You know, cramped joints never used to bug me when I was young, carefree, and single. “How cool!”, I’d think, “It’s so hole-in-the-wall and niche.”
Places like that now completely stump me.
What? No high chair?
What do you mean we have to squeeze together at a too-small table?
So, where’s the area where the kids can run around?
Please oh please, let my waiter be nice and not give me the ol’ stinkeye…
The simple pleasure of dining out gets a tad trickier when you have young children in tow. We’re now pretty picky, particularly because we have a 9-month-old and a 2-year-old.
Places that we love to visit as a family boast the following:
Easy access – I like your cafe. I want to go into your cafe. Why, oh why, must you make it SO DAMN HARD for me to get in?! I’m talking about those evil things called stairs. You know, those sneaky two or three steps lurking at the entrance. WHY? It means I either have to guiltily call a waiter over to give me a hand, or carry the whole stroller up in the most unglam way. While we’re on the topic of strollers, I really appreciate it when I’m given a hand in collapsing the stroller and squirreled away somewhere safe, or, even better, able to have the stroller by my table (never know when the stars align and a kid knocks out for a nap!) if the cafe has the next feature…
Lots of space – ever poked your head into a small cupboard and screamed at the top of your lungs? Similar effect to sticking kids into a confined space. Even worse if there are diners close-by that proceed to turn and give you the you-are-a-crap-mum-and-can’t-control-your-kid STARE. Tops if the eatery has lots of ambient noise/music to… errr… drown out random kiddy noise.
Kid-friendly staff and amenities – oh the relief when you have patient, friendly staff that make the effort to say hi to your kid, instead of giving you the stinkeye. Much appreciated if they proceed to place kids cutlery and a cup of water on the table. Bonus points if they include some paper and crayons! I guess I should also mention here that it makes me want to hyperventilate when I’m told “Oh, we only have one high chair here, which is in use.” You might as well just be done with it and tell me “You’re fine with chasing your kid around the place like a lunatic, while ignoring your meal, right?”
You see, we eat out every single day for lunch. In fact, we’ve dined-out well over 800 times in the past two years for either lunch or dinner, since we relocated to Singapore. What are my fave family eateries? There are the obvious and well-known ones such as:
Food for Thought at Botanic Gardens
Privé at Keppel Island
Rochester Park Cafe
The Pantry at Loewen Gardens
But there are also some lesser-known family-friendly cafes that I love:
GRUB at Bishan Park (510 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1) – this family and dog-friendly cafe boasts killer food (it’s helmed by Mervyn Phan of Cookyn Inc), but go early or expect to be wait-listed. That actually isn’t such a bad thing, because it gives you some time to chuck your little ones into the park and let them stretch their legs. They buzz you on your mobile phone when your table is ready and you get to fill all your bellies with fabulous grub at reasonable prices. Their burgers are stunning, ranging from an impressive Fish burger (you’ll know what I mean when you see it!) to a succulent, insanely tender Pork steak burger. If you’re the healthy type, their Pan-seared salmon with risotto and chimichurri is a winner. Their Churros are also hits; the kids will love dipping these fingers of crispy goodness into the creme anglais and dark chocolate sauces!
Tanjong Beach Club (Sentosa) – if you love your dose of fresh air, water and sunshine, you can’t go wrong with this. Lovely food and great cocktails (with prices to match), but the real draw is the pool which you have full view of if you sit at the outdoor tables. Grab a lounge afterwards (iced water is complimentary!) to relax whilst the kids have a dip, or jump in there yourself to cool off. The ocean is mere steps away if your kids are the sand-and-sea type. Or if you want to take funny pictures of your baby’s expression when their feet touches the sand.
Kith Cafe (7 Rodyk Street, #01-33) – outstanding for coffee, if you’re that sort of person that can’t function until they’ve had a shot or three of caffeine in them (I won’t judge). This tiny cafe is mostly el fresco, so come dressed appropriately. Sit by the Singapore River and imagine you’re in some far-flung place instead, with crystal clear waters lapping nearby and the air is crisp and cool. In the meantime, the kids can rummage through the box of toys and books, and play on the toy animals in the mini garden. Very kid-friendly brunch food and a Strawberry yogurt milkshake that is very popular.
Nook DIY House of Pancakes (21 Lorong Kilat, #01-03) – make your kid work for their meal. Nook provides you with a pancake grill, 2 bottles of pancake batter (of your chosen flavours), and 3 toppings. You simply bring your artistic expertise to the table. Squeeze the bottle and make your own pancake! Admire your artwork, or confuse everyone with what it’s actually supposed to be. Go nuts making different shapes and objects, and watch the kids gleefully consume an inhumane amount of DIY pancakes. There are also regular a la carte options but honestly, who would bother with those when you can make your own pancakes?
Spruce at the Old Fire Station (260 Upper Bukit Timah Road) – everyone’s familiar with Spruce at Phoenix Park, but its newer sister at the old (and beautifully restored) fire station is also worth a visit. It boasts high ceilings with excellent natural lighting, cheery and obliging staff, and space for kids to wander around. Better yet, there’s a playroom off the side for kids to amuse themselves in. And on weekends, there is the occasional fair/markets just outside, as well as a fun bouncy castle. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to see a bunch of wild monkeys jumping around in the trees outside!
This article was first published on Material World.