What?: Like a play cafe, but with added childcare. I have no idea why no one’s thought of this before, but who cares – it’s here now. Well, it’s in West Dulwich. Not especially handy for this North West Londoner and her tiny handful, but a dream come true for every child-encumbered freelancer/tired person within a two-mile radius. I don’t know what to love most about Peace + Riot: its elegant ex-bank building with chic modern decor and dreamy back garden; the deliciously healthy, ever-changing menu; the fact that when all the little ones have gone to bed it becomes a trendy neighbourhood restaurant and attractive date-night candidate; or the childcare (and let’s be real, it’s obviously the childcare).
We came here on their second day of opening (having seen it on their General Manager Ellen’s Instagram), and were fairly unsure what to expect. We were so warmly greeted by Ellen (who at the time I didn’t realise was Ellen) that I immediately forgot my what-exactly-is-the-deal-here? awkwardness. We were seated at one of their lovely big tables, where I ordered a latte and fruit bowl via QR code and waited for Roma to wake from a freak morning nap. Arguably I could have done something vaguely constructive at this point, like replied to some emails or caught up with the blog or enjoyed a poo without anyone sitting on my lap, but I just kind of sat there in a daze, slightly peturbed by my good fortune at finding this place and silently willing Roma to wake up so she could enjoy it too.
In the end I woke her up. You only get an hour and a half per booking, and while our visit had been very kindly gifted, I didn’t want to take the piss. Roma’s pretty comfortable around adults she doesn’t know, so it didn’t take much to convince her to start up a game of catch with one of the lovely ‘Peace Keepers’, who’d spotted her return to consciousness without me needing to alert her. At first Roma was keen to involve me, which is probably pretty normal for a kid who isn’t used to childcare, but once she’d realised that her Peace Keeper was a lot more fun than me she very happily left me to my fruit bowl.
As I said, the cafe becomes a restaurant at night, so the child-friendly fixtures have been cleverly designed to be easily detached from the walls and popped away. Think wall-hung rolls of paper for scribbling on, hookable magnetic games, IKEA spice rack-style shelves piled with the sort of kids’ books you’d buy yourself, and crates filled with sensory delights. The whole thing is beautifully subtle – designed to be somewhere both toddlers and grownups will love, without either really having to compromise. The aptly named Peace Keepers are wonderfully subtle too – trained to quietly whisk your kids away before either you or they have even really noticed, leaving you to your coffee/work/mates. The downside to this model is that because it’s not a formal childcare situation you can’t go off-site and your child will always be in sight, so if they’re not feeling it that day then there’s always the chance you’ll get even less done than if you were both sitting at home in front of Peppa Pig. Still, sometimes all you need a change of scenery.
Where?: Find Peace + Riot at 12 Croxted Road, SE21 8SW – an eight-minute walk from West Dulwich station.
When?: Open all day every day for coffee, food and play, and on Thursday-Sunday nights for dinner.
Booking?: Memberships cost between £400 and £1,250 a year, depending on the number of kids you have and how flexible you want your membership (which is pretty reasonable when you consider how much some family clubs – and ones that don’t offer childcare, at that – charge). Membership also affords you perks including priority booking and food and drink discounts. Don’t fancy splashing out? Anyone can book a table via the Peace + Riot website, at a cost of £10 per child for 90 minutes.
Where to next?: From here, you’re in easy reach of Dulwich Picture Gallery, Apple Tree Children’s Cafe in Herne Hill, Tales on Moon Lane bookshop, and Brockwell Park with its excellent playground and miniature railway.
Roma befriends a Peace Keeper at Peace + Riot, West Dulwich