Tag Archives: Tea

Barefoot Books

Last week the Baberoo and I met up with my NCT friends and their babies at Barefoot Books (294 Banbury Road, OX2 7ED) for some tea and cake at the Storyteller’s Café. The bookshop’s ethos is global culture and diversity, and its independent publishing imprint reflects the founders’ love of storytelling. The café is a place where many parents come to chill out while the kids run around the bookshop singing along to animated videos on the big screen and playing in the storytelling area. It’s pretty much a children’s paradise.

On this visit, I ordered a chocolate brownie and pineapple juice (£5 all in). The Baberoo ate some cooked apple and toast brought from home. My brownie had a chilli kick to it, which was nice, although its cakey nature meant it was slightly on the dry side. The chocolate sauce that would have come with it might have mitigated this, but they had run out before I got there.

Brownie from Barefoot Books

So how does Barefoot Books rate for baby-friendliness? My rating system, which is explained fully on my About page, covers menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding. Here’s how Barefoot Books stacked up against my five criteria.

Menu: The Storyteller’s Café menu includes sandwiches, quiches, salads, soups, and other lunch dishes, as well as all-day breakfast, cakes, and other treats. There’s also a kids’ lunch pack with kid-friendly items, although I think probably most of the menu items would be enjoyed by children. You’ll be able to find several items that you can eat with one hand while holding a baby. There are also lots of high chairs (the most I’ve ever seen in one establishment – and they are the lovely Stokke Tripp Trapp ones) that you can use for your baby if you want to be hands-free.

Space: On most of the occasions I’ve been here, the place has been jam-packed with parents and children. You won’t have any trouble manoeuvring through the bookshop, but once you get to the café you may find yourself trying to squeeze through rather tight spaces. Since it’s such a family-friendly place there are usually lots of baby carriages everywhere, but if you’re stuck people will move their carriages out of the way for you. Our NCT group chose to meet during the school run hour, which meant that we enjoyed more space to ourselves since there were fewer families there. Bonus!

Barefoot Books Storyteller's Cafe

Ambiance: Colourful, fun, and geared towards children. Activities abound in the bookstore, including storytime, arts and crafts activities, and the animated video wall that kids can sing along to. There’s also an events calendar with bookable events such as pilates (for parents), ballet, tap, and yoga (for children), and sessions in French, Spanish, and German, many of which take place in the upstairs studio. The staff are friendly and obviously very welcoming towards children. It’s all so bright and interactive that you may find it grating after a while – or perhaps I’m the only parent who’s allergic to too much colour all in one place – but the kids will love it. I think as far as babies are concerned, the child-friendly stuff isn’t as attractive to them now as it will be in a year or two.

Activity Station at Barefoot Books

Facilities: The baby-changing facilities are just as colourful as the rest of the store, which makes a change from the usual dull gray or cream fittings. There’s enough space to get your carriage in comfortably, and there’s a toilet for parents to use. The room has an unusual, highly-curved changing table, which works well to prevent exploratory rolling. There’s natural light from a window and the room smells fresh, although the bin needs to be emptied more frequently; on this visit it was overflowing.

Barefoot Books baby-changing facilities

Feeding: I’ve breastfed the Baberoo here on a few occasions and have felt right at home doing so, although the chairs aren’t terribly comfortable. There are comfier benches in the storytelling area, although you may not get to use them if there’s an activity going on. This is the kind of place where you might see several other mothers breastfeeding at the same time as you, so it’s very welcoming. I’ve also fed the Baberoo with snacks from home without feeling guilty for not buying her food from their cafe, although when she’s old enough and hungry enough to eat from a kids’ menu she’ll have some excellent choices here.

Barefoot Books gets an 8.0 out of 10 for baby-friendliness, but I would still say it’s more geared towards children rather than babies. However, if you, like me, are encouraging your child’s love of books early, you’ll have a nice time perusing their bookshelves and finding stories to read to your little one.

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Cafe Loco

There is something so comforting about having a traditional afternoon tea. I don’t do it often, which makes it feel special and luxurious, and I love the look of the tiered tray filled with goodies. Today was a perfect day for tea – a bit gray and rainy, the kind of day that reminds you that summer is fleeting and you’ll be getting the woolly sweaters out before you know it. Yes, I know there’s a whole month left of potential summer weather, but the rain really got to me over the last couple of days.

I bundled the Baberoo into her carriage and set off for Café Loco (85-87 St Aldate’s, OX1 1RA), where I had been meaning to try the Mad Hatters Tea Party (£8.50) for a while. My teapot of Earl Grey arrived at my table only moments after I had ordered it, and was soon followed by the much-anticipated tiered tray, which included eight mini sandwiches and three kinds of cake. I was pleased to note that the sandwiches were made with very fresh, moist bread – nothing ruins a good tea faster than stale, dry sandwich bread. The best of the fillings was the smoked salmon, while the cucumber, chicken, and egg salad were just fine. The cakes were better; I got a selection of chocolate, carrot, and Victoria sponge, all of which were lovely. I wished that there had been a few more cakes or bigger pieces; they looked a bit sparse on the lower tier. All in all it was an enjoyable tea and I relaxed and took my time over my cuppa while the Baberoo played happily in her carriage.

Tea tray

So, how did Café Loco rate against my five baby-friendly criteria of menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding? You can find more details about my ratings system on my About page.

Menu: If you need to hold a baby in one arm while you’re eating, there are several things on the Café Loco menu that you can eat with one hand. Most breakfast items, pastries, teas, and some mains will be easy to manage; if you’re fairly dextrous then you could also try one of the bagels or paninis. And of course, cakes are always manageable with one hand! My tea was easy to eat one-handed, although I didn’t have to hold the Baberoo today.

Space: The tables are fairly close together in this café, which means it can be a bit of a squeeze (even without a baby carriage) to get through if the place is crowded, which it often is. I managed to snag a table in the corner where I could park the carriage without it being in anyone’s way, but another patron had to move their bag and a member of staff had to move a chair so that I could get through. It’s also difficult to get to the baby-changing/disabled bathroom; it’s in a corner where the high chairs are also stored and a staff member had to move two high chairs out of the way before I could get the carriage through. If my carriage didn’t fit I don’t think a wheelchair would either.

Tables

Ambiance: The staff are friendly and our server interacted with the Baberoo several times during our visit; her perseverance paid off and she finally got a smile. The décor has an Alice in Wonderland theme and the place is light and airy with pretty windows and wooden ceiling beams. Because it gets so busy it can be loud, but not overly so, and there’s no distracting music.

Facilities: The baby-changing/disabled bathroom was big enough to fit the carriage comfortably, but the pull-down baby-changing table itself was woefully small and narrow; I’m amazed that anyone would even manufacture a table so small. It would have been difficult to fit my seven-month-old on it, so it wouldn’t be suitable at all for any older babies or toddlers needing a diaper change. Luckily, I was the one who needed to use the facilities, so we didn’t need to struggle with the tiny table.

Changing table

Feeding: I didn’t feed the Baberoo this time but I have done so in the past and can say that the wooden chairs are comfortable for breastfeeding. The café also has some tables with bench seating if you find that easier. When I have visited with friends who bottle-feed, staff brought them hot water to warm their bottles without any problems.

My final rating for Café Loco is a 7.0 out of 10. It is quite busy most of the time but if you can get there during a non-peak time you will have an enjoyable tea.

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