starters for the bargain price of £2 and puds for £2.50.
For those who love a traditional roast, there was a carvery being served. There was a choice of meats plus vegetarian option and a wide selection of vegetables in all different sizes/prices.
We opted for the main menu and there was plenty to choose from including steaks and grills, heart(y) favourites, fish, stone baked pizzas and a burger bar. In the week there is also a sandwich section and a 2 for £12 deal Monday-Saturday on certain dishes.
For starters we ordered the deep fried brie (£5.50) served with a mango coulis and cheesy nachos (£8.95) with guacamole, salsa and sour cream.
Service was slow from the kitchen. We'd been there an hour before getting our starters so it was a good job there was plenty of nachos to go round.
The brie was nicely presented but was lukewarm and not the gooey texture we were hoping for. The nachos were plentiful and more than enough for two people but were rather dry and felt like they'd been standing around a while.
For mains we went for a Margherita pizza (£8.95) topped with mozzarella, cherry tomato and fresh basil and a breaded chicken burger (£8.95).
The pizza was ok but nowhere near as good as what I'd seen served up to other people on previous visits. Again it was dry and overcooked.
The burger came in a brioche bun and had chicken strips topped with bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce. It was tasty but sadly way too dry again. There was hardly any barbecue sauce on it and the cheese was of the 'plastic' sliced variety you buy in bulk when you have loads of people around for a barbecue. The chips were fantastic and beautifully seasoned!
We were way too full for pudding but there were some delicious classics on the menu including honeycomb cheesecake (£4.95) and a hot treacle sponge pudding served with custard and cream (£4.95) among the treats.
Top marks to the waitress. She was an asset to The Hart and made us feel very welcome and chatted away to the baby throughout. She was rushing around the area we were sat in trying to serve everyone - it was very busy towards the end.
We really enjoyed our family lunch out, the toddler was (relatively) well behaved and it was nice to be out and about.
The slow service of the food coming from the kitchen and the dryness of it all just let down the experience.
We were also hoping to let the toddler have a little bounce on the bouncy castle in the garden after being stuck in a highchair for a couple of hours but it had been deflated by the time we got outside which was a shame.
We'll definitely go back to The Hart and give it another go. It's very child-friendly, the beer garden is great in the summer months and includes a lovely new wooden play area and bouncy castle (normally blown up!) and there is plenty of food to suit all tastes.
The locals clearly still love it as well with a nice bar around the corner from the dining area which is always busy.
With many pubs still closing down across the country, it's great to see local pubs still thriving in the heart of our communities.
Chron score: 6.5