The best park cafes for kids

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Park cafés aren‘t always great. Some are still in the dark ages, thrusting instant coffee, Slush Puppies and Kit Kats at innocent strollers. Others are terrific. We list the second category below.


  • Brew House

    Occupies part of the basement and terrace of neo-classical Kenwood House, whose large outdoor tables set amid glorious flower beds and massed hanging baskets are always at a premium in warm weather. Inside are high ceilings, lightly frescoed walls and quaint village-style signposts that point out the cake stand (as if you could miss the huge chunks of carrot cake, pineapple pavlova, scones, and gooseberry cheesecake) and guide you around the jam-packed service area. Homely grub matches the setting perfectly.Kenwood, Hampstead Lane, Hampstead Heath, NW3 7JR (8341 5384). Bus 210, 214. Open Oct-Mar 9am-dusk daily. Apr-Sept 9am-6pm daily (7.30pm on concert nights). Credit (over £10) MC, V.Buggy access. Children’s menu (£2.50-£3.95). High chairs. Nappy-changing facilities. No smoking (inside). Tables outside (400, garden). Takeaway service.

    Chumleigh Gardens Café

    This café, in one of the few attractive bits of Burgess Park, occupies two large rooms in a mellow enclave of almshouses set around nicely tended lawns. The chaotic-looking kitchen turns out big, wholesome meals on old china plates; delicious, light quiches, full breakfasts, generous sandwiches and a rib-sticking lasagne and chips combo. There’s sometimes jazz on a Sunday. Outdoor seating is in the Islamic section of Chumleigh Parks’s globally themed gardens. There’s no specific children’s menu but there are chips, fry-ups, and sandwiches, crisps, confectionery and fizzy pop to keep them happy.Chumleigh Gardens, Burgess Park, SE5 0RJ (7525 1070). Elephant & Castle tube/rail, then 12, 42, 63, 68, 171, 343, P3 bus. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri; 10am-5pm Sat, Sun. Main courses £3-£5. Licensed. Credit MC, V.High chairs. Toys.

    Common Ground

    Common Ground is a happy place to idle away an hour or two. Warm, friendly staff skilfully avoid treading on contented toddlers (there are many well-cuddled toys), and effortlessly maintain a relaxed atmosphere. The cosy back room – with room enough to play – is a heavenly retreat on a winter’s day. The food is own-made; a goat’s cheese, baby spinachand pine nut tart was the lunch of choice on our visit. There are also cakes and sandwiches and a selection of mini meals – pasta, chicken strips, Marmite sandwiches, cookies, cakes and babycinos – for children. Wandsworth Common, off Dorlcote Road, SW18 3RT (8874 9386). Wandsworth Common rail. Open 9am-5.15pm Tue-Fri; 10am-5.15pm Sat, Sun. Main courses £3.50-£9. Unlicensed. Credit MC, V. Children’s menu. High chairs. Toys.

    Garden Café

    The spacious interior of the 40-year-old Garden Café in Regents Park had a makeover in 2005 and now looks rather chic. There’s plenty of space inside for little tots to run around with wobbly ice-creams. If it’s sunny, the outdoor area surrounded by rose beds is heavenly. The menu has classics like prawn cocktail, ploughman’s lunches, super puds and sandwiches and cakes.Inner Circle, Regents Park, NW1 4NU (7935 5729/www.thegardencafe.co.uk). Baker Street or Regents Park tube. Open 10am-dusk daily. Main courses £4.25-£12.95. Licensed. Credit MC, V. Tables outdoors.

    Golders Hill Park Refreshment House

    Always a choice spot for freshly made ice-cream, this Italian-run park café has a lovely, bright, clean glasshouse interior and a good selection of cakes and drinks. The savoury menu includes a long list of salads and pasta dishes, plus an extended children’s menu. We love the summer bowls of strawberries and cream and big wedges of refreshing watermelon. North End Road, Golders Green, NW3 7HD (8455 8010). Golders Green or Hampstead tube. Meals served Summer 9am-dusk daily. Winter 10am-dusk daily. Main courses £3-£7. No credit cards. Children’s menu (£3-£5). High chairs. Nappy-changing facilities. No smoking. Tables outdoors (25, terrace). Takeaway service.

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