Running around playing is all well and good when you’re a little soul. But eventually, that little ball of energy has to refuel. They may not like it. They may insist “I NOT hungry. I wanna plaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!” but they usually are hungry. Mummy Knows Best. So, sooner or later you’re gonna have to sit down with the little beggar to eat.
Did I really just say “Mummy Knows Best”? Which Mummy am I referring to here? I certainly don’t know best. If I did, I wouldn’t get screwed over by a 3-year-old all the time.
I digress. So, where is good for a quick break with your bundle o’ joy? I know I’ve already covered this in quite some detail and then went back for another stab at the same subject, but this is different. Those posts looked at Central London eateries and were mostly chains. This time I thought I’d tell you about some smaller, more eccentric, not-quite-so-Central London places. Incidentally, please excuse the rambling, ranty nature of those original posts. I wrote them on my due date, when Eva was still firmly snugged up inside, and I’d just had the most farcical day to ever exist outside a 1970s sitcom. They are not my most succinct work.
And neither is this. Get on with it!
OK, first up is the cafe at the Garden Museum, Lambeth Palace. We retreated there on Bank Holiday Monday when – as with all Bank Holidays – the rain washed out our park plans. And it was lovely. You don’t have to pay the museum entrance fee for the cafe, and it’s a really nice historical setting that’s been sympathetically modernised inside. So, big stained glass windows (see top photo) and lots of space to run around. There are a few old dears that give you curious looks, but the lady on the desk had nothing but compliments for my beautiful baby, peering out of a sling on her Daddy’s chest.
In the interests of fair blogging, I should point out that Roo was asleep at the time. We don’t always get warm receptions in quiet places when the shouty one’s on form.
But I haven’t got to the best bit yet! The cart of wonder! It was packed with children’s books, explorer hats and craft materials. There was also a table laid out with colouring stuff. So, when somewhere has so obviously gone out of its way to court the toddler market, you don’t feel bad about bringing a live ‘un in there. For Roo may have been asleep, but his friends Luke and Rufus weren’t, and they enjoyed a good rummage and a play with the hats. Rufus’ Mum, Louise made this beautiful play landscape for them from stuff in the cart:
Which they mostly ignored, but I liked it. Eva also gave us a good chance to test out the baby changing facilities, as well as plumb the depths of the changing bag for new tights. We were there too early for lunch, but it was all vegetarian/vegan and grown in their garden. I think vegetarian tart and stuffed aubergine were on the menu, neither of which either of my boys would eat anyway. Never mind. The cakes looked lovely but sadly, they didn’t take cards so I could only get a coffee for Nathan and an apple juice for me, with the coinage in my purse. Note to reader: take cash. None of us had any, so they was an eventual way round it but I don’t think they do it on a regular basis, so I won’t spill here. Gosh, that sounds mysterious. A nice cafe then, but I could have done with sampling a few more of the wares. And maybe roadtesting with my own, lively boy (though a 2.5-year-old, a 3.5-year-old and two babies were probably worthy test subjects)
All of which brings me speedily on to Beanies, Croydon. I’m going to go one step worse and admit that I didn’t even have my toddler with me when I visited there. Just a tiny dot of an Eva. And some other Mums with babies, some of whom had also abandoned their firstborns and come to sit and eat cake without the constant “Mummmaaaaayyyy”. Between us, we could muster 2xnearly 1-year-olds, who were tottering or crawling about causing general mayhem. So again, worthy test subjects.
Don’t be put off by the fact it’s in Croydon. It’s really nice. I’m as anti-Croydon as they come, thanks to my Bridezilla friend and our two trips to Croydon to choose her wedding dress. IN ONE DAY! But I still liked it. There’s a cafe downstairs, then the play floor, then another level where they do classes and things. We hung out on the play floor, where there are lots of toys but also comfy sofas and tables. There are menus dotted around and you can order, pay and eat on that floor. It’s not soft play, but it is a room full of toys – dressing up, imaginative play etc. I did feel guilty about not bringing Roo, but he was at the childminders and it was a chance for 3-week-old Eva and I to bond. She mainly screamed at me.
So onto a place I have actually sampled with an actual wakey Reuben – the Living Water Satisfies cafe in Crystal Palace. Again, don’t be put off by the name – it is a social enterprise, but you’re never overwhelmed by the do-gooding. It essentially is just a big, spacious cafe that has a nice kids menu, lots of toys, nice cakes and a mean soy milk hot chocolate.
I’ve been there twice – once when I was heavily pregnant and convinced my waters (living or otherwise) were going to break on the bus. The other time was when Eva was 12 days old. Both times, Reuben found enough to occupy himself while I ate and chatted to my friend. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
There you have it – three toddler friendly places to eat you may never have heard of/thought of before. More to come soon, I’m sure….