What?: Essentially just another coffee shop with a small play area attached… that is until you climb the stairs and find a pretty sizeable (though not always open) playroom, fully equipped with a soft-play climbing structure, ball pool, play tent, kids’ tables and plenty of toys and books sure to keep little hands occupied. And when I say little I mean little. I can’t see many kids over the age of five getting a massive amount out of this place or wanting to linger longer than half an hour, but at the very least you should have time to neck a mug of coffee without them getting too bored.
Babies, on the other hand, seem to bloody love this place. In fact, for most of the two or three hours we were here, the ball pit was almost constantly occupied by a small clique of under-ones, all wobbling around like Weebles on an 18-30s holiday. However, despite the obvious soft-play target market, Coffee & Crayons’ weekly activity timetable includes classes for a variety of age groups, from baby zumbini and toddler drama sessions to primary-age street dance and adult yoga. All of these classes take place in the upstairs space, which means use of the soft play is limited to all day Monday and Tuesday, with any additional days advertised on the cafe’s social media.
Ok so this place has a few downsides – namely the restricted opening of the playroom, the fact that you can’t take food or drink upstairs (except hot drinks in takeaway cups and pastries in paper bags) and its positioning right at the top of the Northern Line (obviously not a downside if you happen to live there) but I’m not knocking it. It’s clean, the menu is varied and toddler-friendly, there are not one but two play areas, and you can even buy colouring books should your little person turn their nose up at everything else.
Where?: Coffee & Crayons can be found at 161 Ballards Lane and is a nine-minute walk from Finchley Central tube station.
Best Bits: I love soft play that’s small enough for them to go on by themselves – i.e. that I don’t have to go on too.
Worst Bits: The Monday and Tuesday only thing is annoying, but then I guess we should be thankful that they have this space at all.
Facilities: Baby changing, buggy parking.
Menu: Breakfast menu, baked potatoes, soup, sandwiches, salad; kids’ menu complete with baby weaning plate, egg/beans on toast, cereal and comfort food.
Price: Stay-and-play sessions cost £3.95 for under-ones and £4.95 for 1-4s, with additional siblings costing £3 extra.
Would We Come Back?: I probably wouldn’t trail back to Finchley for this when there are better play cafes within walking distance, but it’s great for N3 locals.
Shrimp explores the soft play at Coffee & Crayons, Finchley Central.