The combination of children and dining out is enough to give most parents indigestion, but one Cardiff establishment has come up with a mix that is a winning recipe for a great night out.
By day, Cafe Junior is a bustling coffee shop and play area that is popular with pre-school children, but on Thursday and Friday nights it’s transformed into a family-friendly bistro, serving very good tapas.
The tables are restricted to around five bookings, so even with all the diners having children in tow, it never gets too noisy or boisterous.
Yet it doesn’t matter if your little ones make noise or mess around, there are no apologetic glances at the other tables, because everyone else in the same boat.
The glances are only knowing ones.
Plus, children are free to use the play area, age-appropriate videos are played in the corner and staff also read a bedtime story while the children drink a glass of warm milk, leaving you time and peace to enjoy the food.
Talk about the best of both worlds! And so to the food, which is just as important as the surroundings and we were really impressed. The ambience and the quality combined made for a lovely evening out.
On arrival you are given the list of 23 dishes to choose from.
They cost £2.75 each, or £9.95 for four dishes.
If there is nothing in there for the children, you can also choose from the children’s menu that runs through the day. Staff are also happy to make up a picnic pack or provide child-size tapas portions.
Choices are ticked on the list and handed in to the kitchen. It’s a nice idea and you can involve the kids when it comes to ticking off your choices.
Service was friendly, quick and efficient with staff more than happy to talk you through the options.
They don’t have a wine menu, but you are more than welcome to take a bottle along with you and there are soft drinks and juices on offer.
We decided to have 10 dishes between three of us and a child’s spaghetti for our youngest. A decision we found to be more than enough for everyone.
Dishes we chose included paprika chicken, nachos, king prawns in chilli and garlic butter, smokey three-bean chilli, Spanish meatballs and ciabatta toast with olive tapenade.
Each dish was delicious and well presented. I particularly like the fact that we each tried dishes we wouldn’t normally go for.
The boys even tried food, like the three-bean chilli, that they would turn their noses up to at home.
The dishes were all fresh and were of very good quality, so good, in fact, we couldn’t really find any complaints about any of it.
The choice means there is something for everyone.
Pudding earned maximum points with everyone as well. We shared two dessert platters (£2.50 per person) – a selection of four mini-desserts including ice-cream sundae, hot choc dipping pots and a dessert of the day (strawberry cheesecake on our visit).
There was plenty for everyone and we all thoroughly enjoyed each one of the desserts, a great idea.
With young children, it is always difficult to get out and often meals are stressful affairs as you worry about what they are eating, chasing them if they run off and telling them to be quiet for fear of upsetting others.
None of that matters here, a perfect date night for all the family.
Cafe Junior, Fanny Street, Cardiff. Tel: 029 2034 5653/ www.cafejunior.com