Crisis Skylight Cafe

This week the Baberoo and I, both fighting jet lag, got pretty tired all of a sudden during an excursion to the city centre. This was all very well for her, since she could sleep in her carriage. I, on the other hand, having no one to push me around town while I snoozed in my own personal perambulating bed, needed to find somewhere to eat and recharge myself, pronto. I had been meaning to visit the very welcoming-looking Crisis Skylight Café (at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, OX1 2AQ), so I headed over and managed to make it there without actually collapsing.

The café is run by Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, and it trains people on-the-job in order to provide the experience needed for employment. It’s a great social enterprise, and the café offers good, inexpensive meals and snacks. They’re housed within the Old Fire Station, an arts centre that works with Crisis by providing opportunities for Skylight members to create and show work as well as to volunteer at the arts centre. (I’ll have to review the Old Fire Station itself in a future post, as their current exhibition, RAJ, wasn’t open yet when I visited.)

I chose the Spanish tortilla with two side salads and a green salad (£4.95 for the whole thing, an amazing deal), plus a lemonade (£1.85). The potato in the tortilla was cooked perfectly, and the tortilla was full of other roasted vegetables. It was pleasantly, if unexpectedly, curried. The side salads I chose were the rice with asparagus, olives, and egg (a combination I’ve never seen before, but which worked well), and tomato and green bean. The meal revitalized me and my seat at the open French doors gave me a great people-watching vantage point onto busy George Street.

Tortilla and salads

So, how did the Crisis Skylight Café measure up against my five criteria for baby-friendliness? The criteria are menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding, all of which are explained in more detail on my About page.

Menu: The usual café-style fare is served here, so if you are up for eating a jacket potato or a sandwich with one hand while you hold a baby in the other arm, go for it. But for those with less dexterity, there are the daily specials, which are a hot entree plus salads of your choice – all pretty easy to eat one-handed. They also have a good selection of breakfast items, as well as pastries and cakes.

Space: It’s a bit tight at the café for a baby carriage if it’s busy. There was room for me to wheel the Baberoo all the way through to the window seat, but that was because we were past the main lunchtime hour and several tables were vacant. If they had been full we’d have been hard pressed to find a way through the café, and because many of the tables have wooden benches instead of individual seats it would also have been hard for patrons to move their seats to let us through. However, there are some smaller tables against the walls that would be the best place for parking a baby carriage. (Sorry for the not-great picture below; I told you I was jet-lagged!)

Tables

Ambiance: This is a very light, homey, friendly café and the diners I saw were happy to be relaxing and taking their time over their meals. The opening hours run from 8:30 am to mid-afternoon (check the website for times) so it’s great if you need somewhere to go early in the day; these are very baby-friendly hours. The fact that the French doors were open was even nicer and made it feel airy and fresh. The art on the walls is for sale.

Facilities: The bathroom with the baby-changing facility is located in the Old Fire Station, a half-level up, and is accessible via the lift. I was a bit nervous about the lift because it’s the kind where you have to hold down the button until you reach the floor you want, and you open the door yourself. There’s one like it at my husband’s work and I always get stuck in it! Luckily, I didn’t get stuck this time since this lift is in good nick. The changing room is fine, with a pull-down table and enough space to move around with the baby carriage. The hallway leading to the changing facility is a bit narrow if two prams are trying to pass each other, though.

Changing table

Feeding: I didn’t feed the Baberoo during this visit, but if I had wanted to, I’d have probably been more comfortable at a table with individual chairs rather than a long bench, since I can move a chair much more easily to the position I need. I don’t think I’d have had any trouble feeding her there, though, and it’s the kind of space that feels welcoming to anyone who would want to feed their baby.

In total, the Crisis Skylight Café rates a 7.25 out of 10 for baby-friendliness. I will be back because I like to support a good cause, but also because of the nice ambiance and the fact that it’s probably the cheapest lunch on George Street!

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