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!

Soljans Estate Winery Café

On a baking hot Sunday morning, what could be nicer than enjoying a lovely brunch on a shady terrace, in the picturesque setting of a vineyard? And let’s be honest, how often do parents get to do that kind of thing? Well, thanks to Soljans Estate Winery Café (which I’ll call ‘Soljans’ for the rest of this review, to save me some typing), it IS possible! Before we had kids we checked out Soljans for lunch a few times, and we visited when Hattie and Joe were young babies, but we haven’t been for at least four years. We decided that it was high time we checked it out again!

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Arrival and Entertainment

Soljans is about 15 minutes’ drive from the North Shore on a hot Sunday morning without much traffic. The café was open from 9am for breakfast, and it was around 10.30am when we arrived, so the huge car park was mostly empty. Soljans has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, but we know from past visits that it is a popular place year-round, so if you don’t want to struggle for a table I’d suggest turning up early, or booking a table (which you can do online).

Because we were some of the first diners there today we had our choice of tables, and opted for one outside, on the terrace. I remember when we visited with our babies we sat there as well, because there was plenty of space for our enormous twin buggy. There are zip-down clear ‘walls’ around the terrace, for those inevitable rainy Auckland days. No fear of that today, though:

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Although Soljans refers to itself as a café, both its food and its service are on a par with some of the best restaurants we’ve visited in New Zealand, and the staff who helped us were lovely. We were given menus and water straight away. There was no sign of any colouring, toys, or other entertainment for the kids, but we’d brought our own bag of crayons, pens, and paper. And really, who needs entertainment when you’ve got this:

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This is only a small slice of the grassed area immediately adjacent to the outdoor seating, providing kids with plenty of space to tear around and burn off some energy while they wait for your food. Hattie loved this cute little play house:

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I also loved the fact that there are two petanque courts, so older children and teenagers who are bored with their parents’ conversations can teach themselves to play, thus ensuring that they can hold their own if they ever end up in a French town or city and need to integrate with the locals.

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Refreshments

The children’s menu was full of guaranteed child-friendly dishes. Here’s what was on offer:

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There were also children’s drinks: milk or a fluffy for $1; Ribena for $2; and child-sized juices for $2.50 – plus fizzy drinks (which my kids can’t abide: they call them ‘fuzzy drinks’ and don’t like the bubbles). The kids each opted for a glass of apple juice, and the serving was very generous – it would have been a big enough glass for me! My mother-in-law and I each had a mango smoothie – creamy, cold, and very welcome on such a hot morning – and my husband had a couple of flat whites.

We ordered the kids a temptingly-named ‘Funplatter’ each, and although it was certainly not a healthy option, it was very popular with our two. Each platter contained sandwiches, chips, biscuits, sweets, a juice box, raisins, strawberries, lollies, and cheese slice.

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We really appreciated that the kids’ food was served very swiftly. However, it would have been helpful if the staff member who took our order had reminded us that the platters came with a juice box, so we didn’t need to order the kids a glass of juice each (we hadn’t spotted that on the menu). But not to worry – the juice boxes came home with us to be used another day.

The grownups ordered off the breakfast menu, and our food also arrived very quickly. I had French toast (I’m on a bit of a French toast kick at the moment, and I really need to rein it in and start having eggs on toast or something)…

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My husband had ‘vine-smoked salmon and potato hash cake’, and my mother-in-law had ‘Kiwi favourite bacon and eggs’.

We were all very happy with our dishes, which arrived piping hot (I really hate it when hot food is lukewarm). One thing that marks out Soljan’s food is the extra touches – like the lemon aioli with the hash cake, and the caramelised red onion with the bacon and eggs. These things elevate a dish, and although this is a blog to discuss child-friendly places, it’s important that the adults enjoy their food too, right?

Other Amenities

Soljans is clearly set up to provide a high quality vineyard experience for local and international visitors alike, and when it comes to things like the loos you really notice it: they’re spacious, and spotless. The unisex disabled loo also contains a changing table, which is wonderful to see. My kids were stoked that there were paper hand towels, and not the dreaded air dryers.

Although I couldn’t see high chairs anywhere in the restaurant, when I asked a staff member if they had any available she opened a cupboard and showed me that there were eight of them standing by, ready for action. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t assume the worst when you visit a café or restaurant – it’s always worth checking if they’ve got a high chair, or something to help with entertaining your kids, because you never know what they might have stowed away.

Another great amenity is the vineyard shop, which sells a selection of souvenirs, and a lot of wine (unsurprisingly). So, if you’re a sober driver, or if it’s 11am and you feel like it isn’t socially acceptable to work your way through the wine list during your brunch, you can always grab a bottle or two for later.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

We had a delicious brunch at Soljans, and it was a great place to visit with the kids – I’d definitely recommend it if you feel like getting away from the rest of the city. With space outside, a changing table, and plenty of high chairs, there’s plenty to make your visit comfortable and enjoyable. The only suggestion we have is to perhaps offer something for kids to do at their tables while waiting for their food, for those rainy days where the outdoor space isn’t an option – paper and crayons would suffice. It might also be helpful to mention somewhere on the menu that high chairs are available on request, so parents of babies and toddlers don’t have to soldier on without them.

I only hope that, whenever we visit again, I’m not driving and can have a glass or two of wine with my food!

 

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.

 

caféwindsor

Last Friday I met some mum friends and their kids at the legendary caféwindsor – easily the most child-friendly café on Auckland’s North Shore (and probably one of the most child-friendly cafés in the whole city – although I’ll be in a better position to make that call in a few months’ time). This café is a beloved location for coffee group catch-ups and casual get-togethers with friends, so it was a perfect place for morning tea with a group of kids ranging in age from two to nine. Because we only really ordered cabinet food, I’m calling this a mini review (but caféwindsor does offer an all-day breakfast and lunch menu as well).

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Kiwi Café Kids Mini Review

The first thing you need to know about caféwindsor is that it’s fenced. If you’ve spent time with small children recently you’ll immediately know how awesome this news is – particularly as the café is affiliated with a church and also near a local sports ground, so there is a lot of parking and associated car traffic throughout the day.

That fenced outdoor space is fairly huge, so it’s great if things are too busy inside. It also includes a small fenced playground, enabling parents to sit inside and enjoy their coffee, safe in the knowledge that their preschoolers can wander in and out without coming to any harm.

And your eyes aren’t deceiving you: there’s a shade sail above most of the play equipment. Amazing!

Inside, caféwindsor is huge. You can be there with a party of ten mums, all with buggies, and you still won’t feel like you’re dominating the space. There are so many tables and so much space that several coffee groups can meet at a time. It’s hands down the biggest café space I’ve ever visited. Of course, when it is full of mums and young children the noise levels can be very high, but if you’re used to hanging out with toddlers that won’t be a surprise (and you can always retreat to the outside space if necessary).

There’s a play corner for younger children, but it’s very much for toddlers – even a four year old looks too old. The inside play equipment is starting to look a little tired (it’s remained unchanged since my two started playing there, four years ago), but it’s a good way to keep your restless two year old from going feral. And it’s lovely to see that children’s books have been added to the mix.

Onto our visit! Of the brilliant and amazing mums I was meeting, only one had a child young enough for the inside play space, so my kids and the other children at our table occupied themselves with colouring in and sticker books that we’d collectively brought with us.

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Hattie, Joe, and I ordered morning tea. Joe opted for a smoothie, Hattie had her ‘warm chocolate’, and I had a hot chocolate and a lovely savoury scone. It was good to see that there were two smaller hot chocolate options: Hattie had the ‘midi’ hot chocolate, for $3.50, and it was a decent-sized drink for five year old. The ‘mini’ version was $2, so I’m guessing that it’s a chocolate version of the fluffy, which is the same price. I loved that Joe’s smoothie came in a child-sized serving, for $4.50 – there was also an option for a child-sized milkshake for $3.50. It’s great to be able to order child-sized portions, rather than spending $8 for a full-sized smoothie, or $6 for a big milkshake, only to have him leave half of it. I mean, I am happy to drink what he leaves behind, but do I really need to drink a hot chocolate AND half a smoothie? No.

Anyway, here are the kids’ drinks, and a brownie – they had one each, at $3 per serving (I thought this serving size was slightly meagre for the price, to be honest, but they said the brownies themselves were yummy, and Hattie would know – she’s a keen brownie devotee):

And here’s my delicious savoury scone:

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Other friends ordered a sweet scone, a soy flat white, a caramel milkshake, and other things I didn’t manage to photograph, and everybody seemed happy with what they received:

A friend’s daughter ordered the mini hot chocolate, and it was a bit of a shame that it came in a disposable cup – it was clear that we were eating in, so presumably this is the standard vessel for the mini size. The environmentally conscious mums at our table were not too impressed, and I agree with them – it seems unnecessarily wasteful to use disposable cups instead of real cups.

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One great feature of caféwindsor – and something that was utilised by my friends, but not by me, was the children’s menu:

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This was the boat meal, with a ham and cheese toasted sandwich:

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Nearly everything we ordered was delivered very quickly, except for Joe’s smoothie, and when I popped back to the counter to check that it hadn’t been forgotten everybody was very apologetic, and we received it very soon afterwards. The service was fantastic.

Because the kids were all happy, we stayed at caféwindsor for a while, and as my two became hungry with lunch time approaching I revisited the counter to see what other food was available. These Kids’ Packs were just perfect, particularly given that we’re still in holiday mode and are therefore fairly relaxed about eating habits right now. Each pack contained a mini juice box, a muesli bar, a little box of raisins, and a bag of potato chips. My two fell on their Kids’ Packs like famished vultures. And it was good to see parents with younger children could also buy emergency baby food rations at $3.50 per item – things like fruit and vegetable purée pouches.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

caféwindsor is phenomenally child-friendly, particularly if you’ve got babies, toddlers, or preschoolers. There is so much space inside and outside, and knowing that the entire site is secure makes for a much more relaxed café visits. And for parents with babies there are six pristine high chairs, and two changing mats situated between the men’s and women’s loos, so Code Browns can be an equal-opportunity endeavour. Hooray!

However, the one thing I’d suggest is that there isn’t much for slightly older children to do, if the weather is wet and the playground isn’t an option (and really, even if the weather is dry it’s not a playground designed for school-aged kids – my two were under strict instructions not to hurtle down the slide and knee-cap any toddlers). So, it would be fantastic if caféwindsor could think about supplying a few things to entertain the over-fives – maybe some paper and drawing equipment, or even a wee library of books to keep them occupied. We always tend to bring our own colouring in stuff these days, but if we hadn’t remembered it for this catch-up I know my kids would have been agitating to leave a lot sooner, which would have been a shame. And like I mentioned earlier, that indoor toddler play equipment is possibly due for a bit of a revamp. Also, it would be good to use proper crockery for the fluffies and mini hot chocolates.

However, these are minor quibbles! Overall caféwindsor is a superb place to take young children, both because of the refreshments on offer, and because the café space is of such great quality. Its child-friendliness has been widely recognised: it’s won a national award for being New Zealand’s best breast feeding café!

As a parent of young children it is so lovely to go somewhere that doesn’t merely tolerate your kids, but actually welcomes them and actively accommodates them. More cafés should follow suit! And I suggest following caféwindsor on Facebook to keep track of their activities, because they’ve offered children’s birthday party packages in the past and intend to launch these again soon.

Bondie Designer Cupcakes

Hattie and Joe turned five yesterday! To celebrate, we took Nanna and met up with Daddy (back at work now, sadly) for a special morning tea at the Rosedale HQ of Bondie Designer Cupcakes. We’re long-term Bondie fans. We ordered cakes for the kids’ last two birthday parties from Chanelle Bond and her team, and we were regular visits to the pop-up Bondie shop in Takapuna last summer, and when the Rosedale shop opened last year we checked it out early on. It’s amazing to see this young mum build her own incredibly successful cupcake business, and to go from baking at home to establishing this fantastic brand and setting up her own hugely popular shop!

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Bondie only offers cupcakes, coffees, and freak shakes during the day, so I’m writing up our visit as a mini review. I think a café is very smart to offer a limited menu of deliciousness, rather than a long menu of sub-par items. And Bondie isn’t the kind of place you’d necessarily go to every day, but it’s brilliant for a treat.

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Kiwi Café Kids Mini Review

The birthday girl and boy were very excited about their special morning tea:

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It took a while to choose from the dizzying array of cupcakes on offer:

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Eventually we ordered our drinks and cupcakes, and made ourselves comfortable in the conservatory-like room – warm and dry on wet days, and nice and sunny when the weather’s good. The food cost $4.50 per signature cupcake, and $5.50 for a deluxe cupcake (which I think was my one, because I have lavish tastes). I’ve had these cupcakes so many times, and they are worth every penny as far as I’m concerned: they are light-years away from the weird-tasting butter cream and dry cakes you get at so many cafés. You can tell that the Bondie team bakes everything fresh each morning, using the best ingredients.

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Hattie chose the mint chocolate cupcake, Joe chose a rainbow cupcake (vanilla, with jam in the middle), mine was a Pics peanut butter and jelly cupcake, and Nanna chose a chocolate salted caramel cupcake. Daddy doesn’t eat sweet stuff, because he has far more willpower than me. Bondie has a portfolio of over 90 cupcake flavours, so you’re guaranteed to find something delicious there. They do gluten-free cupcakes, too.

At first, the cupcake-eating was fairly demure…

… but before long we were getting stuck in!

My cupcake was absolutely delicious, with subtle peanut butter-flavoured frosting and a jelly centre. SO GOOD!

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The kids ordered mini hot chocolates:

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They were delicious, and just the right temperature. However, they were $4 each, which is a bit of a jump up from what we would have been charged for fluffies, at $2 each. $4 a pop for a child’s hot chocolate is certainly more than we’d be happy to spend in most places, but it was a very special occasion – you don’t turn five every day, after all. I had a peppermint hot chocolate (lovely), and my husband and mother-in-law had a cappuccino and a flat white respectively. Big smiles from the caffeine addicts: the Bondie team knows their way around a coffee machine.

The café is very glam – all black and white, with gold accents and lots of sequins and fluffy cushions, and blankets available for your knees if the weather is cooler. And I love how the Bondie team all have a very cool look, with lashings of red lipstick. It is the kind of place that wouldn’t look out-of-place nestled in the fanciest street of shops of restaurants, so those of us on the North Shore are very lucky to have it on our door step.

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I spotted two high chairs available. There’s one unisex loo, and it’s a decent-sized space with both paper towels and actual hand towels in a little stack to use and then biff into a dirty linen basket. However, there’s no change table – it would be wonderful if a fold-down wall-mounted one could be installed.

The Kiwi Café Kids Verdict

As far as we’re concerned this is THE place for a treat, especially if you’ve got preschoolers or school-aged children.

The café itself could be slightly more child-friendly by installing a change table in the loo. Another helpful thing would be to provide plates for children – we were given our four cupcakes on a cake stand, but then had to eat the actual cupcakes off napkins. It wasn’t a problem for the grownups, but it isn’t ideal for little kids who don’t want to lose half of their butter cream on their napkin as their cake flops over, especially if they’re like my two and tend to like using a cake fork once they’ve made it through the top layer of frosting.

There are no toys or other entertainment on offer for the kids, but I’m OK with that at this kind of place because you really aren’t there for long, given that it only serves cakes and coffee. There are some tall stools near the open-plan kitchen, so budding chefs could perch themselves there and watch the baking magic unfold.

If you’ve got school-aged cupcake fans in the house and would rather offer a smaller birthday treat instead of a birthday with a cast of thousands (which is the stage we’re still at with our two), you might be interested in their Shake and Cake Party:

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During 2017 the Bondie team was offering a weekly ‘Mums and Bubs’ session with mini cupcakes and freak shakes for toddlers and preschoolers, so that would be worth checking out with coffee groups. Bondie has also offered ‘player of the day’ certificates to local children’s sports teams, so there might be opportunities like that available again in the future.

Follow the Bondie Designer Cupcakes Facebook page to stay up-to-date with new developments, school holiday programmes, and special offers. And don’t forget them if you need corporate cupcakes, special occasion cupcakes, or large cakes – you can order them all via the Bondie website (and they take gluten-free orders, too). I can speak from personal experience when I say that ordering a box of six Bondie cupcakes to be delivered to a friend’s house for this birthday is a sure-fire way to rocket to the top of their list of cherished friends! And you can’t go wrong with their special occasion cakes. Here’s what Chanelle made for Hattie and Joe’s third birthday:

That fairy was particularly amazing: it perfectly replicated Joe’s favourite princess dress-up dress from the previous year, as well as Larry, his favourite cuddly toy, and the rabbit from his favourite t-shirt at the time. Their fourth birthday cakes were equally brilliant:

And if they’re offering a special flavour in-store on a day you’re planning to visit, they’re more than happy for you to call through your order so they can put your cupcakes aside. Yay for Bondie!

 

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!

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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!