"Eating out with kids can be both fun and hair pulling madness," says Weekend Notes in its '10 Funkiest Places to Eat and Drink with Kids' guide. The good news is that Melbourne is a foodie city for kids as well as their parents.
"Light-filled and spacious," Platform 177 opens at 6am every day and offers "wholesome and homey dishes" on its a breakfast and lunch menu with a Greek influence, writes Broadsheet. The kids' corner is equipped with a table, books, toys and colouring supplies, "and has the warm feel of a domestic living room."
Tim Ho Wan is the world's cheapest Michelin star restaurant. Its Melbourne central city outpost is "a little bit squashy but they can accommodate prams, they have high chairs and the food it shareable, so kids can have as much or as little as they like," says Tot Hot or Not. Try the steamed sponge cake and the golden tofu – "and everyone raves about the BBQ pork buns with good reason."
Two words: green pancakes. If the fluorescent pandan pancakes at District North don't get your kids excited for breakfast, "we don't know what will," says Broadsheet. There's a chalkboard to keep the kids entertained and pencil cases branded with "District Kids" are given as presents to take home and bring back on future visits.
"A super kid friendly cafe with every children's aspect planned down to the very last detail." Cubbyhouse Canteen in Armadale is perfectly situated in the middle of a gorgeous park complete with two adventure playgrounds, says Bambino Weekend. And in good weather, Cubbyhouse staff provide rugs and blankets to sit outdoors - "plus don't forget to grab some toys and a colouring box."
"The place everyone in the inner north knows is where you take kids." That's how The Weekly Review describes Birdie Num Nums in Carlton North - "there are heaps of child-friendly menu items and a courtyard area devoted to playing, with a sandpit and plenty of toys" and on busier days it feels a bit like a day-care centre, "so before you know it your mini-me will be buddying up with the other kids to entertain each other."
A classic breakfast menu with pancakes and eggs-any-way that runs until 3pm. Eira Café Lounge Bar has it, plus free babycinos, a tapas menu that starts at 11am with options like baked camembert served with crisp bread and cranberry jelly and fiery coconut and chilli prawns from Byron Bay - "and there are toys to keep kids busy and plenty of highchairs are provided," reports Broadsheet.
"Breakfast and lunch with an American twang" is what Trunk Diner offers, says Bambino Weekend - "the only problem being, the normal human stomach isn't big enough to fit in the entire menu" of things like burgers, quesadillas, hot dogs, hot wings and milkshake flavours that include Golden Gaytime, Tim Tam Slam and Liquid Lamington. And kids get their own special activity sheet and cup of crayons on arrival at this city diner - "meaning little ones will be kept occupied while adults concentrate on the feast of food."
Como House is a 170-year-old historical landmark full of stories and adventures. At The Stables of Como in elegant South Yarra, families can pre-order picnic baskets packed with sandwiches, ancient-grains salad and cupcakes, then "head out to the lush surrounding gardens for a day in the park," says Broadsheet.
The best family friendly pubs in Melbourne are the Portsea Hotel and the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, says Time Out. "Pull up at the Portsea Hotel on a sunny Sunday afternoon and you'll find children playing and climbing trees on the front lawn while parents sit overlooking Port Phillip Bay and Queenscliff. This seaside pub is the perfect pitstop for a coastal adventure; these guys offer kids packs with colouring-in books and serve the perfect kids' portion of fish and chips to go with your own serve of market fresh fish." The Edinburgh Castle Hotel is a Brunswick institution, says Time Out, a community pub that welcomes punters of all ages, "even offering a toy box and a complimentary soft drink for kids to go with their steak and fries (or veggies)" where "even four-legged family members are made to feel at home in the spacious beer garden."
And here are two terrific lists of where to eat with kids in Melbourne from Bambino Weekend and Broadsheet.