Cafés aimed at parents once offered little more than wipe-clean surfaces and a high chair. But the capital’s café culture as a whole has upped its game over recent years, and those interested in attracting families have naturally followed suit. The result? A host of gorgeous cafés, many situated within parks or boasting their own alfresco spaces, that place children at the centre of things, but not at the expense of adults. Here’s our pick of the best family-friendly cafés and park cafés the capital has to offer - havens for any tired parent during the school holidays.
Words: Nicky Evans
Fait Maison in the Park, Ravenscourt Park
What: The menu at this lovely tea house on the outskirts of Ravenscourt Park offers just the right amount of virtue and vice: kids’ options are decidedly healthy, while adults can get a much-needed energy (and morale) boost via mile-high sponges. The venue’s outdoor play area comes into its own in summer, when kids’ activities keep little ones busy while you enjoy an Italian ice cream.
Go here if: you’re spending a day alfresco in the park and you can’t be bothered to picnic.
Where: Paddenswick Road, W6 0UL
Finsbury Park Café, Finsbury Park
What: This lovely independent café is perfectly located next to a brilliant children’s play area within leafy Finsbury Park, so it’s particularly perfect for summer. It would be rude not to pop in for a Union coffee or one of its legendary fry-ups made with locally sourced ingredients. Tables are generously spaced, and floor-to-ceiling windows make this spot a lovely vantage point for surveying the park life.
Go here if: you want to get the weekend off to a flying start.
Where: Hornsey Gate, Endymion Rd, N4 2NQ
Ginger & White, Hampstead
What: This chic, laid-back café’s USP is the genuine welcome staff extend to everyone who walks in - which is why you’ll find plenty of new parents treating themselves to a Square Mile coffee and one of the excellent cakes (the peanut-butter gâteau is a must) while they feed the baby. Family breakfasts are also a high point of the week, with thick-cut bacon and homemade baked beans pleasing everyone.
Go here if: you’re a sucker more good customer service.
Where: 4a-5a Perrins Court, NW3 1QS
Gracelands Cafe, Kensal Rise
What: Gracelands is the type of café you’d want to have on your doorstep, parent or not. Warm, bustling and totally individual, it caters for the whole neighbourhood - including children, who love the toy box in the play area. The menu majors in luxurious breakfasts and lip-smacking specials. Caravan coffee keeps the grown-ups happy; youngsters can join in with a babyccino.
Go here if: you’re meeting friends who don’t have children.
Where: 118 College Rd, NW10 5HD
Horniman Museum Café, Forest Hill
What: Thanks to its cracking interactive exhibits and 16 acres of beautifully tended grounds (complete with petting farm), the Horniman Museum is a gold-standard family day out. Its stylish café is similarly child-focused, with fast service, a spacious baby change, plenty of high chairs and thoughtfully packed kid-sized lunchboxes.
Go here if: you want a full day out with your little one.
Where: 100 London Road, SE23 3PQ
The Old Dairy Café, Vauxhall City Farm
What: Relatively new to this charmingly rustic city farm is a rather smart café complete with decked alfresco area - a wonderful secret to be in on when you’re entertaining kids in the sun. After a stroll round the farm and an animal-petting session, rest and revive with simple, nourishing dishes such as toasties and jacket potatoes, daily soups and specials, tempting cakes and excellent coffee.
Go here if: you need to find an energy-sapping activity for your kids prior to lunch.
Where: 165 Tyers Street, London, SE11 5HS
What: Arrive at this chic, bustling deli-restaurant any morning of the week and you’ll find the area’s parents treating themselves and their offspring to breakfast, Yotam Ottolenghi style: this might mean za’atar fried eggs, harissa-laced scrambled tofu or a Middle Eastern take on the traditional English breakfast for the adults; kids, meanwhile can have fun toasting their own bread using the table top toasters.
Go here if: your children respond to carrot-and-stick discipline - the cakes at the entrance make terrific behaviour bribes...
Where: 287 Upper St, N1 2TZ
The Pavilion Café, Highgate
What: Although your children will need no stimulants after a walk in Highgate Woods, coffee is likely to be upmost on your mind, so hooray for this wisteria-clad cottage café, which takes its eating and drinking offering seriously, and has a child-friendly ace up its sleeve, too - in the form of an outdoor playground complete with climbing frame, slides and a zip wire.
Go here if: your energy levels are flagging, but your kids are still full of beans.
Where: Muswell Hill Rd, Highgate, N10 3JN
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, Southbank Centre
What: One of London’s most central rooftop sun-traps, this summer-only café is a winner when you’re hitting the capital with kids. Despite being high up and central, it’s super-accessible and still feels somehow secluded. Not only is there a verdant lawn for crawling, there’s also a wildflower meadow and miniature allotment for babies to toddle around, and river views for adults. There are few nicer alfresco baby-friendly venues in zone one.
Go here if: you’re meeting parents from all over London in the sunshine.
Where: Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX
Toconoco, Regent’s Canal
What: This canalside Japanese café, whose name translates as ‘kids on the floor’, is one of Islington’s best-kept secrets, serving Nude coffee, Japanese teas and specials such as black-sesame lattes to the adults while their children toddle around the playroom. Snacks range from wasabi-laced avocado on toast to slices of matcha cheesecake, with a well-executed set menu at lunchtime. The wildlife-rich setting provides its own diversions.
Go here if: you’re sick of the usual cupcakes with your cuppa
Where: 28 Hertford Rd, N1 5QT
Prefer going out for dinner with the fam? Here’s our pick of child-friendly restaurants in London.
This article was published 15 August 2017