The kids broke up from school today. You’d probably be able to hear the sheer noise of them from any point within the M25 but somehow they seemed noisier in a small signal box, eating pancakes at 5pm.
We’d been on a long walk round Highams Park after school – drinking coffee at Ziggys, playing in the part roped-off Snail Park, transferring to Vincent Road Park (where Eva was apparently beautiful enough to frame) and then persuading a complete stranger to let Reuben use her toilet. So pancakes were the next obvious step. Obvious.
La Boîte, in case your français is not as beau as mine, means “The Box” and it’s a conversion of the old signal box next to Highams Park station, which has stood empty for years. I didn’t take a photo from the outside, so let’s use an image by the very talented local artist Juliet Thomas:
Now, it sells crepes and gallettes and by night you can enjoy a glass of wine there, all while the trains are rumbling by. I’m not going to say that chocolate and marshmallow pancakes at 5 were a great idea in the grand scheme of things but hey, the kids thought they were. Between Reuben , Eva and Bunny they had the full range of white, milk and dark chocolate and I can confidently say that each one of those is as messy and sticky as the others. Pack baby wipes. I can also say with confidence that gloss paint was a good idea for the door frames, as Bunny’s chocolate handprints rubbed straight off.
The kids devoured their pancakes, though us grown ups had to wait a little longer and they *may* have been a bit restless by the time we got our strawberry and cream crepes. It’s obviously not a huge space and the 20-odd seats in there were all full at one point, so not a lot of scope for sugar-filled kids charging about. There is a small balcony at the back though, which is great for a bit of a fresh air and a view of the trains.
Because what a USP! Especially is you have one of those transport-obsessed toddlers that I used to own. Trains go past every seven minutes or so and the kids were full-on channeling “The Railway Children”, waving to the trains as they went past. More often than not we got a wave back from the driver which, let’s face it, is exciting whether you’re six or thirty six.
So it’s not a place to spend hours in with kids because the space is limited, but as long as you get your food at the same time it’d be fine. And they were particularly lovely pancakes. They had savoury options too but we were throwing caution to the wind and enjoying some sugar and cream, even though one of us had eaten literally nothing savoury all day. There’s a great people-watching aspect too, though I was disappointed to not see anyone I knew. If we’d been sitting station end I may well have. Downstairs, there’s a small garden and – crucially – a toilet. They also take credit card payments.
It’s sticky and messy and the resulting sugar crash is messier still but you should definitely pay a visit if you’re in the area. It’s a charming little place with lovely food and the most Highams Park of views. More information here.