Matakana Market Kitchen

We’ve come to the end of our last proper holiday weekend: my husband is back to work tomorrow. And things are about to get seriously busy in our house, with the kids turning five on Tuesday, their party being held next Saturday, and various other things planned before school starts in early February.

We tried our best to find a great new café to review this week, but I’m sorry to say that things didn’t work out. We did try a new (to us) café in Browns Bay, here on Auckland’s North Shore, but it wasn’t child-friendly enough to justify its own blog post. However, we were very lucky and managed to have a second café visit (which won’t be a regular occurrence – we’re feeling very grateful to my mother-in-law, who tries to fit in a year’s worth of treats during each summer visit). We decided to stick with what we know, and went to one of our all-time favourite brunch spots, the magnificent Matakana Market Kitchen. This is the first café that my husband and I fell in love with when we moved to Auckland in 2011. It’s never let us down when it comes to service, good times, and deliciousness, so we were delighted to use this blog as an excuse to visit once again!

MMK-Logo-PNGArrival and Entertainment

We arrived at Matakana Market Kitchen just before 11.30am, and tables were filling up fast, but we got lucky and landed a table near the French doors that open onto the outdoor terrace. This is such a beautiful restaurant, by the way: full of natural materials, lovely artwork, and cool cushions and light shades, with fresh flowers everywhere. The colour of the art and the flowers is nicely off-set by the black chairs and brown paper-covered tables. Joe loved that the flowers on our table coordinated well with his outfit (he’d dressed as Skye from Paw Patrol today).

We had a great waiter – we think he was Dutch – who was very attentive and efficient. The other staff who brought us various things throughout our meal were also really friendly and helpful, but we weren’t surprised: we’ve never had anything other than fantastic service at Matakana Market Kitchen, and we’ve been there dozens of times over the past seven years.

The kids love this place because of the brown paper on the tables, which they can decorate while waiting for their meals. Matakana Market Kitchen provides our favourite Crayola Twistables crayons, but we’d brought our own Twistables, plus some fab Lego felt pens that the kids were given by Danish friends for their birthday last year. The junior artists got to work…

I think this ‘paper everywhere and unbreakable crayons’ option is such an excellent child-friendly approach. Everybody from toddlers onwards can scribble on a paper-covered table, and it really helps to keep the kids occupied. Hattie drew a witch with a claw for a hand, who was using a big rope to try to tie up her (in the centre of this picture, not at all scared by the witch), and somebody else (who did look a bit concerned):

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Joe drew a picture of our au pair, Laura, who just left a couple of days ago – we all miss her very much!

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And I drew a few things as well, because who can resist a blank piece of paper and some lovely crayons and pens?

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Refreshments

As per usual, Hattie wanted a ‘warm chocolate’. The waiter queried if we meant a fluffy, and I explained that she’d basically like a chocolate version of a fluffy. I was expecting a fairly small drink – fluffies aren’t usually very big – but Hattie’s drink was pretty much a full-sized hot chocolate (and only slightly too hot – nothing that couldn’t be sorted after waiting for a couple of minutes). And we were only charged $1! Brilliant value for money.

(Hattie is becoming very fond of posing for photos, in case you haven’t noticed).

My husband had a flat white, and my mother-in-law, Joe, and I ordered a Green Goddess smoothie (avocado, mango, kiwifruit, kale, and aloe vera), a strawberry smoothie, and a mango smoothie respectively. We all loved them!

I really liked the children’s menu. Our waiter explained that, although it was presented as a three-course meal, the different courses could also be ordered for $3 each for starters, $10 each for main courses, and $3 each for puddings. Very reasonable prices, and interesting food choices that should appeal to a lot of kids, but are a bit more exciting than what a lot of cafés offer their younger diners.

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Joe couldn’t resist the sound of the iced berry soup, and he and Hattie decided to abandon the kids’ menu and split an order of chips off the grownups’ menu. The iced berry soup was pretty much a smoothie in a different form – Joe loved it. And the chips were really yummy: golden and crunchy, and served with tomato sauce, aioli, and vinegar in a little glass stopper bottle. So cute!

The grownups ordered off the brunch/lunch menu, and chose: Cheesy Bacon Pancakes (me – I didn’t let the fact that they were listed as ‘something teenage’ slow me down); Eggs on Toast (my mother-in-law); and Welsh Rarebit (my husband).

Once again, everything was delicious. I really recommend the Welsh Rarebit, by the way – I’ve had it several times, and it’s so good.

Excitement mounted during brunch, when a duck from the nearby river wandered in to join us:

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If you’ve spent any time with nearly five-year-olds you won’t be surprised to hear that this was probably the highlight of their day.

We didn’t have space for any cakes afterwards, and I’m sad about that because they all looked amazing, nicely arranged near the cash register. Every time we go to Matakana Market Kitchen I wish I had room for the cakes. I need to go there one day and just eat cake and drink delicious wine.

Other Amenities

I saw three high chairs inside Matakana Market Kitchen, and it’s also spacious enough inside to park a large double buggy at several of the tables (speaking from past experience) – plus, there’s even more room if you sit outside on the terrace.

There’s also this amazing large table towards the back, which would be wonderful if you were meeting friends for lunch and had a squad of little kids to keep in place:

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One huge child-friendly gold star for Matakana Market Kitchen is the bathroom situation: there are male and female toilets in the building, which are shared by the shops and cinema also on the premises, and … wait for it… the women’s AND the men’s toilets have a changing table each! This was an absolute lifesaver when we had twin babies and simultaneous Code Browns. But be aware that the only hand-drying facilities are super-loud Dyson hand-driers, which my children detest – so be prepared for your clothing to be used as a towel if you take your kids for a wee there.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

In case you haven’t guessed, we LOVE Matakana Market Kitchen! We’ve never had a bad meal or a bad time there, and we’ve been visiting with Hattie and Joe since they were still in baby capsules. Matakana is a lovely place to visit as a day out from Auckland, and there are other great cafés there as well, but we never get around to checking them out because this place is great. If you’re visiting on a Saturday (farmers’ market day) you would definitely want to book a table for brunch or lunch, and we were really lucky to get a table quickly today. However, even if you have to wait for a table it’s not a disaster: if it’s market day there is plenty to see, and if it isn’t there are some great shops in Matakana, so you could keep yourself occupied for a while.

I can’t wait for Hattie and Joe to grow a wee bit older, so we can start heading to Matakana Market Kitchen for dinner as well!

 

Bean Grinding Café

The weather is terrible in Auckland today, and I’m flat out with some university work, so my husband took the kids for a swim at a local pool, and then I met them at one of the kids’ favourite cafés: Bean Grinding Café. They call it ‘Armabillo’ (to differentiate it from Armadillo Café across the road – another favourite). A big drawcard at Bean Grinding Café is the fish tank inside, but we’ve also found that the coffee and cabinet food is reliably good, so I thought it was time for a…

Kiwi Café Kids Mini Review

Bean Grinding Café doesn’t seem to have a dedicated website or Facebook page, but you can find its feed on Instagram. The café itself in is Rothesay Bay on Auckland’s North Shore, in the very fancy 585 Rothesay Bay apartment complex.

It’s bright and spacious inside Bean Grinding Café, but today we sat in the communal space provided as part of the building’s atrium – the café has its own dedicated tables out there. This is a huge and fairly empty space, with access to a spray tan shop, a hair salon, a health food kiosk, and a pilates studio, and a large commercial premises that hasn’t yet been filled – in other words, it’s a great place for small children to have a wander around while they wait for their drinks to arrive:

The bathrooms that serve the entire ground floor are located nearby, and include baby changing facilities in the unisex disabled loo. I also saw one high chair inside the café.

We ordered drinks for everybody. Hattie’s ‘warm chocolate’ was a perfect temperature and came with two marshmallows, one of which she sacrificed to her brother. There wasn’t a specific children’s hot chocolate on the drinks menu – this was a small hot chocolate, for $4. For some reason it was served in a takeaway cup, which is a) a bit wasteful, environmentally, and b) not always ideal with small children – those cups can tip over easily. But Hattie was very careful, as befits an almost-five year old soon-to-be school kid.

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Joe’s not much of a warm chocolate drinker, so he opted for a blueberry and banana smoothie, for $7, and a cheese scone for morning tea (he seems to be in the middle of a six-month-long growth spurt). Both were delicious (I sampled them for investigative journalism purposes).

Hattie followed up her warm chocolate with a chocolate brownie for morning tea, because – apparently – there’s no such thing as too much chocolate. She said it was delicious, even though she couldn’t finish it. Here’s her official wink of approval:

The grownups had smoothies, a flat white, and a chai latte (that was mine, and it was nice, and not too spicy).

Bean Grinding Café offers a brief children’s menu, although we’ve never had hot food here and can’t personally vouch for it. I’m happy to see a cheese toastie there, though – that tends to be a reliable choice for little kids. A pancake option would also be nice, as most kids love pancakes.

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The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

Bean Grinding Café is a reliable place for good drinks and cabinet food, and I’m sure we’ll sample the menu food one day as well. The staff are welcoming, and the whole place is lovely and new. There’s no entertainment on offer for the kids, but the fish tank inside is a big source of fascination for our two.

The real bonus is that atrium space, though – how perfect for antenatal groups with a lot of buggies to park, or for parents with restless toddlers who don’t want to sit still while their parents sip coffee. The easy access to changing facilities in the nearby bathrooms is a big additional bonus. It might not always be appropriate for children to place in the atrium as the site slowly gets busier (we wouldn’t have let our two climb on those seats if anybody else had been there to be bothered by it), so this could be a good one to check out while it’s still reasonably quiet.

Bean Grinding Café could be even more child-friendly by:

  • Offering a children’s warm chocolate or fluffy, at a slightly lower price (more in keeping with the very reasonably priced children’s menu items);
  • Serving children’s hot drinks in proper cups;
  • Adding a pancake-related option to the children’s menu; and
  • Providing a few children’s books or toys, to entertain younger visitors.

Good Union

We’re back in Auckland after nearly two weeks away. It was an epic drive home – we left Feilding by 8.30am and made it to Auckland just after 6pm. We did stop a couple of times on the way: once for a coffee in Taihape (at a café that doesn’t really warrant much of a mention, sadly), and once for a late lunch at Good Union in Cambridge – a restaurant that  absolutely deserves the glowing review I’m about to write! We’d also stopped at Good Union for dinner on our way to Feilding on 21 December, so we’ve definitely had a good opportunity to test out its child-friendliness. I also stopped there for dinner with friends while on my way to Taupō earlier in 2017, and I had a delicious dinner then.

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Arrival and Entertainment

We reached Good Union at 1.30pm, which was towards the tail-end of the lunch time rush, but we were seated within a minute or so. We were right next to one of the serving stations, so we helped ourselves to copies of the children’s menu, which doubles as a colouring-in page, and the kids got to work with the Crayola Twistables crayons that were provided.

Refreshments

The kids’ menu is fairly straightforward, but there are plenty of smaller meal options on the main lunch and dinner menus if your child’s tastes are broader than the cheesy pasta, popcorn chicken, or fish and chips provided in the bento boxes. The bento box is cool, though – it comes with chips, vegetable sticks and hummus, and fruit. The $15 cost also covers pudding: either a chocolate brownie (sadly unavailable today), or an ice cream sundae with either chocolate or berry sauce. I think this is good value for money, given the size of the meal that comes out, and I like the portion size of the children’s servings of fruit juice, as well (honestly, it’s like Christmas every day for our kids at the moment, what with all of the meals out and juice-drinking – I assure you that normal meals at home and water as the beverage of choice will resume from tomorrow, much to the children’s chagrin!).

Now, we had two very tired children dining with us today, so it was a struggle to get them to eat much, but this wasn’t a reflection on the quality of the food: Hattie did manage to finish nearly all of her cheesy pasta in the end, and Joe made good inroads into his chips. And I scoffed their fruit and vegetables, which was a nice addition to my own lunch of a delicious pulled pork burger. My husband had a fried chicken burger, which he rated highly. Good Union does fantastic chips, by the way. I also had a lovely tart pulpy grapefruit juice, which is one of my favoured juices – largely because the kids detest it and don’t badger me to drink it with me.

Despite being melodramatically full while they were trying to eat their lunches, the kids miraculously found space in their tummies for their ice cream sundaes:

And I finished Hattie’s chocolate sundae, so I can vouch for the high quality of the chocolate sauce. I also rounded off my dinner with a yummy hot chocolate (and yes, I’m starting my New Year healthy eating habits as of tomorrow!)

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We were both being sober drivers today, so it was non-alcoholic beverages all the way, but if you’re a lucky local, or you can cajole somebody else into driving, Good Union would be a fantastic place to eat – it’s a Good George establishment, with plenty of great beers and ciders available.

Other Amenities

I spotted two high chairs inside Good Union, and there may have been more in the covered outside seating area, which is at least as big as the indoor space – this photo shows just half of it. You can see that it’s really well fenced off, making it a great place to dine on a nice day, even if you’ve got small children and don’t want to see them under a car on the nearby roads.

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It was also good to see a large basket of toys for babies and toddlers, so there’s something available for children too young to get stuck into the colouring in.

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There was a changing table in the disabled loo, and plenty of stalls in the women’s loo – and both paper towels and air driers, so all of your hand-laundering needs will be met.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

I’m jealous of people who live in Cambridge and get to go to Good Union on a regular basis! It’s a great place to take kids, with plenty to entertain them at all ages, and good food for every diner. The staff are reliably helpful and efficient, the venue itself is beautiful – a big, airy, renovated church, painted in restful duck-egg shades with cool shocking-pink doors – and I’d very happily while away a child-free afternoon with friends in the outdoor area, sampling the beers.

And if you are a local and haven’t been there yet – or if you can time your trip through Cambridge appropriately – how cool does this monthly Kids’ Night event sound?

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Good Union has a great mezzanine floor, so what a cool idea to corral all the kids up there to be fed and entertained while their parents relax downstairs. I wish there was a place near us in Auckland that offered that kind of regular event – we’d be there!

 

Focal Point Café

Have I mentioned that our children wake up early? Our children wake up so early, so don’t be surprised if a few of the reviews we write feature trips to uncrowded cafés: it’s often easy to get a table when you turn up before 9am…

Yesterday was the last day of our Christmas trip home, so by 8.15am we walked and scooted down town to see if we could find a place to while away half an hour with a tasty beverage.

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Focal Point was open, which was wonderful news! We parked the scooters and ventured inside. Focal Point is Feilding’s only cinema, and it’s brilliant: super comfortable, with lovely sofas to lounge around on while watching. It shows a good mixture of independent and mainstream films, and from what I gather from my Feilding family, it’s very popular. And it has a café, which is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and movie snacks.

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Kiwi Café Kids Mini Review

The kids had already eaten (you have breakfast early when you’re always up by 6.30am), so we just opted for drinks – hence this being a mini review. The all-day breakfast menu offers the only child-specific options, but there is a lot of food to choose from in the cabinets, so junior visitors would be likely to find something they like.

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Anyway, we ordered the kids a $2 fluffy each, and asked for them to be chocolatey. They looked great when they came out:

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They tasted great too, with a good ratio of fluff to liquid (a cup 90% full of fluffy, with no actual drink, tends to be a bit of a let-down). The kids got stuck in:

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Later, Joe decided that his drink was a bit too hot (I think it was probably fine, but that’s four year olds for you…), so we asked for cold milk and were given a large jug of it for free – enough to just about give the kids another drink each.

I had a hot chocolate, my husband had a flat white, and my mother-in-law had a cappuccino, and everybody was happy.

I did a swift recce of Focal Point during our visit, and didn’t spot any high chairs, but there were a couple of the kind of cushion-based booster seat things that enable small children to sit comfortably (and relatively securely) on a grownups’ chair. There are two seating areas: one near the entrance, by the counter (where we sat); and one further in the cinema, near the actual screening rooms. Of the two, I’d say that the second space is probably a good spot if you’re visiting with babies or toddlers – less chance of them causing mayhem (although very loud babies and toddlers might disturb film-watchers), and more space to park your buggy. Both spaces had boxes of children’s books, but I didn’t see any toys.

There were two unisex loos, one of which was a disabled loo, but no changing table. This is a bit of a shame – there’s definitely enough space for a fold-down wall-mounted table in the disabled loo. There were paper towels in the loos – hurrah!

After I’d scoped the joint and we’d all finished our drinks, we happily walked and scooted home.

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The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

Focal Point was the perfect spot for a quick visit on a sunny Feilding morning. Although the child-friendly elements are fairly limited at the moment, it would be easy to remedy this, by:

  • Installing a changing table in the loo;
  • Providing one or two high chairs (or putting them in a more prominent position, if there are some available already); and
  • Adding one or two child-oriented lunch options to the menu.

Feedback from Focal Point

After publishing this review it was wonderful to receive feedback from Megan at Focal Point, addressing the points I’d raised above! I can now confirm the following:

  • There is a changing table available: just ask one of the friendly staff members for help to access it as required;
  • Those strap-in cushion-based booster seats I mentioned earlier in the review serve as a substitute to high chairs, and work well for even the wriggliest of babies (and we did use similar strap-in seats for our kids when they were big babies/young toddlers, so I can vouch for this approach); and
  • There is a separate children’s menu – again, just ask the staff members for help!

 

Picnic Café

We’ve only got one more Wellington café to review from our recent trip. We didn’t get a chance to eat at famed child-friendly places like the Southern Cross, but we already know how fabulous it is from past visits – and, as per the conversation with my kids that inspired me to start Kiwi Café Kids in the first place, we wanted to try new places where possible.

For lunch on Sunday we decided to try Picnic Café, which is in the Botanic Garden. The Mummies had been out for a swift child-free shopping trip, and on our way home we decided that it would be lovely to visit the Gardens. I checked the cafe’s website and found that they accept bookings (although, with 70 seats inside and 80 seats outside, you can probably chance it most of the time), so we gave them a call and got things organised. As far as I’m concerned, it’s very child-friendly of a café to accept bookings: there’s few things more annoying than having tired and hungry children with you, and discovering that there’s a 40 minute wait for a table.

Picnic Café is easy to reach: you drive in at the Tinakori Road entrance of the Botanic Garden, and there’s parking available on site. We crossed the beautiful the Lady Norwood Rose Garden to reach it, and the kids were delighted to find a fountain nearby, and managed to stand very close to it without actually falling in, which is a big win as far as I’m concerned.

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Although it was a lovely sunny day, the wind was crazy, so we were thankful for an indoor table booking (although plenty of hearty Wellingtonians were happily eating outside, and probably scoffing at the soft Aucklanders who couldn’t handle the brisk local climate). Eating in Picnic Café is like eating in a conservatory: it’s attached to the Begonia House, so it’s nice and light.

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Arrival and Entertainment

The staff were awesome and instantly took us to our table, gave us water, and furnished us with plenty of felt tip pens, and four pads of blank paper for our junior artists. This kept the kids busy while we decided what to eat, and ordered and paid at the counter.

Refreshments

I liked this children’s menu. I loved that there were a few smaller options, like soup and toast, and the prices were very reasonable. We ordered four picnic boxes, which sounded like a great deal at $10 a pop. All of the food arrived really quickly, largely because the staff were only seating people and delivering food, and not taking orders as well.

We customised one of the toasted sandwiches by asking for it to be ham-free, and this wasn’t a problem – I’m sure they’d be happy to make other substitutions on fillings as required. The kids were all delighted with the food, which was definitely child-friendly: toasted sandwiches on white bread, a fruit and marshmallow skewer, a small chocolate brownie, and a juice drink (juice is considered a HUGE treat by my kids, so they were very excited about getting this instead of water).

Because we’re on holiday, we weren’t too strict about eating sandwiches before brownies…

The adults’ food was similarly well-received. My husband and I both had potato and feta hash cakes with bacon; one friend had smoked fish cakes; and our other friend had a smoked salmon Niçoise salad. It was all delicious!

Three of the four grownups had coffees and reported that they were excellent (I had a ginger beer out of a bottle). We didn’t order extra drinks for the kids, given that they had that juice drink as part of their picnic box, but according to the drinks menu you can get a ‘kids’ warm hot chocolate’ for $4.50, or a fluffy for $2.50. I’m glad to see the acknowledgement that kids’ hot chocolates should be warm, but those are both fairly steep prices for children’s hot drinks, and seemed a bit of out step with the very affordable prices of the children’s menu options. Perhaps the drinks come with numerous additions that justify the premium price? I’d love to hear from anybody who can confirm or deny!

Other Amenities

The nearest toilets were very close – just through the door to the Begonia House.

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None of us used the loo, so I can’t report on the state of them (or the hand drying options), but the signs on the doors suggested they were all unisex. However, the news wasn’t so great for anybody looking for disabled loos, or baby changing facilities: according to the signs, you had to go out another door of the Begonia House and across an internal courtyard.

Picnic Café has five high chairs, so you’re unlikely to run into trouble finding somewhere to park your baby unless your visit coincides with a multiple birth club antenatal catch-up.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

We had a great lunch at Picnic Café, and it was lovely to combine our visit with a bit of nature appreciation in the Botanic Garden itself. I loved the children’s food options, and the adults’ food was delicious. Everything arrived really promptly, and the instant supply of pens and paper were just the thing to keep the kids occupied before and after their meals.

One mild complaint I’d offer is that the volume inside the café itself is seriously loud: it has an open kitchen, plus hard surfaces everywhere, so there’s nothing to absorb any noise and the combination of kitchen noises and diners’ chat made it hard to hear the kids’ voices at times. However, this is a minor issue, and let’s face it: with children, a noisy café can be a blessing if it means that your children’s own noise is simply one component of the overall commotion. Also, when I was struggling to hear the kids’ voices they were mostly complaining about not being given permission to roam the Begonia House without an adult, so I was quite happy not to hear them!

I’d suggest that few people come to a busy café in a popular tourist spot expecting peace and quiet, and if they really need to eat without disturbance there are plenty of sedate restaurants in nearby Thorndon to cater to their appetites.

The plethora of high chairs made Picnic Café seem like an excellent choice for those of you with babies, and the extensive outdoor seating would mean that you could easily keep them in the buggy if necessary. The proximity of the Rose Garden would make this a good choice for toddlers, too, if you had more than one adult available to make sure that your child didn’t shoot off towards the car access points, or take an unscheduled dive into the fountain. You could definitely despatch your partner and the toddler away for a game of tag amongst the flower beds, while you read the paper and waited for the food.

I think the children’s menu would cater to kids of most ages, and it was definitely appropriate for our table of four- to six-year-olds. Having the picnic box meal is an inspired child-friendly move as far as I’m concerned: you could easily pick it up and take it with you as you ventured further up the hill to find the playground – or you could take it home if your little one was a reluctant eater, or if a screaming meltdown from one of your juniors cut short your lunch.

As far as entertaining your little one is concerned, the colouring in provisions are excellent, but I didn’t spot any children’s books or café toys to keep non-artists occupied.

For future visits to the Botanic Garden we’ll start with a morning playground at the top of the hill, and then wander down to Picnic Café for lunch. Highly recommended!

Boat Café

Happy New Year! Here’s to a year filled with peaceful café visits, delicious food, and non-whiny children.

Over the past few days we’ve been staying with friend in Wellington – our annual post-Christmas catch-up. I love Wellington, aside from all of the weather, and I knew that it was a perfect place to start checking out cafés with my brand new Kiwi Café Kids hat on.

On Friday morning the kids had great fun at Oriental Parade playground, and then we went straight to neighbouring Boat Café for an early lunch. It’s in such a convenient spot: it’s got parking right next door, and it’s very close to the CBD – it’s permanently moored behind Freyberg Pool, on Oriental Parade. According to its website Boat Café will take daytime bookings for parties of six or more, but we walked in off the dock and had no trouble getting a table (mind you, it’s lovely and quiet between Christmas and New Year). Apparently it’s also open for dinner from Thursday to Saturday.

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Arrival and Entertainment

Boat Café is nicely arranged inside with a bar/service area in the middle of the boat, booths on either side, and more tables and chairs in the front of the café (what nautical types would call the bow, I think). You could struggle to sit in a booth if you had a big buggy with you (speaking as an ex-twin buggy pusher), because you’d block the access, but we sat in the bow, and there was plenty of room there. There’s also outdoor seating, which could be even easier if the weather was nice and your baby or babies stayed in their buggy throughout:

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All in all, I doubt it’s a suitable place for an antenatal catch up, unless you’re all baby-wearers without toddlers to chase – more on that later.

As far as our nearly five-year-olds were concerned, the novelty of being on a boat AND in a café was brilliant. “I can’t believe we’re having lunch on a ship!!” one of them said, as soon as we sat down:

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The staff were friendly and efficient (and I should make a macro for that phrase, because I’m sure I’ll be typing it a lot in my Kiwi Café Kids reviews: Kiwi café staff are almost always amazing). Our waitress sat us at a nice, sunny table, and brought children’s menus with colouring pages and colouring pencils straight away:

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The pencils were a bit blunt, which tends to frustrate our budding artists, but when we asked for a pencil sharpener one was produced immediately, and peace fell on the table:

Refreshments

We ordered a child-sized hot chocolate for Hattie – she always opts for a hot chocolate if she can, so she’s going to provide us with a reliable barometer of drink sizes and prices. At Boat Café, the kids’ hot chocolate comes in a proper cup, which is great (I find it very annoying with kids’ hot drinks are served in flimsy takeaway cups, or in glasses that are too hot for them to hold, and liable to slip easily from little hands):

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However, at $3 for a kids’ hot chocolate I think a second marshmallow wouldn’t have been out of the question, especially as we had two kids at the table, one of whom had ordered a smoothie instead. Our favourite local café always puts an extra marshmallow on Hattie’s saucer if Joe orders something different, just to prevent any ‘life is so tough, I can’t believe I’ve been cruelly deprived a marshmallow while my sister guzzles hers’ angst. I know that this is only a minor quibble, but that kind of foresight can help a café to feel very child-friendly, in my opinion, because it means that totally predictable young child-related meltdowns are averted, and everybody is happy (and at virtually no extra cost to the café).

Our only other issue with the kids’ hot chocolate was the temperature: it was as hot as my hot chocolate (and yes, I begrudgingly donated my marshmallow to Joe). We asked for a little jug of cold milk and were given it immediately and with no hassles, but again: it’s really helpful when cafés anticipate the fact that young children are unlikely to want a piping-hot drink. We usually try to get this message across by asking for a ‘warm chocolate’ for Hattie, but it doesn’t always do the trick.

Anyway, Joe’s smoothie arrived:

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He’s a big smoothie fan, and pronounced this banana and honey smoothie “delicious – here, Mummy, try some!” So I did, and he was right: it was delicious. This was the standard smoothie portion, which he couldn’t finish, but that’s fine – I took care of it for him. I’m such a selfless mother, nobly finishing my children’s delicious leftovers.

I should add that our orders were taken quickly, everything arrived promptly, and we were given water as soon as we sat down.

I thought the children’s menu offered a pretty good range of options:

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My children are annoyingly fussy eaters at times, so I feel like any café that can offer at least a couple of things that they’d choose has done well on the menu front. Both children chose the pancakes, which – foolishly – I forgot to photograph before cutting up into child-friendly pieces:

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There were three blueberry pancakes, and half a griddled banana – a really good portion of food for $7.50. Joe wolfed his down (he eats like rugby player-like quantities of food at the moment), and Hattie was slightly put off by the presence of blueberries (she’s that rare child that doesn’t really like fruit), but she managed to finish at least half of her serving as well. A child at a nearby table ordered the ham and cheese toasted sandwich with shoestring fries, and received a plate of food that would have been enough for this 42 year old’s lunch. So Boat Café is definitely a good place to visit if your children have decent appetites, and if you appreciate value for money (what parent doesn’t?!)

The grownups at our table were also very happy with their lunches. My husband had poached eggs on toast, and a flat white (both very decent, he said), and I had delicious French toast, plus the hot chocolate:

Our meals were both off the breakfast menu. The lunch menu also had some good options, but I could eat breakfast and brunch food at any time of day and nearly always have breakfast for lunch if it’s available.

Other Amenities

Boat Café had separate men’s and women’s toilets, plus a unisex disabled toilet with baby changing facilities. And the toilets had paper towels, rather than air driers, which was great news for Hattie and Joe: like many younger children, they really dislike air driers and tend to dry their hands on whatever I’m wearing instead (so, paper towels are a big advantage for me, too).

I spied two immaculately clean plastic high chairs, albeit without restraints (but I used similar high chairs with my two when they babies, and also didn’t use restraints). And the basket of plastic toys shown below also looked very clean, which isn’t always guaranteed in cafés:

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The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

I really liked Boat Café. This sign we passed on our way to the table seemed to sum up the owners’ attitude to junior diners:

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And I read another sign that asked for children to be reminded to use their ‘inside voices’. I think that’s fair enough: it’s a reasonably small space, and it wouldn’t be too pleasant if you had a couple of toddler meltdowns going on. We also remind our children on a regular basis that cafés are not playgrounds, and that other people don’t want to be bothered by young kids yelling and running around, so it’s helpful when the café itself makes that point in a good-humoured way. However, I’m not sure this is a suitable café for anything but the most calm and biddable toddler: there isn’t room for them to wander around without the risk of tripping up a staff member, and the toys are too junior for them, while the colouring in pages are a bit too advanced.

That aside, this is a lovely café to visit with preschool children or older: great food, nice staff, and the novelty value of dining on a boat. And I think it would be fine for babies, aside from that whole ‘not much space for big buggies’ issue I mentioned earlier.

So, if you’re near Oriental Parade and the kids are getting hungry, give them a go on the playground and then head to Boat Café to refuel. You’ll leave with well-fed kids!

 

Review a café

Kiwi Café Kids followers, we would love it if you would contribute to this blog! After all, we don’t get away from Auckland as often as we’d like, and it would be wonderful if we could expand the geographical scope of this project from the start. If you’ve visited a café in your home town and want to tell the world about how much you and your kids loved it, please let me know! There are two ways to get involved:

1. Do-It-Yourself: You can write a short review – ideally covering the kind of factors I mentioned in our introductory blog post. It would also be wonderful if you could share a photo or two: either of your kids enjoying the café, or of what they ordered – so we can see just how good those fluffies actually are.

2. Quick Questionnaire: Let me know via the Contact page you’d like to share some information about a café. I’ll send you a quick questionnaire to complete and return (and it would still be fantastic if you could spare a photo to illustrate your answers, but it isn’t essential).

Thank you in advance!

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