What?: I have a (probably fairly unhealthy) fixation with play cafes and am always embarrassingly pumped when I hear about a new one popping up somewhere useful. We don’t venture to the Docklands that regularly but now that a coffee-and-play scenario has opened its doors just outside South Quay DLR, that could be about to change (that is, provided it’s not closed down by Covid like seemingly every other play cafe in the land).
It’s a weird one, this. Area-wise, it feels like an odd placement, with the cafe being housed within a small 1990s shopping precinct that’s overripe for demolition. Once you’re inside though, it’s quite lovely. The play area is bright and spacious, and consists of a series of little wooden tables set up with various activities including a train set and some sort of town-map/toy-car scenario, in addition to a well-stocked play shop and kitchen, a baby soft-play area and a much larger two-storey toddler structure. Everything is gated, though with a cute little fence that’s low enough for an adult to comfortably vault over when they feel the need to retreat to their table for a sip of Monmouth coffee. No food or drink is allowed in the play area, which is probably for the best.
In terms of Covid precautions this place is on it like a car bonnet, with a member of staff zapping us all with a temperature check gun on entry, and mask wearing mandatory unless you’re sitting at your table. I’m not sure if it’s a virus thing – bearing in mind Tiny Tigers only opened in October – but play sessions here are very short. Obviously this enables the cafe to get as many kids as possible through the door in as short a time (a maximum of eight kids are permitted at a time), while allowing for adequate disinfecting between sessions, but to be honest I still felt pretty shortchanged.
As usual I spectacularly failed on the food front and neglected to buy anything bar the aforementioned (very delicious) Monmouth coffee, and then loaded up on doughnuts from the Crosstown van in Canary Wharf afterwards. But, judging by their Instagram account, Tiny Tigers serves up a bunch of cakes and baked goods from Greenwich bakery Paul Rhodes, a variety of everyone’s favourite Organix toddler snacks and a lot of vegan chilli con carne. That’s crap intel though and I promise I’ll return and scope out the food situation more thoroughly, although I’m not convinced that 45 minutes is a wide enough window to comfortably order and devour an actual meal in anyway.
Another thing that bugged me was that the schedule only allowed for a few free-play sessions a day and was otherwise taken up with classes and story sessions (despite the fact that there is a whole other room where these seemed to be taking place). Obviously I can’t speak for the entire parent population of London, but personally all I want from a play cafe is space to set the kids free while I grab a cup of coffee, unbound by session times and class schedules. I know that’s probably too much of an ask during a pandemic, but I really hope Tiny Tigers rethinks its timetable once it’s all over… if it’s ever all over.
When and where?: Find Tiny Tigers at Unit 1 South Quay Plaza, 185 Marsh Wall, E14 9SH. The cafe is a two-minute walk from South Quay DLR and normal opening hours are Monday 9am-5pm and Thursday-Sunday 9am-5.30pm.
Price: I paid £10 for an ‘adult and siblings’ ticket.
Facilities: Step-free access, baby changing.
Best bits: The play area was perfect and could have kept them both happy for hours.
Worst bits: The session felt like it was over before it had even begun.
Would we come back? I’d love to (but I hope they extend the session times).
Roro explores the play area at Tiny Tigers, South Quay.