Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Welcome to the Mumsnet Hackney blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to get on here and read Mumsnet Hackney's first blog post. As editor of the Mumsnet Hackney pages I am very pleased to be kicking things off with a review of Dalston's hottest new children's cafe, Nancy's Pantry. This is just the first of many up and coming posts about what's great and topical in Hackney right now, so if you have something on your mind that you think is relevant please do get in touch, contributions and guest posts are very welcome! This review was conducted independently and should any further reviews appear, where an incentive is involved, this will be clearly stated. So if you want to know more about a restaurant where apparently the children are as important as the food then please read on. 

Generally children's cafes, for me, are a cruel teaser. The promise of being able to possibly drink coffee without swiftly boring your children senseless as they barrel around the dainty decor searching for amusement, never fails to tempt me in. However, I then spend the entire time attempting to engage my children in the generally well-loved, rather limited selection of toys without success. Or there is literally only 1 toy car to play with. Then it's game over and I attract horrified glances as I promptly exit with a wriggling child under each arm, snatching one last lamenting look over my shoulder at my steaming, untouched cappuccino that I am actively abandoning in the name of maintaining the peace and integrity of other customers.

I am not ungrateful, this is the choice I have made. Having toddlers comes with mainly ups but a few downs. Cafes being generally a total nightmare and best avoided is one of the temporary downs. Even the majority of soft play outlets do allow parents to sit around drinking coffee whilst their little ones play but I am still not at that stage yet. Invariably I have been dragged into the ball pit for the upteenth time, to break up an argument about, well, balls. I generally think children's cafes are really only for mums with small immobile babies or children who are old enough not to pelt random customers with packets of sugar and who can be trusted with cutlery.

So when I heard about Nancy’s Pantry, a new children's cafe that had opened in Dalston, I was cynical, even though their strap line is ‘where the children are as important as the food’. I considered it my duty to go and investigate this bold claim.

I wasn't disappointed. As you walk into Nancy's pantry the first thing that hits you is the vast green space that you are met with on entry and I don’t mean they have a garden. The giant central thoroughfare is paved with a softer and more realistic version of astroturf and, wait for it, you are encouraged to take off your shoes to feel the grass between your toes.  This was a good start. My boys immediately made a bee line for the long narrow bench running between the tables and chairs, covered in paper with pots of crayons for anyone feeling creative, and they certainly were.

It gets better: anyone remember overhead projectors from school? Well these now probably redundant items have been put to amazing use to create a light theatre, where you can create pictures using coloured perspex shapes and building blocks. From here you can move round to the science corner where your children, guided by an on hand scientist, can conduct scientific experiments (we dyed cabbage leaves) whilst you possibly might manage to read the paper. There is also another corner designed for toddlers with a mini kitchen and boxes of toys and books.

Another incredible feature is the realistic grass I previously mentioned, which also runs along the other wall behind a little white picket fence, with intermittent black boards. Like a chicken run for babies. Anyone with a mobile baby who isn’t fond of sitting on your lap, could safely be allowed potter around here without you worrying about them crawling through something unsavoury or making a bid for freedom whilst you are perched the other side with your latte/cake/gin.

It's like being round your friends, who have kids at the same age as you and so all pot plants are out of reach, there is nothing fragile or suspect ‘lying’ around for them to consume or destroy. The staff are friendly and don't mind schooching your child's chair up to the table and are mindful about handing the cutlery directly to you to distribute it at the last minute. And there's children's cutlery! I usually pack my own which ends up either being forgotten or caked with food at the bottom of my changing bag.

The kids menu is great and all the adult food can be made into a kids meal should the obligatory food envy kick in. They serve alcohol. The menu of teas available is 2 pages long. They serve alcohol. They cater for every dietary requirement out there and they serve alcohol. Not to mention the jam packed schedule of daytime and evening events that including baby yoga, music classes, art classes to name just a few. I am already looking forward to my next visit.

Nancy's Pantry is open 7 days a week. Please click HERE for more info