Baby and child-friendly cafés are all well and good, but they can make you feel like you’re emmersed in an episode of Supernanny, as screaming brats run riot around you, bashing the furniture with a Peppa Pig toy. So finding a cafe that is both child-friendly and fools the grown-ups into thinking they’re somewhere cool is a treat.
While visiting a friend in Kensal Rise, North London today we went to Gracelands Café, which does this amazingly well. From the outside, it looks a bit run-down. I’ll admit that I thought my usually stylish friend with good taste was taking us to her local greasy spoon. (And I love a greasy spoon, but this place was so much more.)
In contrast, as soon as you walk inside, you’re met by a warm, bustling cafe with art on the walls, large blackboards with today’s specials scribbled on (poussin on crushed potatoes and tzatziki, anyone?) and countless families sitting at the wooden tables and mismatched chairs. Babies ate from their IKEA highchairs and children played in the sofa-slash-play area, filled with toys. The outdoor area was just as busy, and felt a bit like a gastro pub beer garden. In fact, the whole place had a feel of the backstage area of a family-friendly music festival. Oh, and the food was fantastic too.
But a two-hour round trip to get to Gracelands whenever I fancy a coffee feels a bit extreme. The closest thing we have to it in the Bromley area is The Lavender House. It’s my favourite local café thanks to their pretty vintage-style decor, free wifi, garden, toys and books and the best chocolate brownies I have ever tasted.
If I could, I’d go to a brilliant independent café over a Starbucks every time. We just need more of them around.