Welcome to our guide on the top kid-friendly cafes in Melbourne, the beginning of a short series for the top Bobux-wearing cities.
Kid-friendly is quite a broad, all-encompassing topic. It might be a café that offers freebies for your kids to enjoy; a café with its playground or fun activities to keep the little ones occupied; or even a café that borders a park, especially if it has outside seating available for you to watch your energetic little dictators like a hawk.
Highchairs, change tables, pram access, kid-friendly food, staff who don’t roll their eyes at split babycinos ... a lot of factors go into a successful breakfast outing with children.
We've put together a city-spanning list of the Melbourne cafes that tick these boxes while providing a pleasant outing for parents.
The best kid-friendly cafés in Melbourne
Having kids might mean that your sleep patterns change, but it doesn't mean that your tastebuds will. Thankfully, kids don't necessarily sound like a death knell for brunch. Check out these family-friendly cafés that don't compromise on coolness or quality just because pint-sized patrons are welcome.
Once you're done, why not get some fresh air and work off the hollandaise sauce at one of Melbourne's awesome outdoor playgrounds? While we're discussing such matters, it's probably worth your while checking out some of Melbourne's family-friendly pubs in case you need a beverage more than breakfast.
L-shaped and spacious – handy for steering prams – Go West’s interior promotes calm, with pine timber floors, wraparound banquette seating and refreshing nautical blue tones.
With this café, Jones (begetter of Second Home, Stables of Como and Friends of Mine) has brought inner-city eating to Rockbank. The menu (ranging from $5 for simple pastries to $22 for the parma) will be familiar to those who have frequented his establishments, and this is a good thing. From the ‘cheesy toast’ with béchamel sauce, egg breakfasts, more healthsome quince porridge and acai bowl to the substantial lunches (macaroni cheese, lamb gnocchi), this is comfort food pushed up and done well.
The Breakfast Super Salad is indeed super in size, nutrients and execution. Snappy kale leaves mingle with broccoli florets, peas, translucent radish slices and a splodge of smashed avocado. Quinoa, a poached egg and a dollop of creamy smoked yoghurt provide protein while pumpkin seeds contribute crunch. This is a dazzlingly tangy salad that will power you through the challenges of any day.
An error delivers the Eggs Benedict (we ordered the Eggs Royale), but we go with it in the spirit of adventure. Two bouncy English muffin halves are topped with smoked ham hock, runny poached eggs and a butter-coloured apple cider hollandaise sauce. It’s not ample so that you could add a side of the glistening, deeply-flavoured, slow-roasted tomatoes; nor, unfortunately, is it spectacular, mainly on account of the coolish ham.
A glass cabinet at the counter is crammed with killer old school sweets – chocolate crackles (Belgian chocolate, no less), honey joys and musk sticks – transporting you back to balloon-filled childhood birthday parties. With its thickset biscuit base, zingy lemon icing and toasted coconut flakes, the lemon slice is a particular goody.
Beverages score high, particularly the velvety house blend coffee from Osso Roasting Co and matcha lattes, which leave a honeyed aftertaste (and potentially a verdant moustache).
Youngsters will be thrilled by the milkshakes and health nuts by the smoothies on offer.
The only disappointment is that service varies from excellent to careless (that perhaps misheard order and a beverage sploshed well out of the cup). That aside, Go West is a happy destination that justifies the journey and our faith in The Village People.
Smith & Deli brings a less than authentic yet no less delicious vegan Jewish deli to a Fitzroy side street. The sister venue to Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse's Latin-inspired restaurant Smith & Daughters, this is a vegan shop that caters to carnivores and vegans equally with, refreshingly, nary an açai superfood bowl insight.
Breakfast offerings at the takeaway-only business are heavy on the sandwiches: the Friend Zone is Smith & Deli’s take on the classic ham, cheese and tomato toastie that’s so buttery and cheesy, you’ll forget it’s vegan. Bagels, which can come with a schmear of flavoured cream cheese, are made fresh in house.
All ‘meaty’ products, including ham, pastrami, turkey slices and salami, use seitan as a core ingredient. By some work of vegan sorcery, the Smith & Deli team has transformed what are essentially elastic blobs of wheat gluten into rolls that closely replicate the distinctly savoury cured meat flavours.
The best example is the All Hail Seitan sandwich, which features slices of the delicious impostor salami, ham and turkey with a house-made barbecue sauce.
Open Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm, Smith & Deli’s lunch trade will also revolve around quick-to-make sandwiches. However, there are antipasto goods available to takeaway in tubs. Opposite the deli counter, groceries include a small selection of fresh produce, bread from Noisette and dried beans and legumes. Over in the fridge, locally made kimchi and tempeh sit next to prepackaged soups and pizzas by the Smith & Deli kitchen.
Ahead of Smith & Deli’s opening, Martinez and Wyse publicly gave their fans a sneak into the research that went into their all-vegan menu. When you've got die-hard carnivores and passionate vegans happily lining up to order armfuls of sandwiches and treat stuffed with vegan meat replacements, you must be doing something right.
The name may conjure up visions of babies sprouting from giant pea pods or of some unsavoury sweatshop affair, but we checked and found that the Children’s Farm is 100 per cent science fiction and cruelty-free.
It never ceases to amaze us that mere hopscotch throw away from Abbotsford Convent, you can suddenly be in the countryside facing off with a pig called Typhoon. The existence of the 7-hectare farmyard and gardens may be consistently surprising. Still, it isn't that much of a secret, as proved by crowds of bike riding or baby toting brunchers, but if by chance you find an ignorant friend, it makes for a pretty impressive (and literal) rabbit out of the hat revelation.
The café doesn’t boast a huge menu, but what they have gets a million brownie points for using produce they can reach from the kitchen door and for actually being seasonal, rather than just hijacking this catch phrase du jour.
Go healthy(ish) with green pea and haloumi fritters offset by tomato herb salad and a solid kick of acidic yoghurt ($14.50), or hit up their goat`s toast with chevre, sweet and earthy beetroot relish, avocado and if you want, a pretty decent poached egg ($13.50). Meat is definitely on the menu in bacon, ham and house-made sausage roll form, but when your breakfast comes with a view of a doe-eyed cow, you might feel slightly less sadistic if you go vegan.
Staff are of the knitwear attired variety and have the sort of kind and relaxed demeanour you would expect from those who work in a fairytale farmyard all day. However, they are still on the ball and able to deliver a latte with just the kind of caffeine rush you want before being set loose in a paddock of goats.
Sitting in the sun with peacocks and chickens scratching at your feet and bushland in front of you is about as pure as an all-nighter at Revolver is dirty, so if you need some good or want to pay some moo cows like the kids, the farm is good for what ails you.
The inside can be packed out, but there’s a good reason for this. If you can get a seat, the food is delicious: dippy eggs in individual serving trays are a winner for adults and kids alike. If you’re struggling to sit down or you’re only here for coffee and cake, then this venue is next door to a council play area. You can let the kids have some play without you standing next to them while keeping an eye on them from the outdoor balcony. Or the hoop-swing fits an adult bottom.
Happy River Café does an excellent job of living up to its name. Situated by the mighty Maribyrnong River, the bluestone building has a long front verandah where groups of mums and dads can catch up over eggs Benedict and much-needed coffee.
The cafe’s interior has a country homestead feel with daggy tablecloths, light-coloured timber floors and local artists’ works on the walls.
A simple menu features all your classic egg breakfasts, toasted sandwiches and salads. It’s not fancy, but it’s wholesome.
Poached fruit, with segments of soft green apple, apricot halves, and red wine poached pear, sits in a pool of light syrup. It’s served warm with rich vanilla yoghurt spiked with cinnamon. Date scones the size of your fist have a wonderfully crumbly, slightly crunchy top while sweet little pikelets are light and fluffy. Maple syrup may be a more traditional pancake topping, but the option of a gooey caramel sauce makes breakfast a very sweet event indeed.
At the savoury end, perfectly poached eggs are served on Pure Bread Bakery sourdough toast with thin slices of pert mushrooms, all juicy with butter.
Service can be vague when it’s quiet, but when it’s packed, it runs like clockwork. Go figure. Something about this café casts a spell – maybe it’s the sound of children ramming toy cars into each other, the bubbling river, the green grass or the fresh-baked scones. Whatever the reason, you’ll walk away from Happy River Café feeling rejuvenated.
This is a very family-friendly restaurant, and it means there’s somewhere to eat good Italian, with the kids, in the evening. Open from 5 pm onwards. You can get your brood into restaurant dining practice knowing that the other patrons won’t want to kill you or your kids.
The menu caters for all tastes and sizes of appetites. But the star turn is that the staff bring the dough to the table so the kids can make their pudding pizza. It miraculously returns to the table cooked and covered in chocolate for dessert.
Two words: green pancakes. If the fluorescent pandan pancakes here don’t get your kids excited for breakfast, we don’t know what will. When designing the recently opened District North, owner Andrew D’Aprano asked for four things – “white, timber, a compelling bar and room for prams” – and that’s exactly what it’s got.
There’s a chalkboard to keep the kids entertained, and pencil cases branded with “District Kids” are given as presents to take home and bring back on future visits. D’Aprano says, “the kids have the biggest say when they go out, so we want to make sure they’re happy”.
678–680 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds
Mon to Sat 7.30 am–4 pm
Sun 8.30 am–4 pm
Here we have a culinary chameleon. During the day, it’s a family-friendly spot serving wholesome yet interesting dishes, and at night it’s a warm neighbourhood bar. The kid's menu is accommodating, with ham-and-cheese toasties sans crusts as an option.
There are more substantial dishes for the parents, such as roasted portobello mushrooms served with pickled king-brown mushrooms, goats-cheese croquettes and rocket, topped with a poached egg. It's on a bike path, and there's a playground just out the back door.
815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North
Mon to Sun 7 am–11 pm
Owner Christopher Vivian has created a space that serves quality food and drinks and has a spacious play area out the back with a sandpit and toys. The large menu caters to all: the kid's section has pasta, chicken nuggets and berry pancakes, while adults can try the Latkes & Lox (smoked salmon served alongside a potato rosti, poached eggs, chives yoghurt and baby capers) or the English Breakfast for a vegetarian or vegan option.
Hearty lunch options, including a Thai-style calamari salad, served with grilled halloumi and quinoa salad, can be eaten while your little ones finish their sandcastle.
745 Nicholson Street, Carlton North
Mon to Sun 8 am–4 pm
This cafe-slash-gelateria is a hit with kids (what ice-cream shop isn’t?) and their grown-up companions, with Sicilian-inspired breakfasts and lunches until 3 pm, plus authentic gelato free of preservatives, artificial flavouring and commercial essences. Classic flavours such as Dutch chocolate, banana, and strawberry gelato will serve kids well.
At the same time, parents can experiment with seasonal varieties such as Iranian pistachio, Sri Lankan cinnamon and fior di latte. There’s a small courtyard out the back for sunny days and a spacious bathroom with a proper change table.
76 High Street, Northcote
Tue to Sun 9 am–10.30 pm
Order a Bloody Mary with peace of mind that your children are safe. Alongside three variations of the Bloody Mary (vodka, gin or tequila), Miss Marmalade serves breakfast until 3 pm. The rustic brick walls, recycled wood, and flower arrangements scattered across the tables at the front of the cafe create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere, while the family room at the rear is filled with toys, books and a chalkboard.
126 Union Street, Brunswick
Mon to Fri 7 am–4 pm
Sat to Sun 8 am–4 pm
A classic breakfast menu with pancakes and eggs-any-way runs until 3 pm, and the babycinos are free. A tapas menu kicks off at 11 am with options such as baked camembert served with crisp bread and cranberry jelly; and fiery coconut and chilli prawns from Byron Bay. There are toys to keep kids busy, and plenty of high chairs are provided.
1 Pryor Street, Eltham
Mon & Tues 7.30am–5pm
Wed to Sat 7.30 am–1 am
Sun 8 am–10 pm
At The Stables of Como, families can pre-order picnic baskets packed with sandwiches, ancient-grains salad and cupcakes. After picking it up from the cafe, head out to the lush surrounding gardens for a day in the park.
The Stables of Como is located in Como House and Gardens in South Yarra, a 170-year-old historical landmark full of stories and adventures, and there’s plenty for kids to explore.
Corner of Williams Road and Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra
Mon to Sat 9 am–5 pm
The Little Village boasts a colourful, kid-sized “English village”, equipped with a hospital, boutique, fire station, tool shop, grocery store and a cake shop, plus copious toys to play pretend with. With the children occupied, parents can turn their attention to croissants, quiches and toasties, or a morning tea of cakes, muffins or a fresh-fruit smoothie. Entry is $6.50 for 12 months and over, or $15 per family of three or more children.
33 The Mall, Croydon South
Mon to Fri 9.30 am–3.30 pm
The crew behind Lazerpig has carefully curated a one-stop-shop with Mavis. Seven Seeds coffee; cold-pressed juices; Tielka’s organic tea; a wealth of vegetarian breakfast and lunch dishes; ready-made meals; house-made bread; fruit and vegetables; and there's boiled eggs with toast soldiers or pancakes with maple syrup for kids. Burn off some energy at the nearby Gahan Reserve and Yarra Trail.
197 Vere Street, Abbotsford
Mon to Sat 8 am–4 pm
Sun 9 am–4 pm
Habitot is a master of many crafts. It’s an all-in-one retail store, play area, school and party venue. There's technically no cafe, but instead, a self-service area that has free plunger coffee, tea and hot chocolate and allows for BYO meals and drinks. An indoor playroom is available when classes are not occurring, and there’s also a leafy backyard for activities.
There’s no entry fee, but people are encouraged to make a gold coin donation to Habitots’ chosen charities. The $5 themed discovery boxes, sold in the retail section at the front, are a hit with the kids.
146 Bridport Street, Albert Park
Mon to Fri 9 am–4 pm
Sat & Sun 10am–4pm
Cubbyhouse Canteen serves breakfast and lunch daily, and early kids dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. All staff members have experience working with children and providing a safe and fun environment.
Kids are encouraged to order their food with options such as the Henny Penny (chicken-and-avocado sandwich), Slippery Dips (milkshakes) and Kermit the Frog (avocado on toast) available. The colourful bunting and floral wall paintings give the eatery a homey touch.
43A Union Street, Armadale
Mon to Thu 8am–5pm
Fri 8am– 4.30pm
For a day trip with the family or a pit stop on your way to the Peninsula, The Hungry Peacock is a top pick. The “Messy Shed” out the back hosts two activity sessions a day (9 am and 11.15 am). For $10, kids can get grubby with paint, glue, goo, water and mud.
A sandpit, cubby house, indoor kids kitchen, “construction area”, and tracks on the walls for kids to steer toy cars around will also provide hours of entertainment. Breakfast is served until 11.45 am and lunch from 12 pm to 3 pm. There’s also a beer and wine list.
16 Mornington–Tyabb Road, Tyabb
Tues to Fri 8 am–4 pm
Sat & Sun 9am–4pm
FAQs About Melbourne Cafes
Kids' menus offer smaller portions for smaller appetites. Parents are also looking to save money. Smaller portions cost restaurants less to prepare to pass those savings on to parents. A safe bet is that any guests under age 12 receive kids' meals, while teens will get adult meals…
A menu designed for children, especially one in a restaurant or cafe, offers a different food choice, smaller portions, etc.
« Kid's Meal »
In the first example, “kid” is singular, whereas, in the second, it's plural. So a “Kid's Meal” would be for one particular kid, but the idea here is that the meal is for kids in general, in which case “Kids' Meal” would be correct.
Von Hengst offers four tips for selling healthy kids' meals:
- Get kids' input on menu items. “We do kids' tastings where we let them choose from different options.
- Change things up. “Add one or two new items regularly.
- Make the plate colourful and attractive.
- Make them search for less healthful items.
It all depends on company policies and the owner's style. “It might even go back to their upbringing where they had a conservative rules-based background or more open type of environment.” So they might let you do it, but it's discouraged.
Every cafe or restaurant can be child-friendly if you are prepared. However, some places hit that nail on the head.
From multiple highchairs, enough room for prams, a thoughtful kids menu, toys for toddlers to explore and even on the odd occasion a cubby to play in, the Mamma Knows Melbourne crew have been personally working their way through the best spots to eat with kids in tow, one babycino at a time.
Whether you are based in the North, East, South or West – there are some fantastic family-friendly places to grab a bite to eat on the way to your next adventure.