Paper Moon

I had hoped to write two reviews this week, but one of the places we visited over the weekend wasn’t up to par. However – luckily – the other place was great! It’s a big favourite with our family, so it certainly isn’t new to us (the other place we tried was new from the kids’ perspective), but it certainly justifies a review. Paper Moon is very well known on the North Shore, and it was New Zealand’s Café of the Year in 2012. It comprises both a restaurant (open from 7.30am – 11pm), and a café (open from 7.30am – 3pm). The café is usually where we stop for coffees and cabinet food, and delicious Kapiti ice cream. The two locations work together, though: you can sit in the restaurant and order cabinet food from the café, or order off the restaurant menu while in the café.

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Arrival and Entertainment

We arrived at Paper Moon just after 10am and were warmly welcomed into the restaurant. We were quickly shown to a nice table for our party of six (the four of us, plus a visiting friend, Dave, and our new au pair, Rieke). The kids were brought colouring supplies straight away – colouring sheets and Crayola Twistables crayons – and we were given water for the table. We were not in the mood to dawdle because Dave and I had tickets for the Takapuna Food, Wine & Music Festival (which was amazing), so it was great to get everything sorted quickly. Here’s Hattie, hard at work (Joe was there too, of course, but for some reason every photo I took of him turned out blurry).

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Refreshments

Paper Moon has a reasonably short children’s menu, but I think it provides enough  good options for most younger kids.

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I really like the way that they’ve included a few children’s drink options – and I was quite tempted by a Spider, and had to remind myself that a) I’m 43 years old, and b) it was only 10 o’clock in the morning. Hattie had a kids’ hot chocolate, and Joe had a child-sized berry smoothie.

Hattie and Joe had eaten a big breakfast at home, so we ordered them one serving of hotcakes to share. The Paper Moon kitchen made this very easy for us, plating up the dish so all of the components were presented separately for easy serving – I’m sure that the typical plating-up of this dish is slightly less basic!

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The grownups ordered hot chocolates and flat whites to drink…

The breakfast menu offers a nice combination of café classics and new, inventive dishes.  Dave and I stayed traditional with Eggs Benedict, which is such a great option when it’s done well. My poached eggs were slightly undercooked, but it certainly wasn’t a deal-breaker. The hollandaise was excellent.

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Rieke ordered the Granola & Acai, which came with all sorts of goodies, including an acai sorbet. She rated it very highly.

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We all enjoyed our brunch very much. And on Sunday afternoon, after a hugely disappointing lunch elsewhere (which was actually my birthday lunch, disappointingly), we returned to Paper Moon for coffee, and ice creams for the kids. We sat in the restaurant again, and the kids had the ‘ice cream and lollies’ off the children’s menu, which were very happily received. As Joe remarked, “This is definitely a child-friendly café, Mummy!”

Other Amenities

Although there isn’t a changing table available (to my knowledge), there are three high chairs in the café side of Paper Moon, and I’m sure they can be brought into the restaurant as required.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

The food at Paper Moon is really good, but it’s our favourite local café primarily because the service is fantastic. It’s had a couple of ups and downs over the past few years, but the current owners have built both the café and the restaurant into a real asset for our local community. Paper Moon has waiting staff that stick around, so they really feel like part of our neighbourhood, and they obviously get to know their regulars (which is always nice, particularly when you’ve got kids). And the food really is delicious!

Paper Moon is a great choice for people with pre-schoolers and primary-aged kids. And the staff in both the café and the restaurant do an excellent job of catering for children: tailoring dishes as required, or providing extra marshmallows to quell any riots. It’s also perfect for coffees during the day, when you’re dealing with babies in buggies: there’s plenty of outdoor seating, and all-day sun.

I absolutely recommend Paper Moon for a daytime visit with smaller people – and given that there’s a fantastic fenced playground a minute’s walk away, and a beautiful beach a couple of minutes further on, there are a lot of good reasons to check out this fantastic café and restaurant!

 

Dixie Browns Devonport

Yesterday my mother-in-law finished her annual summer visit with us, and before she left for the airport we headed to Dixie Browns in Devonport for lunch. We’ve been there before with the kids and we know that it’s superbly child-friendly, so I was really pleased to have an opportunity to go there again and gather information for a review.

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Arrival and Entertainment

The staff seated us as soon as we arrived, and when they initially steered us towards a table they happily responded to our request for a booth instead (more space, and fewer escape routes for bored small children). There is a wide assortment of seating options available, which is great: tables and booths inside; tables on the sunny street outside; and more tables in a courtyard garden out the back.

We were given menus straight away, which included colour-in children’s menus and crayons. The kids got to work.

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Hattie had a lot on her plate: colouring; chatting; AND supervising her small squirrel child.

The booths are really comfortable, with a lot of upholstering. And it’s just as well, given that you’ll need some time to wade through the enormous menu…

Refreshments

I think the children’s menu is very good: lots of options; really good portion sizes; and great prices. I also really like that most of the meals come with fruit.

Hattie and Joe both chose the Herbivore Toastie, and a glass of apple juice.

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Hattie got stuck in, but Joe wasn’t feeling very well and only picked at his lunch. However, the staff were awesome, and offered it to us in a doggy bag to take home.

Choosing the grownups’ lunches was much harder – the menu was A3-sized, double-sided, and full of great-sounding options. My husband and my mother-in-law chose a chicken burger and a bagel respectively:

I had corn fritter so delicious that they deserved their own close-up shot:

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We all enjoyed our lunches, and really didn’t need dinner later – the portions are very generous.

To drink, my husband had apple juice, my mother-in-law had a cider, and I had a truly fantastic ginger beer by the Hawke’s Bay Brewing Company – highly recommended:

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The kids finished their lunch with some ice cream (yes, Joe was VERY lucky to have ice cream after barely touching his lunch, but the kids are wound up about starting school tomorrow, and we’re being fairly indulgent as a result). He wanted ice cream in a cone, and fortunately Dixie Browns also runs a gelato concession just next door to the restaurant, so he took Daddy out to get that organised, and brought it back in to enjoy in the booth:

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Hattie had the ‘Dixie the Clown’ option from the children’s menu. This is supposed to resemble a clown’s face, but to be honest it had obviously been done in a huge hurry, because it was a bit of a mess on this occasion. However, Hattie wasted no time in scoffing it, and when she was finished she declared “Boy, that was yummy!” (and yes, my children really do talk like that – sometimes it’s as if I’ve stumbled into a Famous Five plot)…

What I really enjoyed – other than the good food – was the attentive service, coupled with a total lack of pressure to finish our meal and get on with our day. We relaxed in the booth for a while…

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My husband rounded off his meal with what was apparently a good flat white, and I had a hot chocolate. Dixie Browns does fantastic hot chocolates, served as a mug of steamed milk into which you stir a wooden spoon with a huge chunk of chocolate stuck to it. SO GOOD! It was a good substitute to having pudding, and I felt very proud of myself for resisting the pudding options – there are a lot of them, and past experience has taught me that they’re worth leaving room for!

Other Amenities

This is a great café to visit with kids. Other than the good menu and the comfortable, child-friendly seating, there were plenty of high chairs – I spotted four, but there might be more – and a changing table in the disabled loo. There’s also a nice selection of cabinet food (mostly sweet), in case you just want to pop in for a quick visit.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

Our repeated visits in recent months are a good indicator: Dixie Browns is a really nice place to take younger children, and the staff are a big reason why – they’re always friendly and helpful, and accommodating of little diners. It’s spacious inside, too, so I think you could find a few tables at which you could park a buggy if you had a really young baby with you. The huge menu also provides a wide variety of choices for kids who are old enough to leave the children’s menu and explore other options. And the food and atmosphere is nice enough for grownups, too. Dixie Browns is well located near the ferry terminal, a playground, and the Devonport Library, which is a wonderful place to while away some time with kids. I definitely recommend it for your next visit to this lovely suburb!

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!