Tuesday, 23 June 2015

M&S Cafe - Western Road, Brighton

Food: Good ole M&S fare, sandwiches with British stuff inside, cakes with superfluous jam, 'Devonshire' scones and... coffee (praise be)

Child Friendliness: Outstanding 

Access: Great, room for buggies and wandering toddlers and plenty of highchairs

Prices: Average for Brighton and it's M&S so it's not just any sandwich it's an M&S sandwich remember...ahem

Ambiance: Ladies of a certain age who lunch, tired mothers, single occupants, men waiting for their other halves 

Well, it's not exactly a cosy, hidden away, vegan, quirky, Brighton-esq find in the Laines but it's a haven for the harassed in the horror show that is Western Road. It was raining outside, Ivy was hungry and I was returning something when the familiar clink of coffee cups drew me towards the cafe area, im glad it did. There are kiddie sized sandwiches, Percy pig biscuits (Peppa Pig biscuits to Ivy's amazement) coffee and clotted cream. Exhale. There was plenty of room for our overladen buggy, loads of highchairs, crayons and tear off colouring sheets. Recharged with caffeine and sugar we were ready to face a soggy journey home. Past the Peppa Pig merchandise of course...

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Quick Fire Round

A quick yay and nay to some local haunts/adventures that we have frequented/tried to frequent recently!

1. Small Batch Coffee Company - Jubilee

Do you want to play spot the hipster/student? Come here. Sprawled outside on the pavement smoking/writing poetry possibly and inside perched on bar stools surveying their own kind and laughing hoarsely. Not for kids. Or anyone without a top knot and doc martins. 

2. Jubilee Library - Brighton

A haven. An oasis in the heaving centre of town with sofas and toys and books. And it's free. Free I tell you! I was feeling crap and I literally just let Ivy roam around for half an hour or so. There are little kiddie tables with crayons, an area where kids are allowed to eat, a buggy park and toilets with changing facilities. What more could you want?! Well...less snot nosed kids I imagine but it was a Friday afternoon and it actually wasn't that busy. Feel like I'm giving away the keys to paradise here.

3. Starbucks - Western Road and North Laines

It's an American chain. It's commercial and it's the opposite of what you want whilst wandering around Hove or Brighton. But...it's there, it's easy and they do free babycinnos. There are usually tables and highchairs and plenty of space. BUT...be warned. There are people with Apple products, plugged in and set up for the long haul and they don't want to see or hear infants. They take up tables  and won't leave. The one in Western Road is particularly bad as a lot of the tables are made up of squashy chairs and sofas which are useless highchair height. 

4. The Lego Shop - Churchill Square

They let kids play with big trays of Lego/Duplo. If you have to go to Churchill and your little menace is being...particularly difficult tethered in their chariot, release them in here and let the poor staff look on in dismay as they throw and destroy duplo that you don't have to step on and tidy up. Result. Warning: this activity is short lived and Ivy often gets bored and tries to swallow small Lego pieces instead. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Hidden Pantry - Blachington Road, hove

Food: Really huge selection and really good

Child Friendliness: Excellent

Access: Not great but worth it if you can get a buggy/child down the stairs where there is more room
Prices: Slightly expensive but worth it
Ambiance: Vintage, retro china, woolen jumpers and quirkiness

I have mixed thoughts about Blatchington Road...KFC, then the awesome kids shoe shop Klodhoppers, then Co-op, then some cafes, then some drunks, then some hairdressers...you get the picture. So my hesitation to try one of the cafes was palpable but luckily I wasn't alone as I ventured down the road on a dank half term morning to sample The Hidden Pantry. Deep breath and I was immediately really worried when we went in as the ground level of the café is TINY, 2-3 tables and window space plus the counter all squeezed in...but we managed. The buggy was placed at the lovely lady's suggestion by the door and she brought a highchair (wooden, Café Nero style) to the table. There are little knick knacks everywhere, cute kitsch salt and pepper pots etc. so we had to be vigilant wandering tiny hands didn't find anything but there was a big basket of kids books to entertain Ivy with, hooray! We were 'upstairs' but downstairs looked far more spacious (we could peer through the bannister and check it out.) SO the china - it is awesome and all the pieces are different! I had a lovely dinky little teacup and saucer and a huge silver tea pot,  don't get me wrong its a gimmick but I love it. I had a pot of loose leaf breakfast tea and it was lovely. The other half, on the other hand, had a ridiculous chocolate button hot chocolate concoction aimed at the kids (which actually looked delicious...) but was pricey. Talking about pricey, the food is definitely on the pricey side but in my opinion worth it, lovely big portions and really tasty food. 

Ivy has some apricot flapjack which was very rich and sticky so unsurprisingly she gobbled it up. Overall, access is limited but do-able, as we arrived quite early the place soon filled up with half term families with kids etc. and most knew to head downstairs which is what I will do in future. The stairs are tempting for my little menace so when she was de-tethered constant vigilance was required especially as the book basket was at the bottom! Good for a special brunch out but maybe too special for an everyday coffee but I'll make the intrepid journey again and go back!

Baked - Hove

Food: Great looking selection of cakes, biscuits, doggy treats...(!) and a brunch style food menu
Child Friendliness: Good
Access: Reasonable for one buggy but only one and seemingly one highchair available (Ikea)
Prices: Either incredibly reasonable or we were undercharged!
Ambiance: Chic, understated style with a very cool continental feel. Emphasis on 'window perches' with bar stools

A confession is probably in order here...we were actually on our way to Small Batch on Wilbury (ahem) when I had to be coerced into Baked! To be fair it wasn't that hard a sell, we had watched as it was transformed recently with a lovely stripey awning and it still smelled of paint when we walked in (literally - one of the staff had it smeared across her black jeans!) Whilst Baked is certainly a good looking addition to Church Road, I was surprised at how small it is  inside. As we bundled in all coats, scarves and buggy we felt a bit in the way and we made a bit of a scene getting Ivy into the high chair with what felt like all eyes on us, disturbing the French idyll. Eventually seated with a boisterous child I ordered (table service? counter service? I think its table service...) a latte and a cookie, other half had an Americano and a slice of heavenly/gooey loaf cake and Ivy had a babyccino and a small but rather good looking butter biscuit. Biscuits I have to say were very nice, not too sweet and the coffee was...okay but not Small Batch! Babycinno was a bit large and a served in a china cup (even though I asked for a paper one) so needless to Little Miss Menace wasn't allowed to touch it! Just lick the spoon! Overall, its new and they are trying hard but its small so you can't really tuck yourself away in a corner with a rioting child and have an inconspicuous coffee. I can imagine it coming into its own in the Summer with outdoor seating and more hipsters with magazines but at present its a bit of an ordeal to wrestle a thrashing child into a highchair in front the cool people with lifestyle magazines. However, its not what they are aiming for. It will work because its in Hove and they don't need a Yummy Mummy Army to survive but we won't be rushing back...well maybe for some takeaway cookies.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Cafe W - in Waterstones, Brighton

Food: Dense looking cakes, pastries, bagels and sandwiches (limited selection)
Child Friendliness: Excellent
Access: Great, plenty of room for buggies
Prices: On the expensive side, especially the food
Ambiance: Loud! Kids! Books! Shoppers! ahem...tantrums and wandering toddlers!

I love Cafe W, and although this is my first review it certainly isn't my first visit. When I moved to Hove it was my go-to place, plenty of highchairs, coffee, books and toys to entertain Ivy. Basically somewhere I can go that I know is baby-friendly, warm has a good atmosphere but not too busy, I can always find a table and a highchair. It is split between two floors so the kids tend to hang out on the 2nd floor (with the kids books surprisingly) and 'adults only' on the 3rd. I always let Ivy out the buggy for a wander here so she can pick out and 'read' a couple of books - translated this means pull out all the carefully sorted Mr Men books and throw around the small plastic animals. The staff never complain, are always helpful and bring the coffee to your book strewn table with a smile. The catch? You do often find yourself buying books that the little one loves  in the shop only to find them pristine and unread at home and although it sounds like a free-for-all, it isn't. At the end of the day its a mega busy shop with stairs and people, therefore strict supervision is required at all times which can result in tantrums and certain items often need to be wrestled back onto the shelves. Overall, when Churchill has become too much or the little one is about to go buggy crazy its a great place to stop, chill and take on board some caffeine ...until you let them out the highchair that is.

Ground - Church Road, Hove

Food: Expensive looking sandwiches, small batch (not the small batch ) coffee, cakes and speciality teas
Child Friendliness: Poor
Access: Reasonable, but not encouraged 
Prices: Good, coffees and teas all around £2.50 - £2.90
Ambiance: Cool 40 somethings, middle aged men in Lycra (MAMILs), hipsters, serious newspaper reading types with small well behaved dogs. No kids at all even though it was half term

When I first started this blog I thought that I would come across this type of place a lot but I actually haven't! I was almost disappointed and beginning to wonder if this whole venture was pointless and that actually everywhere is baby-friendly. I think though, in retrospect, that I 'did' the easy places first. My visit to Ground was quite different than the others, firstly, Ivy was asleep, so I'm afraid Ivy didn't 'eat' Ground as my blog title suggests! Secondly, I wasn't alone, my Dad was down visiting and he came with me. When we first arrived there wasn't any spare tables so we were actually going to leave, the staff seemed disinterested in our plight but someone was just leaving and so offered us their table. The whole place was pretty crammed, we were rather close to our neighbours and it all felt a bit awkward. I had a few glares from the table next to us, a few 40-50 something friends and I had to squeeze the buggy in rather close to the hipster writing his novel on the adjacent table (I'm not making this up). 
The staff were cool...a little too cool for school but not unfriendly. I had tea for a change, Earl Grey, which was nice but I'm by no means a connoisseur and my Dad had an Americano that he said was 'fine' but he says everything is fine so it could have been excellent and probably was. Ivy was completely zonked out and happy so we stayed for quite a while and started to consider their sandwiches. However, not long after that wanton thought a woman near us literally gasped when Ivy woke up with a start as if she had never heard a child before, needless to say we made for a quick escape to have lunch elsewhere. I went up to the counter to enquire about a highchair for 'next time' as we were leaving - they have one...drama ensues where staff member looks around puzzled as if it has actually left the premises itself...I couldn't see it either. Sorry Ground but I don't think I'll be back to find it.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

New York Coffee Company - The Quadrant, Brighton

Food: Sugar overload cakes, hotdogs(?), sandwiches and other NY style offerings such as cheesecake
Child Friendliness: Excellent but facilities are limited
Access: Reasonable, room for the provided highchairs and buggies 
Prices: Good. Babyccino - 50p - although proceeds go to charity
Ambiance: Kids, kids and....ahem, kids

Touted as the cafe to take kids to for some reprise, owned by Peter Andre #dadoftheyear, a free soft play area, kids lunchboxes and drinks - amazing. Hold on a free  soft play area, what here in Brighton? the London of the South?? Yes, I had high hopes for this oasis of child friendly awesomeness in the centre of town. We arrived midweek before lunch for a coffee and to sample the facilities. We weren't alone. The giddy implications of the word 'free' have been taken on board...and possibly taken advantage of. The tables around the disappointingly small play area had been taken and when I say taken I mean some kind of ritualistic ceremony may have taken place to establish ownership. We had to sit at the front of the cafe by the door (which didn't shut properly) a long way away from any hedonistic playing. I tried to plop Ivy in the sealed off area after a bit, it had a few food shaped soft play bits but she was having none of it. Her peers were being 'supervised' from behind iphones and were a bit rowdy. So she was tethered into an high chair and let loose on her babyccino. Our lattes were... ok. Overall, the place was a bit homogeneous and didn't really have any character but the staff were on their A game and were chatty to Ivy. Maybe we should go back and try and stake our claim 'at the back' but I'm not desperate, even for a free soft play.