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One-third of NSW children prefer fine dining over fast food: OpenTable survey

Julia Lipari and her daughters, Isabella (left) and Lily (right) dig in at Otto in Woolloomooloo. Photo: Dominic LorrimerWhen it comes to children and food, fussy eating now has a whole new meaning.
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Kids are going gourmet, swapping fish fingers for lobster, sausages for wagyu beef and cordial for coconut milk.

One-third of NSW children prefer fine dining over fast food and 49 per cent have dined at a hatted restaurant at least once, a new survey for OpenTable has found.

Three-quarters of n parents say their children eat out more often than they did growing up, with 18 per cent taking their kids to a restaurant at least once a week. A quarter of parents are willing to spend over $26 on a meal for their child.

North shore mother Julia Lipari has always encouraged her four daughters to try different foods and said eating together was an important part of family life.

She said her middle children Lily, 8, and Isabella, 7, were “absolute foodies” with adventurous tastes, happily eating everything from curries and sushi to olives, anchovies and blue vein cheese. “They’ll basically try anything,” Mrs Lipari said.

Like 75 per cent of n parents surveyed, she said her kids preferred to order from the adult menu rather than the children’s menu when dining out.

“I often try to talk them into ordering off the kids’ menu because it’s cheaper, but then they get jealous of what we’re having,” she said. “If we go out to breakfast they’ll want the smashed avocado and haloumi. If I’m entertaining and I put out a platter … they come and eat half of it.”

Lily said she liked trying new foods. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. But if you do, then it’s good.”

Mrs Lipari said that as a schoolboy in  her Italian husband was too embarrassed to take spaghetti to school for lunch. But in today’s multicultural society kids were open to all kinds of flavours and cuisines.

“Even at the school canteen they have hokkien noodles and sushi, so they are exposed to a really wide range of things,” she said.

The survey of 1250 people nationwide was conducted for OpenTable, the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations. “As a nation home to such a vibrant food scene, it’s exciting to see children are so engaged with emerging food trends and open to taste testing multicultural flavours,” said Lisa Hasen, vice-president of OpenTable, Asia Pacific.

John Fink, creative director with the Fink Group, whose restaurants include Bennelong and Otto, and the three hatters Quay and The Bridge Room, said he was seeing an increase in children of all ages – “from first day of kindy to last day of school” – eating at his establishments with their parents.

“It is more likely that the kids want to eat from the grown-up menu these days,” he said. “Young palates with grown-up tastes.”

Mr Fink said the popularity of MasterChef had “changed everything, hands down. Ever since MasterChef hit the small screens in living rooms across the nation young ns have developed a unique fascination with good food and restaurant dining.”

Attitudes to eating out were also changing, he said.

” has a growing culture of what I like to call ‘socialised sophistication’,” he said. “Years back, mum and dad going to a restaurant was a bit posh, and a bit of a deal. Babysitters and taxis got involved. Nowadays folk will head out for a meal with the kids. Dining in a restaurant is part of family life now.”

The 10 most popular gourmet choices for n children, in order of preference:

Sushi

Macaroons

Smashed eggs on toast

Coconut water

Scallops

Veal

Crème brûlée

Wagyu beef

Almond milk

Lobster

Source: Galaxy Research for OpenTable

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