Child friendly spaces aren’t always what or where you expect them to be. It’s about so much more than a list of facilities, or some toys in a basket. It’s about the staff really. About the welcome that children (and their parents) receive. All too often supposedly child friendly spaces are staffed by people who seem anything but happy to see children arrive at their door. It doesn’t really matter to me how many toys there are, how nice the changing facilities are and what the kids menu is like if I feel like me and my children are an inconvenience to the person i’m dealing with at the till, or to the waiting staff bringing out our food.
Now I’m a bit into my coffee. Not crazy into it, I don’t cold press my own coffee, or read coffee brewing blogs, but I like a nice black coffee in the morning and I’m happy to travel and pay a bit to have a nice one. Coffee at most child friendly venues is notoriously bad. I’m yet to find a soft play where the coffee doesn’t taste like dishwater. Sadly most cafes offer fairly dire cups of coffee (even when they have nice shiny, high quality looking coffee machines) as the trick is in the making of the coffee, not just in the equipment and beans and most places just don’t seem to prioritise training their staff in making a truly great cup of coffee (and when you consider that their clientele are frequently sleep deprived and running on caffeine and sugar, well, that seems like a mistake).
A friend recently told me about a local coffee roasters that has a small cafe that opens part of the week. They are near Hove station and this friend meets with some other Dad friends there fairly regularly with their kids. It doesn’t have a box of toys, or a change station. It doesn’t have a “childs menu”, or highchairs. It’s just a really awesome little coffee house that is truly welcoming to children. It’s called Pharmacie.
So, obviously we had to go!
One cold weekend a little while back, me, my partner, big S and little D took ourselves off to check it out. It was bitterly cold. We had about a thousand layers on and were still chilled to the bone when we arrived. So discovering a large log burning stove on in the back room was a delight! Now if you have a kid that has to touch everything, I’d avoid going when it’s cold, because there’s no big child safe fireguard around the fire. You’re just expected to keep your kids away from it, which is fine by me. Big S is 4 now and can be trusted (with some gentle supervision) not to go near it. Little D, at a newly mobile 1 is obviously not to be trusted, so stays in our arms or the buggy. But that’s fine. We’re not coming here for the kids to play. We’re coming for a nice coffee and a sit down!
The coffee is, as you would expect, fabulous. The thing that makes it really brilliant for me is that I’m sadly stuck on decaf at the moment, as Little D is still breastfeeding and reacts to caffeine by refusing to sleep for hours and hours and hours. So while I can get away with very small amounts (a decaf coffee, a little bit of chocolate) I can’t consume proper coffee after proper coffee with impunity anymore. Good decaf is like gold dust. And Pharmacie have really brilliant decaf. Honestly, it just tastes like a proper coffee. No burnt taste. No weak, flavourless watery muck. Just proper, strong, good coffee.
Suffice to say, we’ve been back… once or twice… (or more)…
Tash, who usually seems to be running the show, is properly into her coffee. But she isn’t just chatty to other coffee nerds, no, she’s lovely and friendly to everyone who comes in, including children. She always seems genuinely pleased to see us when we wander in and the kids love the friendly welcome and feeling of being wanted somewhere all grown-up. Big S likes to sit up on a stool at the counter and chat away to her, telling her about his day and his imaginary friends. He likes to order a “pretend coffee” (a small coffee cup of water!) and she is always happy to play along, providing him with his “coffee” to drink. Like all the best front of house she remembers folks and the things they’ve talked about on previous visits, so when you walk in the door you feel like you’ve come home. It’s a wonderful thing.
There’s free wifi, big tables to sit at, seats outside that catch the midday sun, the log burning stove for cold days and big sliding doors to open on sunny ones. There’s just about enough space to change a nappy in the loo (but it’s a tight fit!) and plenty of space for buggies. No high chairs though, so if you need one bring a portable one with you to fit to one of the chairs.
There isn’t an extensive snack menu, no sandwiches or kids snacky plates. It’s just coffee and sometimes cake. That’s all you need though, when the coffee is this good! I’ve been back sans kids to do some freelance work and felt just as welcome sat with my laptop and notebook, working and occasionally chatting as I did coming just for the coffee. It really is a wonderful, welcoming space and I recommend it to all my coffee loving (parent) friends!