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!

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.