What?: It would be easy to bypass this cute canalside cafe given its obscure location, lack of shouty signage and easygoing vibe. In fact everything about Toconoco (a made-up Japanese word for “kids on the floor”) is low-key, from its location on the far edge of the Kingsland basin in laid-back De Beauvoir to its cool, contemporary and typically Japanese decor, with bare branches framing the floor-to-ceiling window wall to create an open, inside-outside feel. The corner-aspect site is flooded with light from the bright courtyard, even on a cloudy day, and the light wood furnishings – including low, cushion-clad Japanese-style seats – and chilled soundtrack create a hip, modern vibe.
You wouldn’t expect a space this cool to be child-friendly and yet it is, fiercely so, boasting a sizeable playroom complete with artificial-turf carpet, a well-stocked wooden play kitchen and a series of large plywood crates filled with Mega Bloks. This alone might be enough of a draw for many a toddler-torn adult, but it’s the delicious and reasonably priced menu that’s the real star of the show. Many dishes are kid-compatible and the chef will even adjust them to suit tiny tastebuds if you’d prefer they went easy on the wasabi. We ordered a noodle soup, a wakame-sprinkled avocado toast – available with or without the spice, a black sesame latte that Bab loved so much she acquired a black sesame beard, and a luscious matcha blondie that I decided was infant-applicable on the basis that matcha is an antioxidant, which totally cancels out all the sugar.
Where?: Toconoco can be found at Unit A, 28 Hertford Road, De Beauvoir Town. Street access is via the gate marked Norway Wharf and across the secluded courtyard, and canal access is via the Kingsland Basin gate. The cafe is a five-minute walk from Haggerston (Ginger) or 25 from Old Street (Northern).
Best Bits: Anywhere that makes me feel this zen while in the company of my 16 month old is a winner in my book. The black sesame latte was out-of-this-world amazing and just one of the four Japanese latte flavours available.
Worst Bits: It looked they were in the middle of a sort out, which is fair enough but the power tools and electrical equipment lying around in the playroom freaked me out a bit – not really what you want to find in a kids’ area, particularly when you have a young toddler who can’t differentiate between Fisher Price and Black and Decker.
Facilities: Baby changing, step-free access, high chairs.
Would We Come Back?: If we lived a bit nearer we’d probably come for lunch here every day.
Bab tucks into invisible rice balls at Toconoco, Haggerston.