We all need to eat, even those of us with kids, and on occasion it’s quite nice to go out somewhere to do so, almost as if you’re normal people. More often than not though the act of going out with the urchins in tow under the pretence that you’re a nice normal family serves as a startling reminder that quite the opposite is true; that in fact your children are a wretched, motley embarrassment of savages who are completely incapable of eating nicely, sitting still or communicating at a socially acceptable volume.
Thankfully we needn’t suffer in silence (or in a deafening cacophony of agitated shrieking), because our city is packed with wonderful cafes run by saintlike parents who have suffered through many a humiliating brunch in the company of their tiny tyrants and taken it upon themselves to set up their own establishments complete with tot-friendly menus and massive, fun-filled play rooms, enabling wiped-out carers to enjoy delicious food avec infants – and hopefully sans the disapproving side-eyeing.
- You wouldn’t expect a space as cool as Toconoco to be child-friendly and yet it is, fiercely so, boasting a sizeable playroom complete with a well-stocked wooden play kitchen. This might be enough of a draw for many a toddler-torn adult, but it’s the reasonably priced Japanese menu that’s the star of the show. Many dishes are kid-compatible and can even be adjusted to suit tiny tastebuds (Haggerston 5 mins).
- Bear & Wolf will be many parents’ idea of heaven thanks to its wickedly good coffee, first-rate menu and minimalist decor, which manages to be simultaneously cute and cool. Most importantly, Bear & Wolf is in possession of a big, beautiful play area called the Cubroom where kids can choose from an abundance of IKEA toys while adults watch from the bench-lined periphery (Tufnell Park 1 min).
- Owned by a half-French, half-English Parisian native, Cuckoo Hibou is envisaged as a family ‘nest’ where the two cultures intertwine. This cosy concept store is home to an adorable cafe serving a selection of delicious French pastries and featuring a cute playhouse, a stylish in-store boutique and a sizeable downstairs play space hosting a packed programme of morning workshops (Parsons Green 7 mins).
- The Corner House is less a play cafe and more a small, well-planned city in which to play, eat and learn. Not only does it house a multi-roomed cafe on its ground floor; it’s also home to a spacious downstairs playroom complete with luxury playhouse, three dinky dens off the main playroom and a separate gated area for under-twos, all in clear view of its very own parents’ cafe (Goldhawk Road 8 mins).
- Dreamcatcher is a lesson in how play cafes should be done, with an upstairs room hosting kids’ classes and private parties, and the ground-floor cafe devoted to 9-5 playtime. The cute play area has been laid out adjacent to the cafe, meaning adults can enjoy their coffee in peace while keeping an eye on their little ones, and the whole space is gated to prevent child emancipation (Crystal Palace 10 mins).
- Little Highness Play Cafe, as the name suggests, is all about the kids, with its large back room dedicated to a bright and bouncy soft-play area complete with ball pool and padded walls so you don’t have to worry about them sliding out and smacking their heads on the floor. The menu is full of child-friendly brunches and baked bits, and soft-play-adjacent tables mean adults can dine in peace (Arsenal 10 mins).
- Corner Kitchen‘s substantial play area offers enough space and retro toys to keep tiny diners occupied for the duration of their adults’ meals. Specialising in hearty, authentic Italian dishes, this unassuming eatery also offers a thoughtfully devised kids’ menu featuring adorable mini pizzas with dough-ball ears, and an exciting programme of activities for locals and their little ones (Forest Gate 1 min).
Bab hangs out in the soft-play area at Little Highness Play Cafe, Highbury.