Let’s face it, finding a good place to eat when you have kids is really tricky. So many of your old haunts are off limits when you have small people in tow. Sure, you could go to one of many large chain restaurants and have a decent (but predictable) meal. But what if you want to go somewhere exciting? Perhaps where you may have found yourself in pre-family times? Maybe where the beers are local and the menus are seasonal? Somewhere where you can put a pic on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and fool your friends into thinking that you still have a life?! Thankfully we live in this bloomin’ brilliant city, where there are plentiful independent cafes, bars and restaurants – some of which DO incredible food AND are child-friendly…
And by ‘child-friendly’ I mean a place that has:
- Highchairs with working straps, that your child cannot wrestle out of.
- Clean and hygienic changing facilities that pose no health hazards.
- Staff that don’t mind the floor being covered in more food than the kitchen bin.
- A relaxed stance to boob-feeding at the table.
- Ample space for buggies, so you don’t end up obstructing fire exits and walkways.
- Some attraction/distraction for the kiddies, so you can enjoy some down time.
So, for all of those Mums and Dads who enjoy their grub, this shortlist is for you.
In the daytime this super cool restaurant is mummy central, and for good reason! It’s the perfect spot for group meetings. The casual dining area is spacious and welcoming, with big comfy sofas and low coffee tables, and has plenty of room for prams and high chairs. The locally sourced food is that magic combo of comforting/vibrant/healthy; pizzas, salads, wraps, cakes and a kick-ass Sunday roast. Bocabar is just across the road from the stunning Arnos Vale cemetery, so it makes a perfect spot for lunch after a walk in the leafy and tranquil heritage site.
The Gloucester Old Spot
This independent family-run pub really does tick all the boxes. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this establishment (which won ‘Best Pub Food’ at the 2015 Bristol Good Food Awards) plates delicious grub throughout the day. It’s perfect for kids and offers games, toys, activity sheets, and an amazing play garden (which is safe and enclosed, so you can grab a pint and relax)! It’s popular, so you might need a reservation if you visit on the weekend.
The Duck and Willow
A brand new venture from the same genius creators of the Glos Old Spot. It’s so new that I haven’t even visited yet (got reservations for next week)! If it’s anything like its big brother, the Duck and Willow is sure to be a big hit and just as popular. People lucky enough to have already visited are reporting wonderful things.
Warmley Waiting Room
Sunny day? Feeling like some exercise* before you indulge? Then why not take a walk or bike ride along the Bristol-Bath cycle path and stop for a bite along the way. The Waiting Room is a small cafe and tearoom, serving sandwiches, paninis, cakes and ice creams. It’s quirky, quaint and retro, and run by a really friendly team. It hit the national news last year when it’s ‘Tardis Toilet’ went viral. (And no, the loo isn’t bigger on the inside…) It also has a lovely big lawn, vibrant flowers, and animals to pet; so plenty to keep the kids entertained! Don’t rule this place out in the depths of winter though, as it has a heated indoor shelter making for a very cosy lunch.
*There is a carpark nearby if you don’t fancy travelling under your own steam!
St Werburghs City Farm Cafe
The cafe is part of an inner-city charity aiming to promote happy, healthy and green living. In addition to the cafe, there is a farmyard, play park and garden. The cafe itself is like a Gaudi-come-Hobbiton treehouse retreat, with large knobbly tree roots and branches in the building. The food is delicious and makes every effort possible to be as local as possible, with some of it coming to a stone’s throw away in the adjacent allotments. Where it’s not local, it’s Organic, Fair Trade or wild. It works in close in partnership with the community to achieve this. You will leave feeling positive and inspired.
There are several Lounge Bars across Bristol (and across the country) so technically this one is a chain, but one that had remained true to its Brizzle-bred identity. It has a cosy and relaxed atmosphere, and a good menu at a fair price. Newer lounge bars mean more SPACE; spot-on for brunches with parent friends when you need to fit ten prams round a table! There are board games to keep the kids entertained, so you might be able to linger longer and enjoy a cake too!
Windmill Hill City Farm Cafe
Another (very popular) environmental charity that uses farming and food to provide recreation and education – bravo Bristol, ten points for awesomeness! The cafe itself uses local produce to create healthy and tasty food and must be doing it right because they won ‘Best Family Friendly’ at the ’15 and ’16 Bristol Good Food awards. Due to its ever-growing popularity, it’s undergoing an expansion in summer 2017, doubling the number of seats. In addition to the cafe there is a farm, community garden, allotment, and play area; so this one place can provide a whole day of (free!) entertainment.
Yes, the cafe/bar is a good place to refuel when in the city centre. But the draw to this place is the post-meal cinema trip. And no, you won’t be watching Disney! This is the perfect place for mum to unwind when baba is still at the sleepy/insatiable feeding stage. Cinébabies is a weekly daytime screening showing the latest grown-up release, where you can take 0-12 months old. And nobody will mind if they cry, babble or poo! There is a nappy changing space and bottle warming service, so you really feel comfortable and at home. If you can muster the energy to turn off Netflix and peel yourself off the sofa, you will feel all the better for getting yourself out of the house (and for swapping Paw Patrol for sitting more grown-up and cultured).
Hungry Caterpillar Play Cafe
This place is probably more appealing to kids than grown-ups (no wine!), but it is a perfect place to go when you just need to get out of the house and eat something decent while the kids do their thing. There are two cafes located in Bedminster and Downend. While there is a small charge for the kids to play, there really is plenty to keep them entertained and the menu is good value.
Poplars Farm – Sarah’s Kitchen
This popular farm shop and cafe on the outskirts of Bristol serves up delicious comfort food. The cafe can get a little snug, so indoors is perhaps not the best for big groups and large buggies, but there is plenty of room and outdoors if it’s a warm sunny day. There is a large new play area, pigs and chickens to keep the kids happy. You can also pick up some tasty local groceries from the farm shop too.
The Eastfield Inn
A pub place that keeps the whole family happy. It’s comfy, relaxed, good food, great drinks on tap, a sunny conservatory, soft play and a huge garden (complete with play area and rabbits). It’s worth keeping an eye on the Inn’s Facebook or Twitter feed in order to find out about their many ‘events’ (there’s a rather fun sounding children’s Christmas and New Year party coming up).