What?: I have to say I was under the impression that Under the Willow Tree was just another coffee shop with a tiny kids’ corner, so I’d put off visiting until we were in the area rather than making a special trip in case it was another 10-minute necking-my-coffee-accompanied-by-wails-of-“Mummy this is boring” situation (and we seem to be encountering a lot of those recently).
On this particular day we were in Islington buying storage crates from Molly Meg then meeting friends who live in Stokey. The cafe isn’t marked so I was completely relying on Google Maps to tell me when to get off the bus, which I wasn’t even sure was going in the right direction in the first place. Thankfully I spotted a couple of mums with babes through the window and took that as a good sign we’d reached our destination (if in doubt, follow the buggies).
While it might lack Bear & Wolf‘s self-contained playroom, Little Highness‘s soft-play situation and Apple Tree‘s abundance of space, UTWT is what you would class as a fully fledged play cafe, complete with play area, changing table, kids’ menu, baby gates and even a custom-made craft table on which little ones can hang their creations to dry. I was particularly impressed by this last feature, since it occupied Babu for a good couple of hours and I’ve never seen it done in a play cafe before (plus it’s a permanent fixture).
Other great things about Under the Willow Tree: owner Gilly is lovely and a former nanny, so she’s really good with kids. She also happens to live on the street next to ours and sources all her baked goods from our local sourdough bakery, which is sooo good. Gilly’s obviously built a pretty loyal customer base since she opened in August last year, and took time to chat to everyone who came through the door, which is such a rarity in London. We only ordered a mint hot chocolate (ridiculously tasty) and a cinnamon bun (also silly good), but we desperately need to revisit and try out the brunch and kids’ menus. We ended up staying for 2-3 hours, painting, playing and chatting to some lovely mums, and Babu even asked for extra time at the end – her golden seal of approval.
Where?: The cafe is located at 114 Green Lanes in Stoke Newington and is an 11-minute walk from Canonbury Overground station.
Best Bits: Chilled and friendly atmosphere, delicious food and drink, and plenty to keep little ones occupied.
Worst Bits: It’s quite small so I’d definitely suggest a weekday rather than weekend visit.
Facilities: Buggy parking, baby changing, step-free access.
Menu: Brunchy bits – lots of eggy options, smashed avocado, etc; DIY sandwiches; kids’ menu featuring healthy favourites.
Price: No charge to play.
Would We Come Back?: Definitely – we had a lovely afternoon.
Babu paints at the craft table at Under the Willow Tree, Green Lanes, Stoke Newington.