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Canberra’s best kid-friendly dining: wherever you live
Our family regularly goes out to dinner, and we’re pretty lucky that our kids are now at an age where they can sit still for an hour, aren’t too picky and are ‘restaurant-trained’ (after years of ‘ssssh’ing and stern looks) so we can take them pretty much anywhere. But I remember all too well the days when going out to dinner resembled a military manoeuvre – a 5:30pm booking, a massive bag full of pencils and colouring books and i-Pads and anything else that would keep them remotely quiet, and some post-dinner Valium for me.
When you find a place that will happily accommodate kids (and all their noise and ‘selective’ tastes), it’s like uncovering treasure…so we’ve done the digging for you and unearthed the kid-friendliest places around town.We’ve divided the suggestions by region, so you can find one that’s near you, or maybe you want to venture over ‘the other side’ of town. And if by chance we’ve missed YOUR favourite, leave us a comment and we’ll add it to the next list! Happy eating! Amanda
Well, let’s start at the top(ish), shall we? Geographically speaking, of course… We love Gold Creek, and have a few faves there, like Stripey Sundae (hello, Frugii ice cream!) Café Injoy, T on the Square, and George Harcourt Inn.
Adore Tea is brilliant anytime, but especially on a Sunday afternoon – kids love to dance along to the jazz band; there is a playground right next to it; and the staff are very lovely. There are a couple of cute little kids’ options on the menu, like Mini Cheese Toasties with freshly cut apple and juice box (which also comes with tiny teddies – cute!) plus Frog in a pond with green jelly with a red frog.
As for Gungahlin ‘proper’, you’ll find great family-friendly Chinese at Ginger and Spice, while G Tree Café is great for a casual bite to eat – it had a makeover about six months ago and it looking pretty schmicko. Both of them are at the Gungahlin Marketplace in Hibberson Street.
And don’t forget the clubs! The Gungahlin Lakes Golf Club‘s newly refurbished kids room works for all ages; and Canberra Raiders Sports Club Gungahlin has a big playroom and food always comes out quickly.
Tommy and Me in Macgregor may very possibly take out the title of ‘Canberra’s Kid and Mum-Friendliest Cafe’. Not only does it have a dedicated play area, they have a regular program of great events. We’re talking cupcake decorating, edible kids’ craft every Monday between 10am and 12 noon, and later this month a weekly ‘Meet & Greet’ for new mums will kick off. I only wish there’d been something like this around when my kids were preschoolers!
In Belconnen Town Centre, Black Pepper Café, on the corner of Emu Bank and Beissel Street, is casual and stylish; as the name suggests, Bella Vista has a beautiful view of the lake, plus great Italian food; and As Nature Intended at Belconnen Markets has “got toys inside and outside and next to the fabulous playground.”
Over West Belconnen way, Ricardo’s is the go-to place for macarons…or any other sweet treat…although all the food is great and they have lots of gluten free options! RockSalt in Hawker is a great choice if you feel like something a little more sophisticated but still want options for the kids…plus they do a great coffee! And in Bruce, Café Momo in Fern Hill Park offers great simple food, which is very tasty and well priced.
It’s the new piglet on the block, but Little Oink already has a big reputation for great food in a very family friendly atmopshere. Nestled in the quiet area of Cook Shops, it’s decked out with a kids play area and some funky decor. Serving Two Before Ten coffee from their very own machine, fondly named Dolly, it’s good enough that you’ll head there without the kids.
Everyone loves Asian food, and Belconnen does it well. The Regal Chinese in Purdue Street is great with kids for a more low key affair, and Chong Cho at the Mall is a great Thai dinner option – you can go in for an early meal, the staff are delightful with the kids (even when tossing rice and noodles all over the floor) and they provide plastic cutlery, plates and cups. But the real delight for the kids is being able to keep an eye on the fire engines and ambulances when they take off from the stations across the road. Oh, and Cold Rock ice cream next door… Plus, give Malaysian Chapter in Belconnen a go – it has a play area with toys, books and puzzles for kids, many high chairs and big tables for families – and the food is yum!
On the club scene, West Belconnen Leagues Club in Kippax, and the Southern Cross Club in Jamison both have great bistro food and lots of room for the kids to play (Jamo has an outdoor play area that’s perfect in the warmer weather!)
One of Canberra’s most well kept family-friendly dining spots is the Strathnairn Cafe and Arts Centre in Holt. Set in a converted 1920s homestead on the north-western outskirts of Canberra, there is loads of space for kids to run around (9.5 hectares, to be precise) or just throw down a rug for the little ones. And there are wood fired pizzas on Sundays!
Not surprisingly, many of our picks for kid-friendly places to eat in the Inner North are all about Asian cuisine – the food’s tasty, it’s cheap, service is quick and the atmosphere is casual. Among the faves were: Dumpling House in Dickson, Wasabi in Dickson for teppenyaki, and Pho Phu Quoc in Dickson, where they love kids, serve in little plastic bowls and are are very quick and friendly. Also BYO!
Although ‘pubs’ aren’t a natural choice when it comes to kids, they’re surprisingly family friendly (as long as you leave before the beer-rush!) The Duxton at O’Connor and Edgar’s Inn in Ainslie are two which scored highly on the scale.
And even though Braddon is the hipster hangout in Canberra, there are still some places that you feel quite comfortable taking the kids, like Debacle and Chez Frederic (read our review here). Elk & Pea is also a great choice, with options like Baja Fish Tacos with Avocado and Slaw going down a treat.
Want to escape from the hustle and bustle? Head to Floresco (formerly Hudson’s) at the National Botanic Gardens.
The city can be a tricky place to find truly kid-friendly places to eat. But we’ve tracked some down!
Top of the list has to be Jamie’s Italian. Yes, the service can be a bit patchy, but the experience for kids is top notch. Menus are presented on old-school Viewmasters, so children of non-reading age can pick out what they want. And there’s a great range: from Spaghetti Bolognese to Mini Sliders and Chicken Lollipops, there’s a real emphasis on good, healthy food. Plus their meals are cheap! $9.50 will buy your little ones a main, a ‘shake me salad’ and an unlimited glass of Bottlegreen cordial. Plus, if they eat all their salad, they get a special badge which proudly proclaims ‘I ate my greens at Jamie’s Italian’. Cute. Oh, and there’s a MASSIVE range of pastas, mains and ‘planks’ for parents to choose from, and a bar. What more could you want? Read more about Jamie’s Italian here.
Civic stalwart, Gus’, has many fans thanks to their great customer service and comprehensive kids’ menu that goes beyond the usual chicken nuggets. We’re talking Vegetarian Nachos and Mini Beef Burgers, plus a whole heap of great toasted sandwiches and breakfast dishes. And you can have your top-notch coffee while you’re there!
Hog’s Breath in Bailey’s Corner (make that all the Hog’s Breath outlets across Canberra) is a no brainer when it comes to a place that makes all the family happy. Steak, chicken, seafood, sundaes, and plenty of options for ‘the piglets’. Go the surf-n-turf!
Banana Leaf is an unusual little place, serving traditional Sri Lankan dishes side by side with modern Australian cuisine, but it’s in a great position just near the fountain and if it’s a lovely day, the kids can run around and occupy themselves while you keep one eye on them and the other on your food.
Pialligo is a favourite of mums with little ones, with lovely nurseries and gift stores for mums to browse, casual cafes which cater to all ages, and play equipment to burn off energy! Tulips Café‘s enclosed children’s playground is a hit with kids and parents alike, and there are colouring pictures/pencils and tables for little people. It offers a well-rounded menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads with special kids meals and boasts the added attraction of a resident peacock!
Rodney’s is a sprawling nursery which also boasts a café with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. It’s a lovely place to spend a morning indulging in something sweet, or a more substantial lunch. Kids love the play fort and cubby house but little ones will need close supervision. There are worse ways to spend a Spring day then under the leafy trees…winter though? Layer up.
The inner south is spoilt for choice when it comes for kid-friendly dining, with heaps of great options. The Lawns in Manuka is a brilliant choice on a sunny day, with the raised lawn beds providing instant fun for kids, who love to circumnavigate the perimeters/throw leaves/chase each other around the trees. When it’s time to sit down to eat, ONA does a great bite to eat, with Urban Pantry is our pick for a more substantial meal (and it’s very gluten-free friendly).
Around the corner in Franklin Street, Caph’s is always packed, and we love how the waiters always come out with pencils and a menu for the kids to colour in! Down towards Coles, Public is another surprisingly family friendly place, with menu options ranging from simple burgers and fish and chips, to more sophisticated dishes like Kingfish Sashimi. Plus there are great daily specials, like two-for-one pizzas on Mondays.
Perhaps THE most popular family eatery in Manuka, though – and our kids’ favourite restaurant – is Le Rendezvous. Despite the French name, this is indeed an Italian restaurant, and has a great $15 kids special – chips, main meal (pizza, pasta, etc.) plus dessert. And there are crayons provided!
A couple of minutes away in Kingston, Eastlake Football Club is a hit. There’s no playground, but food is amazing with staff who care – lovely atmosphere and high chairs if required. On Green Square – now regreened and super for kids – is Bittersweet Café. All the owners have children of their own, so they’re very welcoming of anklebiters!
Want some culture or shopping with your food? Nip down to Brodburger at the Canberra Glassworks or choose from a huge array of multicultural cuisine at the Sunday Old Bus Depot Markets. While you’re in the neighbourhood, get down to new gastropub Walt and Burley and get a sweet treat at Max Brenner.
Or if you’d rather dine al fresco, head to the Pork Barrel in Barton where the kids can play in the rose garden while the parents kick back and relax, or to Oaks Brasserie at Yarralumla Nursery – it’s also dog friendly!
WODEN & WESTON CREEK
The good old Hellenic Club has a fantastic kids’ play space and great grub. You’ll find similarly family-designed menus and activity centres at Southern Cross Club and Mawson Club – all three are fantastic options for families who want a relaxed meal and menu options for all ages and stages.
The Western Basement is a pub at night but parents’ haven during the day, with coffee and cake service. There’s free parking across the road, easy pram access, and the ‘Bat Cave’ has a PlayStation, an X-Box and a TV to keep kids of all ages out of trouble.
A bite to eat in Chifley always gets raves, too – its retro charm and relaxed vibe are great for little ones.
Moving on to ‘The Creek’ and Brierly’s Café is a popular pick…and why not?! Great cafe fare, FREE WIFI, and Adore Tea! Kusina is Canberra’s only Filipino restaurant and has a great kids’ menu – there are also mini activity books for the kids to keep them occupied and teach them a little bit about Filipino culture. Read our review here.
Head to the National Arboretuem if you want some downtime and playtime in one. You can relax at Sprout Café with a snack or a ready-to-eat lunch, head to Pod Playground, or have a picnic in the beautiful surrounds of the Arboretum!
So, we’re a little light on in this section – surely there are more great places to eat in Tuggers! Let us know what we’ve missed by leaving a comment!
Oriental Terrace in Erindale gets a big rap as being welcoming to families, happily adjusting meals for little ones; also in the Wanniassa are is Mocha Tze, which has great home style cooking and fantastic coffee. What else do you need? Well, maybe yummy cupcakes and playdough for the kids to muck around with!
Another member of the Eastlake family is the Calwell Club and it shares its Kingston sibling’s reputation for family friendly fare. And what kid doesn’t love a rissole? Well, a kofte, really… Little Instanbul on Anketell Street is great for a quick, fresh delicious lunch of Turkish cuisine. The staff are friendly and the food always pleases.
For a get-together with friends and their kidlets, Rose Cottage in Gilmore is fantastic – with live bands on Sundays, a huge open space and a mega sandpit for the kidlets to run around, this is a great pick.
Another (wet weather friendly) alternative is the Vikings Club (either Tuggeranong or Erindale), the latter has a large covered playground, and excellent coffee.
Central Cafe promotes itself as a ‘family style restaurant’, so you can tell where the focus is. They serve hideously large meals, but there is so much to choose from, and they have heaps of families through their doors regularly.
Another great place in Queanbeyan is The Mill House Cafe. We’re talking gorgeous olde world charm, great food, and a kid size table with pencils and toys.
4th seed on Crawford Street is the place to go if you want fantastic coffee, restaurant-quality food and a relaxed kid-friendly space. Run by top Canberra chef, Andrew Haskins, this is a place you can easily get addicted to.
Riverbank Cafe in Ray Morton Park has a simple menu, but the architecturally-designed cafe is right next to Queanbyean’s newest playground, and you can grab a coffee or a milkshake with your little people and wander down to the riverbank and watch the ducks or play in the sand.
‘GET OUTTA TOWN’
Grazing at Gundaroo has a great reputation for fine dining, but it’s also surprisingly welcoming for little ones. The restaurant has high chairs, a kids menu and a play pack for children, and there’s a low-key wine tasting and tapas area which is more relaxed, and even more kid friendly.
And if you’re heading north, you can’t go past Poachers Pantry – it’s such a lovely spot to spend a leisurely afternoon, and there’s plenty of room for the kids to roam after they’ve eaten from the special Children’s Menu. Flint in the Vines is also very kind to its smallest patrons…in the warmer months, the staff supply outdoor toys like totem tennis and Frisbees for the kids to enjoy in the outdoor area.
So, those are our picks of the best kid-friendly places to eat around town… What are yours?