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!

 

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.