‘We welcome mums and dads to use our nappy changing facilities…. If you have any problems with the facilities let us know... we will help you in any way possible’. So says the sign in the loos at Skylark, which sums up the obliging, family-friendly attitude of the place. In Spring 2014, this once-grotty café (formerly called Common Ground) was taken over by a group of local parents, who wasted no time employing sweet staff and a chef who can cook, while stocking up on ‘Nappy Valley’-friendly goodies, from decaf Caravan coffee to organic smoothies and ice-creams.
Now, at last, the Skylark has officially taken flight. The venue is still owned by the local council, so it’ll never be chi-chi, but they’ve done their best to spruce it up, with twinkly fairy lights and autumnal fruits in the windows. The paved alfresco area is unchanged, with weathered picnic tables offering views across the pristine bowling green and the common. (It’s this premium location that allowed the previous managers to rest on their laurels so heavily.) Cyclists and dog-walkers daring to enter without offspring head to the quieter back room, with its small fireplace and squishy sofa.
Food is simple, wholesome and geared to children. Burgers are served medium (unless you specify pink), the mash is made with root veg and minimal salt, and kids’ food, such as wholemeal flatbread-style pizza, all come with fresh vegetables. From the grownup menu, we’ve enjoyed chunky own-made minestrone, a generous salad of roasted butternut squash, green lentil and rocket with creamy avocado, crispy morsels of chorizo and strips of golden just-fried halloumi. Perhaps the only unfriendly thing about Skylark is its opening hours: doors close at 5.30pm, with last orders are at 5pm. Though, as one waitress sweetly explained, ‘we wouldn’t dream of rushing you out’. What a nice bunch.