Louise Emma Clarke is in heaven at JLT’s newest venue for kids…
As the weather gets warmer and we are forced into air-conditioning once again, my friends and I have the same conversation that crops up every summer. As we discuss potential venues for our weekly meet-ups, we mull over the lack of decent coffee shops with play areas. After all, we don’t want to spend our afternoons crawling into ball pits and through tunnels that reveal our embarrassing lack of flexibility. We want a decent cup of coffee, comfortable seating, room to park our buggies, and (most importantly) entertainment for our toddlers that is safe, supervised, and visible.
So when I heard that JLT’s brand new Kiddies Café offered all of the above and more, I couldn’t get my brood into the double buggy fast enough.
First things first, the parking isn’t ideal. There are plenty of spots and it’s free for the first three hours, but it’s busy and you do generally have to wait 10 minutes before the gate is pulled aside and you are ushered inside. When you have a whining toddler and a hungry newborn, this isn’t perfect – but believe me, it’s worth the inconvenience.
Kiddie’s Café is located behind Lake Shore Tower in Cluster Y. Unimpressive from the outside, my opinion quickly changed once I’d managed to get the buggy inside (a ramp would be helpful, but the staff were quick to jump to my assistance). As I glanced around at the stylish café and kids play area right alongside (fully visible through a glass partition), I knew I’d struck gold – and the toddler agreed, almost hyperventilating with excitement until I released him.
I parked the baby in the café and followed his brother inside the play area. A huge yellow playhouse on two levels was definitely the highlight – and even I couldn’t wait to investigate so I can only imagine how the toddler felt. Downstairs was a kitchen, complete with groceries, appliances, and utensils. Every detail had been thought about, with windows decorated with pretty flower boxes, the step lined in faux grass, and a smooth road marked outside for scooting or pushing a buggy. Upstairs was a lounge, with mini chairs to sit on, a dressing room, and cabinets to open and close - and alongside it, a nursery, complete with a cot and colourful mobile dangling above. The stairs up to the top level were wide and sturdy, making it easy for my nearly two-year-old to negotiate himself, but staff jumped to his assistance whenever he went up or down.
On the subject of staff, I was impressed… Despite Kiddie Café not being supervised in the sense that you could leave the venue, there were two or three staff members in the play area at all times to keep an eye on the children. This makes a big difference, allowing parents to relax as their kids play.
And if the playhouse doesn’t grab their attention completely, there’s a lot more to keep them busy. The soft play area is bright and roomy, with wide ladders to climb and slides to zoom down, while the walls of the main play area are lined with a play shop with plastic fruit and vegetables and a series of activity tables for smaller toddlers. Finally, a large art and craft room (which doubles up as a space for hosting parties) with low tables and sturdy, colourful chairs is open for kids to get creative. On the day of our visit, three girls sat quietly drawing and painting while their younger siblings whizzed around the play area.
While the toddler played, I made myself comfortable in the bright, stylish café area. Think wooden floors, comfortable bucket chairs, and floor to ceiling windows with a lake view. I ordered a cappuccino and bottle of water, which were delivered promptly – and while I fed the baby, his brother wandered in and out with a staff member watching his every move.
I was pretty smug about discovering this little slice of parenting heaven – until, that is, the baby needed his nappy changed and I headed towards the toilets. It was then I discovered that Kiddie Café has no changing facilities. Such a disappointment when every other detail has been considered. I hope the management take note, as changing a newborn (or toddler for that matter) on a cold bathroom floor shattered the idyll of this place in five seconds flat.
Still, at just Dhs45 for the first hour and Dhs25 for additional hours, this is one of the most affordable play areas in town – and the facilities (bar the cold toilet floor) are first class. We will definitely be heading back.
Open daily, 10am-7pm. Kiddie’s Café JLT, Cluster Y, Lake Shore Tower. www.kiddiescafe.com (04 360 8571).