Seven London play cafes that are actually open right now

Play cafes are the eternal saviour of the sleep-deprived adult-in-charge-of-a-small-person, but sadly the pandemic has kissed goodbye to/coughed all over a hefty chunk of our favourites. Most of the places on our last Seven Things play-cafe list are either temporarily closed or have gone for good, so here’s an updated version featuring all the places we can think of that are open for business at the time of writing (handily, there are exactly seven!). Happy caffeinating!

  1. Japanese canal cafe Toconoco all but burnt down in 2018, then relaunched, then closed again when it got broken into literally three weeks later, and yet it’s the only place on our original list that’s still open. The owner’s often unintentionally hilarious Instagram updates give us life, as do their black sesame lattes and matcha blondies. Plus they’ve recently added bunk beds to their play kitchen, which is fun (Haggerston 5 mins).
  2. You’ll be spoilt for choice if you’re local to Dalston, since there’s now another brilliant play cafe just around the corner from Toconoco. Having the same kind of vibe as Bear + Wolf (which is currently takeaway only), Little Penguin combines a cool indie coffee shop with a massive, toy-stuffed play area. Head there early afternoon when it’s quiet, and make sure you try the dirty chai latte (Dalston Junction/Haggerston 6 mins).
  3. Role2Play is like a play cafe on steroids, consisting of a Biggleton-esque toddler-town setup where kids can run a coffee shop, become construction workers, tend to their own allotment and run riot in a supermarket. Oh, and there’s also a decent real-life cafe area. Since this is more of a small play centre than a play cafe, sessions need to be pre-booked and cost £7 per child – but frankly it’s worth every penny (Wood Street 13 mins).
  4. Bertie & Boo’s Adventure Island is more of a soft play than a play cafe, but who really cares right now? This tardis-like centre of headache-inducingly bright squishiness offers not one, not two, but four play areas aimed at 0-6s, and you can take your coffee into all of them. Actually the coffee is surprisingly great. Plus the staff are really welcoming. I underestimated you, Bertie & Boo. Sessions cost £6.50 and are drop-in only (Balham 5 mins).
  5. If Role2Play is a play cafe on steroids then Picnic is a play cafe on crack, although that feels like a very weird metaphor for a kids’ play centre. Anyway, it’s lovely, with another Biggleton play-village scenario, plus two other play areas and a large cafe serving hot and cold food. The decor is really pleasing, which is weirdly rare when it comes to anything aimed at children. Sessions cost £8 and must be pre-booked (Kingston 1 min).
  6. A Little Me Time has animal-shaped waffles that you can get served with a little pot of Nutella and really that’s all you need to know about this place. You want more? Okay, well the staff are stupidly nice, the play area is cute and pink, they have a colour-change wall, touch-free everything, the iced coffee comes with a scoop of ice cream in it and you can get three homemade biscuits for a quid. Alright? (Ealing Broadway 3 mins).
  7. It’s been two and a half years since Apple Tree Children’s Cafe opened its doors and it’s still going strong today, which is pretty good going when you think about how many London play cafes have opened then closed again in that time. Apple Tree boasts a spacious seating/eating area, a good-sized under-fives soft-play structure and changing daily activities. Sessions cost £5.50 and must be pre-booked (Herne Hill 2 mins).

And in other play-cafe news…

Coffee & Crayons in Finchley closes for good on the 23rd of October.

Bear + Wolf in Tufnell Park and Little Highness in Highbury are both temporarily closed, as far as I know.

Hygge Pygge in Camden, Dreamcatcher in Crystal Palace and Under the Willow Tree in Newington Green have all permanently closed.

Ro checks out the new bunk beds in the play area at Toconoco, Haggerston.