Jasmine: We visited three restaurants with attached playrooms over the past two weekends and thought we would do a comparison.
Andrew: We’ve written quite a lot about restaurants in previous posts, which I think is good – because it still shows that we’ve retained our foodie selves even while having a kid – just that we now have a new criteria for restaurants!
Bank Bar & Bistro
Jasmine. This looks like a modern incarnation of an English pub, right? Mahogany panelling, brass fixtures, overall old-time colonial feel.
Jasmine: Actually, this was where we met Ruth and her daughter Lucia for lunch-cum-playdate at The Bank Bar & Bistro, and I would say it was the most baby-friendly restaurant I have been to in Singapore.
We are always on the lookout for baby-friendly eateries, so much so that my geeky husband has even drawn up a BFI (baby-friendliness index) to grade all the restaurants we have visited recently.
When we first arrived, the two babies were given plastic cutlery and paper placemats they could colour on during the meal and coloring pencils were provided on request. We parents also came prepared- Ruth had 3 books and we brought Dylan’s favourite wheel along.
Dylan and Lucia did a toy swop- here’s Lucia playing with Dylan’s wheel while Dylan ponders the existential dilemma that is the hole in Lucia’s Peter Rabbit book:
Jasmine: We were too busy (read: picking toys off the floor and feeding babies) to take photographs of the food, but the offerings are adult and baby-friendly.
High scores here for menu and value for money. Ruth and Andrew had weekend brunch sets, which are $26.80 for a striploin or 1/2 spring chicken AND a chocolate cake. I ordered an Eggs Pacifico (smoked salmon version of Eggs Benedict) from the All Day Breakfast section, which turned out to be a great deal as a kiddy meal comes free with every All Day Breakfast order! We actually ordered pancakes for the babies to share but they had run out so we went with carbonara instead. Which Dylan got about 3 strands of and Andrew and I finished the rest. So as not to waste food, you see.
Andrew: Yup, the striploin was worth it – with a decent portion of meat and yorkshire pudding with boiled vegetables. The boiled vegetables can also be given to the little ones to gnaw on. The chocolate cake that came with the set was alright – I much preferred the brownie that Jasmine is going to feature below, which is frankly speaking one of the best I’ve tasted ever.
Jasmine: Still feeling peckish, I also ordered a dessert –no no, not for myself but for my unborn baby girl who wanted womb service (Andrew: Yea right!) — a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, strawberry and a very gooey, umami peanut butter sauce!
Jasmine: After lunch, the babies made a mandatory trip to the attached playroom. Seriously, how did I not discover attached playrooms before?? Dylan gets restless from sitting in a high chair too long, but at other restaurants, he doesn’t have anywhere where he can play. This attached playroom was clean, new and came in so useful.
I also read somewhere that the toys are rented so they change monthly!
Jasmine: Lucia and Dylan made a beeline for the ball pool and slide. (Ruth said that Dylan was holding the letter "A" for "Andrew".)
Lucia has the sweetest smile!
Andrew: Both little babies enjoyed the ball pool lots. I mean, who wouldn’t! My only gripe was that it’s too small. I recall when I was a kid, my parents used to bring me to this ball pool at a Burger King (?) at Parkway parade. We used to go crazy there and could spend hours there. It was deep enough such that the 5 year old me could be ‘buried’ under the balls and we would use to ‘hide’ ourselves under the pool and ‘jump up’ to shock each other.
Jasmine: Dylan spent ages in that playroom, going from the building block table to a train set and a tunnel. In fact, when I finally pulled him out, he wasn’t too pleased about it.
Jasmine: One happy camper at the end of the lunch date (and check out the supercute berms I bought from Mothercare’s summer sale. It’s actually swimwear but I thought the crab was so cute so I went ahead and bought it.)
Andrew: This restaurant is in Shenton Way, which is super quiet during the weekend and thus has a very relaxed, chill vibe. I really enjoyed myself there. While the kids (and wives) were enjoying themselves in the playroom, I sat back and enjoyed a nice cup of latte. Ahh.. I look forward to the day when my kids are old enough to entertain themselves safely and I can just plonk them in any playroom while I take some time off. 🙂
Jasmine: Dilly was so tired out from the two plus hours of excitement and ball pools that he fell asleep without any fuss in the car, surrounded by all his books.
Verdict: We’ll be back again!
La Barca Ristorante
Jasmine: In terms of value for money, The Bank Bar with its weekend brunch specials and free kids’ meals wins hands down. Sadly, the food at La Barca was disappointingly just ok. I had higher expectations seeing that the chef used to helm a one Michelin star restaurant previously (emphasis on "used to", I guess), but almost every offering on the menu, from the mozarella omelette to the mushroom risotto to the lamb ribs was… so-so.
Only the desserts — the dark chocolate tart, the tiramisu and orange creme brulee, with us ranking the creme brulee as the best out of the three) were worth the calories.
Jasmine: I would rather go back to Cafe Melba, which is just as kid-friendly (bouncy castle and large field for older kids to run around), serves more delish food and is also located at Goodman Arts Centre.
Andrew: Agreed that the food was a disappointment and not cheap as well, for the type of food and portion size. My lamb ribs were rather unsatisfying. Based on my blog-surfing though, I realise that this restaurant is actually more famous for dinner, but I probably won’t be coming back any time soon.
Jasmine: The attached playroom, which looked so bright and cheery in photos online, was also quite tired-looking in real life and had a smell of musty shoes 😦 However, that did not stop Dylan from using the Vtech walker and exploring the activity table and the slide. When he got fidgety, we could also just pop him in there while waiting for more food to arrive.
Jasmine: Sidenote. Can I also just say how much I love this little outfit on Dyl? The super-cute rainbow checked shorts come with matching yellow canvas belt and were bought by my sister, while the shirt was also from Mothercare’s summer sale.
It was just a day before Dylan’s actual 1st birthday, so my mum baked a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for him- one that he could actually eat, as I still am quite doubtful about giving him sugar or chocolate, heh. Complete with a train and train tracks made from spaghetti! I doubt Dylan understood the significance, but he was so good and serious, posing earnestly for all the cake photos as if he knew these photos would mean more to us than to him. Heh.
Jasmine: Dylan did knock out though, falling asleep in the car and remaining asleep (which happens like once out of every 20-30 times) through two transfers, when I carried him out of the car seat and put him in the crib. So I guess he must have enjoyed himself after all, and that’s what counts 🙂
Treehouse @ Grandstand
Andrew: Grandstand is a wonderful place to go during weekends, especially if you have kids because it’s just bustling with energy and so many places for kids to enjoy themselves. Reviews of this place were mixed and we weren’t expecting much in terms of food – hence no photographs. The Rosemary chicken was decent, but the Mac and Cheese was rather terrible, in my honest opinion.
Jasmine: It looked and tasted like it had just come out of a can. But let’s be very honest here, people come to such restaurants for the playrooms, not the food. So just keep your expectations low and enjoy the sight of little children hard at play! What I enjoyed most was Dyl having so much fun that he fell asleep in the stroller for the first time… for one hour, which gave us plenty of time to wander around Pasarbella and buy back my favourite Russian chocolate cake:) Win-win for baby and parents. Yay!
Andrew: Heh. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to pass up on the opportunity to come to a place with a 2 storey playroom and the most important part was that Dylan had fun!
Andrew: I find that one of the signs of a good playroom is messiness. The one at La Barca was a little too neat, that you kinda felt a little conscious when you were moving things out of their position. Perhaps there weren’t too many kids there at that age to appreciate their playroom. This playroom in Treehouse was to put it simply – chaotic! There were toys strewn all around, books and cards on the floor and basically free for all, with kids dashing up and down the stairs. Well, it was this rowdy atmosphere that made Dillie extremely comfortable there and he just crawled all around on his own, exploring the various toys available.
Jasmine: Oh that’s a good point. I didn’t think of that. I just define a good playroom as something that knocks the child out after 😀 So all three restaurants in this post pass that bar. Haha.
Pounding on blocks with a hammer
Andrew: His favourite turned out to be this Thomas the train, which he pushed all around the place like a walker.
Jasmine: He also had a go making “soup” from nuts and bolts at the play kitchen on the “second floor” of the treehouse
Andrew: And finally, some peace and quiet and Dylan has the whole upper floor to himself – well, not for long anyway.
Verdict: We wouldn’t specially come all the way to Grandstand for the restaurant, and this playroom wasn’t as cosy as the one at Bank Bar. However, I would definitely come here if I were at Grandstand when Dylan was slightly older – perhaps 2 or 3. Honestly though, they could consider doing something about the food, which is currently below average. I have yet to find a restaurant with a good playroom that also serves great food.