What?: We keep going past play cafes we didn’t know existed and it’s getting weird. Okay, so it’s only happened twice, but that was twice in as many days on opposite sides of London, and it’s not like play cafes are easy to come by. Or maybe they are. Actually, I’ve started to wonder how many other play cafes we’re missing out on because we haven’t happened to stumble across them on our way to something else. Seriously though, why does no one talk about this stuff? I mean come on, this is basically sort-of free childcare: a room filled with toys your children have never clapped eyes on where you get to sit drinking coffee someone else has made for you while you and your kids totally ignore each other. Why is no one ever as excited about them as I am?!
Actually, I found this one particularly exciting. Opened in July, A Little Me Time is a play cafe with a difference. For a start it’s Taiwanese, with a child-friendly menu bursting with ridiculous treats such as bubble teas and bao buns and animal-shaped waffles. Second, and unlike almost every other play cafe we’ve ever been to, the play area is at the front of the space and the first thing you see as you approach the cafe, as opposed to being hidden away at the back as if little kids should be kept out of sight. And third – well… actually pretty much everything here is different, from the way children are encouraged to wander around the cafe interacting with the wall-mounted busy boards and colour-change wall to the super-cute silicone elephant sippy-cup lids, the 35p homemade dinosaur biscuits, the touch-free everything and the shelf stocked with beautiful Mandarin Chinese kids’ books that we read using the translate app on Adam’s phone. In short, there is absolutely nowhere like this place.
There’s a lovely, chilled out vibe here too. The owner – also a mum of two under-fives – is ridiculously lovely and insisted on bringing my friend another plate of ‘chick chick cakes’ (adorable animal-shaped waffles) because the first – which my friend and her son had already devoured – didn’t come out as pretty as she’d hoped. Just before we left she took us into the basement to show us the party/class space, which obviously isn’t getting the use it should be at the moment, but hosts kids’ yoga classes and comes complete with these amazing car things that kids can climb inside and roll down a track/slide in. It was insane.
Other things that were incredible about this place included:
- Our ‘floating’ iced coffees, which were basically iced lattes with a scoop of ice cream in. Totally ingenious.
- The busy boards – in particular the one with all the big red buttons that Roma was actually allowed to press. Again, utterly inspired.
- The kids’ table where bigger ones can sit and craft or play around with the cafe iPad.
- And I can’t not mention the play space itself, which, while small, manages to include a foam-brick Wendy house, stacks of toys and these amazing rhinoceros-shaped chairs with storage built into them. It’s also a really pleasing shade of pink, which made me happy.
Where and when: You can find A Little Me Time at 58 The Mall. It’s a three-minute walk from Ealing Broadway mainline/tube station and is open 10am-6pm every day.
Best bits: Everything. This place just kept surprising us.
Worst bits: The savoury menu was very meat heavy, but I found some vegetarian options on their Facebook page. Personally I’m all about the desserts so I wasn’t too bothered.
Will we be back? Yes.
Babu, Roro and Sprog hang out in the main play area at A Little Me Time, Ealing.