Situated in massive premises on Tavistock Street (MK402RR for your sat nav) with parking at the rear, the cafe houses different play stations/areas to keep little ones of varying ages amused, as well as a quiet lounge area for smaller babies/breast feeding in peace. They hold a variety of structured activities and classes (such as messy play, crafts, music sessions etc), and serve up delicious wholesome healthy food for ages 0-adult.
Bert and I have visited about 5 times in the last 6 months, and I have also attended one of their late night openings called "Mum's night off" where you can get a cup of tea/coffee and a cake for £5, which proved a great opportunity to get out of the house for a few hours in the evening, and sit and chat with friends over cake and tea WITHOUT the kids - a rare treat!
On tuesday, Bert and I attended one of Gemma's 'Messy Play' sessions in the cafe, followed by a long play in the other areas, and lunch - we can't wait to share our morning of fun with you, and tell you more about this awesome cafe!
Bernie & Gemma's Cafe Play
The spacious cafe - plenty of room for manoeuvring pushchairs, and lots of highchairs/booster seats/bumbos for you little ones
The cafe boasts the absolute best facilities for children's play in any cafe I've ever visited. What I love most about this place is that they have thought of everything - from what will amuse children of varying ages, to what parents need in a cafe in order to make the experience pleasant for themselves as well as the children.
I had a good think about realistically (and in an ideal world) what I'd love from a cafe as a parent, and here's what I came up with:
- Somewhere to easily manoeuvre the pushchair, and park it up without feeling that I'm getting in everyone's way.
- Spacious changing facilities which are clean, and easy to get the pushchair to so I don't have to carry Bert and all the changing stuff across the cafe.
- Somewhere Bert can play where I feel he's safe, entertained, and I can easily watch him, while still enjoying the cafe experience myself.
- Somewhere quiet, where, if the noise level of the excited kids is getting too much, we can escape to and have a quiet five minutes/nap/bottle in peace.
- GOOD TEA & COFFEE
- Tables that aren't positioned on top of each other so I can hear what the neighbouring visitors are saying, and so that I can move freely with the pushchair without knocking into people and tables.
- Healthy but delicious food, not an array of high sugar high fat treats on display that Bert is going to see (and most likely demand) as he gets older.
- A friendly atmosphere and warm welcome (I want to feel as if nothing is too much trouble).
- Somewhere I can bring Bert for more structured play sessions as well as just generally being able to explore the facilities available to him.
I can happily and honestly say that Bernie & Gemma's receives a big tick on each of these points - they really do seem to have thought of everything. Their open-plan play space, and cafe is genuinely your best bet in town if you want a peaceful coffee and a happy child!
THE PLAY ZONES
The Train Table
Bernie and Gemma's has the most amazing train set/train table, which Bert just loves to play with - it is set at the perfect height for toddlers, and big enough so that lots of children can play happily at the same time.
Bert has so much fun with the train set - is it not the train set of your dreams? (Bert, I'm not sure you're meant to climb ON the table though!!)
For imaginative play at its best Bernie and Gemma's has a great (and fully stocked!) kitchen corner, full of great toys perfect for your little ones to whip you up a culinary delight for you to pretend to find delicious (air on toast, invisible tea etc).
Above the kitchen area are fishtanks which Bert is always mesmerised by (we have just bought him his own fish at home because of his lovely reaction to this fish tank, as well as the aquarium at London Zoo when we went last month). The fab thing about the fishtanks is they are situated in the wall between the main play space, and the quiet lounge, so when you're in the lounge you can sit peacefully and watch the fish, as well as being able to see them in the main space too.
The kitchen play space
busy in the kitchen - I wonder who he takes after?
Bert whipping Mummy up some air pie!
The Soft Play Area
This small soft play corner is perfect for introducing your little one to soft play - it was the first soft play I ever took Bert too, and he loves it. It's not so big that its daunting or overwhelming for the children, and because of the size you won't lose them among the big squishy toys and balls and be panicking every 10 seconds.
It has soft blocks and seesaws, a soft slide, padded walls and floor, small padded enclosure which makes escaping impossible for pre-crawlers, and difficult for pre-walkers, it also has a sensory wall with different types of fastenings (zips, poppers, laces, velcro) for your small people to enjoy.
Find me a child who doesn't love to bang around on a piano? And find me a parent who doesn't want to secretly pull out their 'I can play chopsticks' skill and perform to cafe full of people! :-) Haha.
Bert giving Beethoven a run for his money!
This is probably Bert's favourite part of Bernie & Gemma's at the moment, as he is totally book mad! This little section houses loads of books for a huge variety of age/reading ability, as well as some smaller toys, building blocks, and a TV screen with sofas usually showing cartoons.
Bernie & Gemma's lovely children modelling for me!
Bert playing with the blocks in the library!
Bert posing in the library area.
The Quiet Lounge
The perfect retreat for escaping to sit quietly with you little one - the lounge is reminiscent of your own front room, with comfy sofas, tables for your drinks and snacks, and an array of smaller toys for younger babies. This room would be ideal if you wanted to breastfeed somewhere comfortable and a little more private, give your baby their bottle, or settle them for a nap. You can also watch the goldfish in the tanks, which is hugely calming for parents and children alike.
Bert having a (rare) quiet moment in the lounge
he still enjoys the baby toys, bless him
The Buggy Park
As you enter the cafe there is a huge buggy park to stash your buggy/pushchair if you want to, without having to collapse it or pull it round to your table, hooray! Equally, there is room among the tables to take your pushchair into the cafe if you require as well.
The spacious buggy park, next to the front door.
One of the most innovative parts of Bernie & Gemma's is their food/drinks menu. It is unlike any other cafe menu I've ever come across. They are the only cafe I've been to which caters for children from as soon as they begin weaning, right up to adulthood. Every child's meal includes a drink (in a tippy cup or plastic beaker) either water, milk or squash.
The Baby Bar - You can order a cooked/mashed baby food made from one fresh fruit or vegetable (of your choice) and choose how smooth/lumpy you'd like it for £1.25.
You can choose a lumpier mixture of three fruits/vegetables and a carbohydrate combined for £1.95.
If you are baby led weaning, you can choose the 'mini buffet' option, with a selection of 3 fruits and vegetables for £1.75.
Or, for the more established eater, choose the 'Just Like Mummy' option, where you can select three fruits/vegetables, a carbohydrate and a protein with a binding sauce for £2.50.
The Baby Bar food choices
The Toddler Platter - Choose a selection of any five finger foods from a list of 12 items for £3.50. Perfect for toddlers who like variety and the independence of feeding themselves. This is Bert's favourite lunch!
The Toddler Platter menu
Bert's Toddler Platter: Falafel, toast, breadstick, cucumber and banana!
"This looks good Mum!"
The Junior Menu - For older children you can select one protein, one carb and a choice of salad, cous cous or veg sticks & dip all for £4.50.
The Junior Menu, with clear pictures so your child can make their own choices with a little guidance.
The Adult Menu - This works along the same lines as all the other menus (I love that you could have children of 2, 5, 10 and yourself all eating a variation of the same lunch - genius!) You basically choose which protein option you'd like (i.e. Falafel, cajun chicken breast, seafood salad, vegetable quiche, salmon fillet etc), pair it with a carbohydrate (pitta bread, ciabatta, bagel, jacket potato etc) and then choose a side (salad, cous cous, potato salad, hummus etc). All for £6.50-£7.00.
The delicious adult menu.
I recommend the falafel pitta with hummus and cous cous!
Jacket potato/pitta menu
There is also a jacket potato/pitta bread menu for a more simple lunch option.
Bernie & Gemma's serve a large selection of drinks, and a small selection of cakes which are stored high on the counter top away from wandering little eyes that might spot a cake before they've eaten a good balanced lunch! Very clever!
They serve the yummiest tea made from fresh tea leaves served in the most awesome strawberry tea strainer (you can buy one for yourself to take home for £3.50 - I'm very tempted!).
Mmm….anyone for a cuppa??
Funkiest tea ever??
Isn't it always the small details that you love the most too? I adored that the table number they gave me while I was waiting for our lunch to be bought out was a little piece of puzzle!
unusual paper flowers decorate each table, and you'll get a piece of puzzle for your table number: sweet!
STRUCTURED PLAY SESSIONS
Bernie and Gemma's Cafe Play also offers a variety of more structured play sessions (such as messy play, cookery, crafts) as well as some classes (such as Hartbeeps music classes), which you can attend for a small fee.
Bert and I joined in with messy play on tuesday and had loads of fun squishing a selection of fruits!
Messy play fun!
The session was well thought out, entertaining, and Bert seemed to love every minute, he was pretty much engrossed for the whole hour - he loved tasting the fruits, squishing them between his fingers and toes, and he really liked crawling around holding the rolling pins. Bert really enjoys interacting with other children, so these groups are a great way to introduce him to the world of making friends in a fun, relaxed way.
Other messy play sessions they've had there include jelly play, mud, cornflour, and water play to name a few. Gemma is always coming up with new ideas, and fun sessions - so head over to their Facebook page to keep up to date with what's on.
I came with a change of clothes for him, which I'd definitely recommend after a messy play session, the changing facilities are great so its no trouble to whip them into a clean outfit after the fun and games.
A FINAL NOTE
It is worth knowing that Bernie and Gemma's Cafe Play also have some lovely children's birthday party packages, which you can find out lots more about if you pop in and speak to Gemma, or pick up their party leaflet.
If you are local and a parent, I couldn't recommend this place enough! If you haven't already head down and check it out with your little ones, you won't regret it, and they'll be as happy as larry! You might even get a HOT cup of tea. That's a rarity among us parents, I know!
Bye for now
Bernie & Gemma's Cafe Play is open Mon-Sat 9:00am - 3:30pm
Find out more about Bernie & Gemma's Cafe Play on their Facebook page
You can follow Bernie & Gemma's Cafe Play on Twitter @B_GCafePlay
Disclaimer: We were treated to a free lunch, and free messy play session at Bernie & Gemma's Cafe Play for the purpose of this review - all opinions, words and images are my own.