Where eating out is child’s play Jessica Hill rounds up 10 of the best child-friendly restaurants and cafes in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, loved not only for their delicious menus, but also for the extras they offer – from storytelling sessions to outdoor activities.
Al Fanr, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island
Al Fanr has long been a favourite haunt for families, especially those visiting Manarat Al Saadiyat’s art and cultural exhibitions. The Family BBQ Nights inside include a corner for young kids to draw, with a play kitchen and toys. Outside on the terrace, the open water-channel feature, which is modelled on the traditional Emirati aflaj irrigation system, is a popular distraction for toddlers (bring a change of clothes). The best bit: the enclosed lawn has large soft bricks for kids to create their own architectural masterpieces. Those wishing to venture out with kids later to avoid the sun can enjoy Al Fanr’s 2 for 1 Friday family BBQ from 6pm to 10pm – a bouncy castle adds to the fun.
• The eight-item Al Fanr’s kid’s menu includes salmon and linguine, for more adventurous palates.
• 2 for 1 unlimited soft beverage BBQ package is Dh145 for adults and Dh75 per child ages 6 to 12. Under 6 free. Call 02 657 5888 or visit www.fanrrestaurant.ae
Al Samar Lounge at Jumeirah’s Mina A’Salam
Madinat Jumeirah’s Kids Afternoon Tea could have come straight out of a Roald Dahl children’s book – it recreates a topsy-turvy world, where what looks savoury is actually sweet.
Kids can marvel over macaroon burgers with cookie fries, accompanied by vanilla, strawberry and mango syrups that come in mayo, ketchup and mustard bottles; fresh pizza straight out of the cookie pan with toppings of fruit; and an inverted melting ice cream in the style of a cup cake.
Float back down to earth with the grown-up version – savoury treats, pastries and traditional scones.
• Traditional afternoon tea and the Kid’s Afternoon Tea are served daily in Al Samar Lounge from 2pm to 6pm. Kids pay Dh100; Dh200 for adults. Call 04 366 8888 or email email@example.com
Art House CafÃ©, Etihad Modern Art Gallery
As you pull up to this cafe, the two giant statues of horses are sure to grab children’s attention. Inside, all the furniture and decor is artfully created from old junk – from 70s-style briefcases to an armchair sewed together using cuddly toys. The coloured light seeping in from above gives this cafe a warm and cheerful vibe. It’s a tranquil spot. Younger children can keep busy by painting white bricks, which are later added to a special wall. Older children can seek inspiration by checking out the latest exhibition at the gallery.
As well as standard offerings, Art House CafÃ¨’s newly launched kids menu includes some tasty crepes with nutella, honey and banana or maple syrup toppings.
• Kids meals with fresh orange juice are Dh25, call 02 418 2466 or visit www.etihadmodernart.com
Flow Kitchen, Fairmont, The Palm
Every Friday from noon to 4pm, Fairmont pulls out all the stops for its younger crowd with the Ultimate Family Brunch. Kids get free access to the Fairmont Falcons Kids’ Club, where staff keep them busy with group games and competitions and a mini climbing wall.
The international spread includes a buffet featuring Asian wok dim sums and Peking duck, beef rib eye with Yorkshire pudding, Brazilian churrasco and a kids’ only corner. Kids items include strawberry and mango smoothies, vegetarian sushi and smiley-face cheese sandwiches.
Also on site: face painting, balloon twisting, arts and crafts, a magic show, and cartoon characters.
• Brunch with soft drinks from Dh255. Dh100 for kids ages 6 to 12. Activities run from noon to 2pm.
• Brunchers also get 50 per cent off Fairmont’s beach access. Call 04 457 3457 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Living Room CafÃ©, Khalidiya Village Compound
You don’t have to be a resident of Khalidiya Village to be able to use the cosy community cafe. It’s run by Australian Simona Youlten who, as a mum of seven, knows all too well how tricky eating out with kids can be. That’s why her cafe has a small enclosed section for under-fives, where they can play with the toys, train set and play kitchen, while parents indulge in homemade cakes and coffee or a full-fledged menu that includes burgers, soups, sandwiches, pasta, rice and meat dishes.
Kids can decorate their own cupcakes for Dh10. All meals on the comprehensive kids menu can be served with steamed veggies, fries, wedges, mash, rice, pasta or salad.
• Kids meals cost Dh15 to Dh25, with soft drink and ice cream for an extra Dh10. Call 02 639 6654 or visit www.thelivingroomcafeabudhabi.com
Book Munch, Bay Square, Al Asayel Street
Book Munch has been a family-friendly haven for literary lovers on Jumeirah’s Al Wasl Road for the past three years, and they just opened a new branch in Bay Square. The Jumeirah cafe boasts comfy sofas and a large collection of children’s stories (to buy or borrow) for families to enjoy. The Bay Square branch specialises in cookbooks, including a selection for children. The new cafe has also just launched a family Friday brunch from 11.30am to 3.30pm, during which kids have stories read to them and British manager Freddie Sackman works with children to create iron-on beat art.
• The Dh95 brunch is part buffet spread, part Ã la carte and includes signature Book Munch dishes: Chili Beef Noodles, Burger Bon Vivant and Chicken Avocado Salad. Under 6 eat for free, half price for kids ages 6 to 12. Call 04 514 9459 or visit bookmunchcafe.com
Jim’s Kitchen Table, Masdar City
Are you having trouble convincing your kids that healthy food can also be tasty? Take them to Jim’s. Not only do you get a spacious enclosed kids play area, complete with books, television and toys, but the 17-page menu includes plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian dishes as well as 10 truly wholesome kids meals. There’s parking next to the cafe (accessible from a side road), but you can also opt to take one of Masdar’s driverless cars there from the nearby multistorey car park.
Jim’s version of chicken nuggets and chips – fries with popcorn chicken prepared in gluten-free flour and coated in coconut – is so good that grown-ups might be tempted to order it, too. There’s also an impressive range of fresh smoothies, homemade pastries and cakes.
• Kids meals from Dh15 (fried rice with chicken and vegetables) to Dh25 (toasted sandwich). Call 02 491 9401 to visit www.jims.kitchen. Open 7.30am to 9pm
PI Dubai, lower ground floor, The Dubai Mall
The size and scope of the flavours featured in PI Dubai’s new, nine-dish kids menu means that it reads like the adult’s version of the menu, except for the thoughtful addition of an organic baby purÃ©e of the day. Highlights from the children’s menu include lasagne thoughtfully cut into small squares for little mouths, with hormone and chemical-free Wagyu beef, and Chicken Parmigiana Bites.
If by the end of the school week the children need a jolt of healthy energy to perk them up, check out “Happy Hour” on Thursdays from 3pm to 6pm, when they can enjoy fresh juices for free. Ingredients include fresh pomegranates, lemons, pineapples, oranges, raw honey and organic milk.
• Kids meals from Dh20 to Dh45, fresh juice Dh10 outside of happy hour. Call 04 4471757 or visit www.pidubai.com
Little World CafÃ©, Nation Galleria Mall
In February, Little World indoor play centre relocated their Little Gym and opened a cool new cafe in its place. Parents can while away the hours there while the children play in Little World’s play centre next door, where they can take part in interactive cooking classes, take part in sensory activities or read storybooks in a tree house. As part of a new initiative in conjunction with the mum’s community group Mom’s Guide Abu Dhabi, Little World cafe now has a bookshelf with a range of second-hand kids books, which can be checked out and returned at a later date. Lunch options for grown ups include salads, sandwiches and baked potato.
• Kids can opt for the usual offering of chicken nuggets, fish fingers, mac ‘n’ cheese or pizza – all baked, not fried – for Dh25 to Dh30 with fresh juice.
• Call 02 681 8824 or visit littleworlduae.com
Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, Saadiyat Island
Fridays afternoon brunches at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club are now all about the children. “Crunch” comes with two standard bouncy castles, a soft-play area, a ball pit, face-painting and colouring-in competitions. To keep older children engaged, there’s a mini football pitch, badminton, table tennis, cricket, snag golf (children’s soft golf), and two fat bikes to ride in the sand. The feast takes place on the driving range, where a few curious gazelles nibble at the grass.
If you can tear your children away from all that activity, the children’s buffet includes ribbon sandwiches, fruit skewers, vegetable crudities and dips, organic juices, slushies and a chocolate fountain. For adults, there’s a BBQ buffet with all the backyard classics.
• Fridays, between 11am to 3pm. BBQ buffet for adults costs from Dh125, Dh75 for children up to age 15, under 3s are free. Call 02 557 8000 or visit www.sbgolfclub.ae
Source: art & life