Melba Takapuna

Last Sunday we were in recovery mode after Hattie and Joe’s fifth birthday party the day before, so I took my parents to the airport first thing in the morning, and then I met the rest of the family in Takapuna. We were after a tasty brunch, and we headed to one of the first cafés we frequented when we first moved to the North Shore: Melba, on Hurstmere Road. It’s also the first café Hattie and Joe ever visited, as two-week-olds in capsules! And they cried in the car for the entire ten-minute journey to get there, back in 2013. Ahhh, happy memories of babies!

Anyway, Melba Takapuna is one of eight Melba cafés in Auckland, and from what I can see online it appears that each one has its own menu, so this review is specific to the Takapuna café only.

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Arrival and Entertainment

I reached Melba Takapuna at 9.30ish, before the rest of the family, and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful: pushing together two tables to accommodate the five of us, and checking whether we needed kids’ menus. By the time the rest of the family arrived we already had water on the table as well. We grabbed some colouring supplies for the kids: communal colouring books, and coloured pencils. There were a few blank colouring pages left in the books, so I’m guessing these get replaced on a reasonably regular basis. The coloured pencils were also fine, and I’m sure the staff would have happily supplied a sharpener if required. The kids got to work!

I didn’t spot any toys to occupy children too young to colour (and these were colouring books for slightly older kids – at least kindy age).

It’s a nice, light café, with plate glass windows onto Hurstmere Road, and also onto the glass-covered arcade next door, in which it shares outdoor table space with Frankie’s Argentinian BBQ (a restaurant I really must check out soon). When we came with the kids as newborns we sat outside in the arcade, and it was a perfect spot for parking a buggy next to the table, especially as space for buggies is more limited inside. Now that our two are older, we find that the arcade is a great spot for them to have a little wander around in our sight, while we’re eating. And it’s outstanding in the winter, or in Auckland’s frequently rainy weather. However, it’s a popular spot for people to stop for brunch or lunch with their dogs, so if you’ve got nervous kids you might be better off inside. There are also a couple of outside tables on Hurstmere Road, if you really want to see and be seen.

Refreshments

Melba Takapuna has a short and sweet children’s menu:

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Hattie ordered her typical hot chocolate – at $3, which is a decent price for a kids’ drink – and Joe ordered a Berry & Banana Smoothie (raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, banana, honey, and milk), for $8.50. My mother-in-law ordered a veggie-filled Lean Green Smoothie ($9), and I had an Island Breeze Smoothie (mango, pineapple, lime, vanilla bean, and coconut water), also $8.50. My husband had a flat white – he’s as predictable as Hattie when it comes to café drinks.

Joe decided to try his luck and scam for one of his sister’s marshmallows:

Hattie was unimpressed initially, but gave him one in the end.

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I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: cafés that cater to kids, it would be so helpful if you could fling an extra marshmallow on a saucer when only one child at the table has ordered a drink that includes them, so the child who ordered a different type of drink can have it without their sibling being forced to tap into wells of sibling benevolence that, let’s face it, can be hard to access in your typical preschooler or young school child. I know it’s definitely not necessary, but it’s this kind of little thing that make parents across the land bless you and think fondly of your establishment, and recommend it to others.

Anyway. The three smoothies were delicious, but the Island Breeze was fairly tart, so don’t order that one for kids unless you know for sure that they’re fans of the kind of thing.

To eat, we decided to see if we could split a chocolate waffles order between the two kids. They’d already eaten breakfast, so we didn’t want to order food that would be wasted (my waistline can’t stand much more leftover-eating, given that I have a slinky dress to wear for a niece’s wedding in a month’s time).

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This was a good choice: just the right size for our two – and the full portion would have been perfect if it had been closer to lunchtime and they’d been hungrier. Basically, it’s a straightforward waffle with chocolate chunks scattered on top, served with whipped cream and fruit (and you can get it with ice cream as well, if you’re feeling fancy).

The grownups’ food was really good – Melba Takapuna is reliably excellent. My husband had smashed avocado with feta, with a side order of halloumi (there’s no such thing as too much cheese); my mother-in-law had eggs on toast, her go-to café dish; and I had a very yummy muesli, which was extra good because it was served with a wee honey and passionfruit panna cotta nestled in the middle. SO GOOD! I highly recommend it.

I should also tell you that Melba Takapuna has superb-looking cabinet food, although I haven’t yet tasted any of it, because I’m always too greedy when I go there and prefer to have a proper meal.

Other Amenities

I only spotted one high chair at Melba Takapuna, but there may be others? I’m not sure – we tended to travel with portable chair-top high chairs when our kids were tiny, given that it’s hard to secure two high chairs at many cafés, so we often didn’t rely on what cafés had to offer, even at places we visited regularly. But it would be great if there was at least two high chairs available.

There are no changing facilities in the loos – there’s one smaller unisex loo and one larger disabled one. There’s definitely space to install a wall-mounted fold-down changing table in the larger loo, so this would be a great addition.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

Melba Takapuna is a lovely café, and it’s great to see that it can accommodate children so well. The staff were faultlessly pleasant, helpful, prompt, and attentive, and we all really enjoyed our brunch. We’ve been there many times in the past, and we’ll no doubt be back many times in the future!

There are three fairly minor things I’d suggest to make Melba Takapuna in Takapuna even more child-friendly:

  • Adding another high chair to the mix;
  • Installing a changing table in the larger loo; and
  • Including a few toys for younger children as part of the in-café entertainment.