The Bucket and Spade List is going well. By that, I mean we’re a third of the way through August and we’ve done one a bit of the ten. But it’s a strong start.
Yesterday, the trail led us to Dalston, home of the ironic beard and the unconventional use of crockery. Hipsterville, in other words. We were greeted by a cyclist blatantly running a red on his fixie bike, but luckily that was the last slice of arseishness we’d see all day. The rest would all be cakes, crafts and sunshine.
Accompanying us on the Dalston Odyssey was Hackney-native Bob, with the tiddler Boby and our South-London dwelling friends V&O. Our destination was Nancy’s Pantry, #5 on the list. All I knew was that it was a toddler-friendly cafe. I didn’t realise it would be so huge. I mean, look at the size of it:
So, we parked our buggies in the buggy park, took off the kids’ wellies so that they could “feel the grass underfoot” and ordered some coffee. The guy behind the counter looked a little harassed, as he was on his own so we had to pay and then come back a few minutes later. It wasn’t a huge problem though – we had nowhere to be, and there was plenty to entertain the kids. There was a play corner:
Random sensory stuff on the walls:
An OHP with shadow puppets:
And a big arts and crafts area, with a long piece of paper stuck down for drawing on:
There was also a private arts and crafts area, where older kids were taking classes and I think I spotted a party room. It really was quite big – the rents must be extortionate. Fortunately, the prices aren’t – they are pretty standard for Hackney (around £2 for a coffee, £2.50 for a cake). Also standard for Hackney apparently is serving a flat white in a tumbler:
I don’t get it. But my friend Brenda informs me it’s a thing.
We sat happily for an hour or so but when Reuben started complaining that he was hungry, we needed to consider lunch. As Maria knows, we like to lunch early to beat the crowd but that plan wasn’t going to work today. Lunch started being served at 11:30 and by 11:30 exactly, there was already a queue to order. It took us about 20 minutes, during which time Roo and Eva were sitting patiently at the table (I didn’t tell them to…in fact, I told them to go off and play but they are as contrary as ever). Once we’d ordered, the food actually appeared very quickly and the staff were very apologetic about the wait. There’s an extensive kids’ menu, including the interesting sounding “Jenga plate” (chicken goujons and sweet potato fries arranged in a Jenga formation) but the kids went for a sausage sandwich each and a portion of fries to share, which they seemed to enjoy (Roo wanted sausage, beans and chips but I wasn’t about to go off menu…and he was fine once he had it). I had the cheese toasty, which came with a very yummy chutney.
After lunch it had stopped raining and the kids were restless, so we went for a runaround in the outside play area. There isn’t much there – just some bouncy things and a climbing frame – but they spent a good ten minutes or so there before I got bored and wanted to talk to my friends.
There were also some fountains there, which are like a magnet for toddler-naughtiness. Remarkably, she only went in up to the toes of her wellies:
It wasn’t quite the day for water play – muggy yes but not exactly bright and sunshiney. So, we went back inside for a bit, to gather our things and move on to the next adventure. But before I move on too, a word for the toilets.
The disabled toilet = hotel-style luxury:
The main toilets = ironic plumber chic:
Only in Dalston.
Meanwhile, the chocolate muffins that Roo had had his eye on had disappeared (is it just me, or were there far too many “had”s in that sentence?) but I had a plan (oh look, there’s another one!). I had a voucher to spend at the Co-op after throwing a sandwich-related strop so we’d go there and get cakes.
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? With a flake?
Our cake-eating venue of choice was the Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens, right opposite the station. It’s another place I’ve had on my virtual to-do list for ages because I go past on the bus all the day but have never stopped for fear of being trapped by aspiring musicians trying to sell me wheatgerm smoothies in order to crowdsource their record deal. I believe that kind of thing happens all the time in Dalston. Besides, it looked really tiny through the door. but guess what – it wasn’t! There’s loads of space inside and it even has a little cafe (so I felt mildly guilty about bringing our own cake). If you go right to the bottom of the garden, there’s a sandpit with toys and trikes to play on:
There are deckchairs to sit on, but if you’re truly Hackney you’ll sit on the pallettes:
Bob was. She’s been in Hackney way too long. Boby, meanwhile, was lying around and taking it all in. She particularly enjoyed looking at a dead honeysuckle branch. Easily pleased.
My kids, however, preferred to disappear into the bushes where there was a large dirtheap for them to play on. But they did spend some time in the sandpit too, fighting T-Rexes with another little boy in there. It’s a very chilled out place to spend an hour or so, and it feels very surreal when you step back onto the main road outside. There was a music class going on while we were there, and I believe they do some arts classes there too. It also has a toilet, which is going to become increasingly important in our lives over the next few weeks. And did i mention the most hipster scarecrow ever?:
So, one item ticked off the list and children entertained for a day. Success!