What?: Unassuming Italian restaurant in a little-known corner of East London. Open all day every day, Corner Kitchen serves its tempting brunch menu until 3pm daily, as well as a hearty lineup of authentic Italian dishes from noon. So far so ordinary, but the real genius of this Forest Gate haunt, which has both literally and figuratively become a neighbourhood cornerstone since it opened a year ago, is its family-friendly philosophy – and by that I don’t just mean they have high chairs. Owned by two local mums, the restaurant houses a substantial play area in its downstairs room, with enough space and retro toys to keep tiny diners occupied for the duration of your meal. There is also a small but thoughtfully devised kids’ menu featuring adorable mini pizzas with dough-ball ears, and an exciting programme of activities for locals and their little ones.
Where?: Opposite Forest Gate TFL station, with trains to Liverpool Street taking 10 minutes. Wanstead Park (Ginge) is a four-minute walk down the road, Upton Park (Hammersmith & City, District) is 25 and Stratford (Central, Jubilee, Ginger, mainline) is about 30.
Facilities: Baby changing, play area, kids’ menu.
Best Bits: Believe me, I would be more than happy with just the play area on its own. Kids get really bored in restaurants and bored children are sad children. I don’t want to eat my dinner with bored, sad child because she’s a pain in the arse. I like my tiny dining companions to be stimulated and joyful, and just having a small square of carpet to plonk them on between courses will pretty much always guarantee this. I was also really impressed by the chock-a-block schedule of parental activities, with classes ranging from baby massage and yoga to toddler French and ballet, as well as a ‘bring your baby’ mums’ night out and a dads’ meet-up.
Worst Bits: I’m a big fan of windows and sadly there are none of these in the downstairs dining area, which you will probably want to sit in if you have kids. Getting Bab and her buggy down the narrow staircase and into the basement was also a pain in the bum.
Would We Come Back?: We have friends who live in Forest Gate and come here a lot, despite being sans small angry human, which speaks volumes about how brilliant it is. Whether you have little ones or not it’s a lovely little restaurant with a cool vibe, delicious food and great wine, and if you really hate kids you can just sit upstairs. I will definitely be back, with or without Bab – but let’s face it probably with because she’s always there, poking me in the belly button and licking my arm.
Bab takes a break from tonguing toys in the play area to tuck into a bear-shaped pizza at Corner Kitchen, Forest Gate