Eating out and entertaining children are mutually exclusive, right? Wrong. Here, we share some of London’s best places to eat, drink and have fun with your little ones in tow.
The meatballs and prinsesstårta (that’s traditional layered princess cake to non-Swedish speakers) might be delectable, but it’s the staff and atmosphere that make Alma’s in Harlesden such a gem for children and babies. It’s not big, but the café itself is pretty, cosy and warm. We think it’s best in the summer, where families can make use of the shady garden – and all of the toys in it.
The café is not run by Alma herself but by Alma’s auntie, Sofia, who answers to Alma anyway and is charm personified: she never forgets a face and certainly not a baby’s face, despite how many come through her doors on a daily basis. This feeling of belonging is so important for new parents – you’ll never be lonely at Alma’s and even if your child throws a wobbler and their meatballs at the wall, there will be scant disapproval. A sanctuary.
35 Park Parade, NW10 4JE
The name of this Japanese café on the canal in the Kingsland Basin translates as “kids on the floor”, which is heaven for parents who can’t face another lunch of strapping a bellowing child into a chair and praying for good behaviour. At Toconoco allowing little ones to roam free is encouraged: there’s soft flooring and a children’s toy kitchen area. Some of the tables are super low, so adults can eat their noodles and drink their matcha lattes or green teas sitting on the floor, creating an integrated adult/child feel. You’ll eat home cooked authentic Japanese food from a changing set menu – steaming bowls miso soup or plates of rice balls make for a refreshing break from coffee and brownies.
Unit A, 28 Hertford Road, N1 5QT
Bertie and Boo
An entertainment and food empire in south-west London run by a family of magicians, Bertie and Boo is certainly one of a kind.
The original Bertie and Boo Coffee Shop is in Balham, while Restaurant and Play is just down the road in Clapham – but both cater to the needs of energetic children and frazzled parents.
Playful, offbeat décor is found in both premises, but as the name suggests Restaurant and Play offers more opportunities for children to let loose – there’s a safe, monitored playroom attached to the dining room. At 10:30am on weekdays there’s Magical Story Time, where little ones can enjoy puppetry and singalongs as part of a big group.
The menu is extensive in both the coffee shop and restaurant, offering fair trade teas and coffees, healthy salads and light bites like salt and pepper calamari, as well as more substantial plates like sausage and mash. Treats like babychinos and Oreo milkshakes will keep nippers happy too.
Bertie and Boo Coffee Shop
162 Balham High Road, Balham, South West London, SW12 9BW
Restaurant and Play
175-177 Northcote Road SW11 6QF
The Milestone Hotel
Taking nippers to eat in a fancy restaurant complete with white tablecloths and suited waiter service sound like an impossible feat? Not at The Milestone Hotel, where despite the Kensington address and grown-up décor, children are actively encouraged to enjoy feasting. The Little Prince and Princess Afternoon Tea enables youngsters to decorate their own cupcakes before sitting down to enjoy them, as well as other treats including milkshakes. Be sure to call ahead and book to avoid disappointment.
1 Kensington Court, W8 5DL
There won’t be many parents in and around Kensal Green who haven’t been to Gracelands, which is not only a café serving truly delicious and healthy fare – a plethora of freshly made salads, quiches and pies – but out in the backyard there’s a yoga centre (baby yoga classes sell out quick) and lots of other play programmes.
There are heaps of toys on site, and your little one is likely to make a handful of new friends with every visit. Oh, and Gracelands is licensed – for when coffee is just not enough.
118 College Rd, NW10 5HD
Lardo and Lardo Bebé
Both in Hackney, Lardo and Lardo Bebé both prove it’s possible for parents to eat delectable fare, in cool, stylish surroundings accompanied by their small offspring. These Italian restaurants are best known for their pizzas, but there’s more to them than that, with enough adventurous small plates to keep food snobs quiet. Kids will be agog at the open kitchen, where they can watch their pizzas being fired.
Lardo Bebé is, as the name suggests, smaller, although there is al fresco dining in the beautiful garden during the summer. The intimate space suits, amongst other things, children’s pizza parties.
Lardo 197-201 Richmond Road, E8 3NJ
Lardo Bebé 158 Sandringham Rd E8 2HS
WORDS: MARTHA ALEXANDER