Guest post highlighting where is best for baby friendly restaurants in Oxford by Nadia Arbach who has been blogging at oxfordmommy.com since July 2013, reviewing Oxford’s eateries, attractions, and activities for baby-friendliness.
Becoming a parent is a game-changer for eating out. You used to choose a restaurant based on the cuisine or the location, but now you’re asking yourself new questions: Will the buggy fit in the door? Will the baby sleep or will I need to hold her? What if he needs a feed or a change? Never fear, parents of little ones: Oxford Mommy has rounded up the best places to eat out in Oxford whatever your (and your baby’s) needs.
Best for… groups: The café at Modern Art Oxford
30 Pembroke Street (entrance via St Ebbe’s Street), OX1 1BP, 01865 722733, Monday closed, Tuesday-Saturday 11:00-18:00, Sunday 12:00-17:00
Venture into the café at Modern Art Oxford and you’re sure to find at least one group of mothers with babies, and no wonder. The café has some wide-open spaces around its perimeter which means at least six buggies (I’ve seen ten at times!) can be comfortably parked while parents enjoy a light lunch or tasty tiffin and have a catch-up. Breastfeeding mothers will particularly appreciate the comfy couches. In the summer, the café moves to an outdoor space under the archway of the gallery’s side entrance on St Ebbe’s Street, providing at least as much space, if not more, for buggies to be stowed safely. Parents with a penchant for modern art will find it well worth visiting the gallery’s cutting-edge exhibitions and installations.
Best for… baby-changing: Jacobs & Field
15 Old High Street, Headington, OX3 9HP, 01865 766990, Monday-Sunday 9:00-18:00
The bathroom at Jacobs & Field is the opposite of the usual stark, clinical-looking baby-changing room equipped with plastic pull-down table. The room is bedecked with bunting and stacked with vintage pots and pans (all of which can be bought); it’s a visual feast for babies and adds a lot of fun to nappy-changing time. The changing area is a wooden counter with a changing pad, and there’s space for your bag and easy access to the sink. The rest of Headington has very little to offer in the way of baby-changing facilities, so this one is well-travelled but it’s always clean and fresh-smelling. Jacobs & Field is usually packed – their food is delicious, especially their brownies – so you may have a tight squeeze on your way to the back of the café if you have a large pram or buggy.
Best for… babies with older siblings: Storyteller’s Café at Barefoot Books
294 Banbury Road, Summertown, OX2 7ED, 01865 311100, Monday-Friday 9:30-17:00, Saturday 9:30-17:30, Sunday 10:00-17:00
If your baby has older brothers or sisters, especially of toddler or preschool age, the Storyteller’s Café at Barefoot Books is a sure-fire winner. Older siblings will enjoy the sing-along videos, story time, and opportunities for colouring and crafts (some events need to be booked), while babies will appreciate the bright colours and visual appeal of the café. Children can enjoy special Kids’ Lunch Packs while parents relax with an all-day breakfast, soups, sandwiches, or sweet treats from the daily-changing menu. It’s simple but palate-pleasing fare. The café stocks plenty of high chairs and has a good baby-changing room.
Best for… eating out solo: Giraffe
71 George Street, OX1 2BQ, 01865 201030, Monday-Wednesday 8:00-22:00, Thursday-Friday 8:00-23:00, Saturday 9:00-23:00, Sunday 9:00-22:00
Before having a baby I never realised how many things parents have to do one-handed while holding a little one in the other arm. Now I understand the importance of a meal that is easily eaten while holding a baby, whether the kid is sleeping, squalling, feeding, or just in need of some comfort. Restaurant menus generally have very few mains that allow for ease of one-handed eating. But the menu at Giraffe has plenty of one-handed options, including many mains. You’ll still never be able to eat a burger with only one hand (more’s the pity!), but many of Giraffe’s other globally-inspired dishes fit the bill, including quesadillas, fishcakes, noodles, and risottos. The restaurant is known for child-friendliness and they are lovely with babies too.
Best for… baby friendly menu: Jamie’s Italian
24-26 George Street, OX1 2AE, 01865 838383, Monday-Saturday 12:00-23:00, Sunday 12:00-22:30
Although younger babies will still be breast- or bottle-feeding, once your baby gets to weaning age they’ll be anxious to dig in and try some restaurant food along with you. Many restaurants do kids’ menus, but the one at Jamie’s Italian comes out on top because of its use of organic and sustainable ingredients. Even babies who have just started handling their own food can enjoy the spaghetti bolognese or the pasta bake, and older babies and toddlers who are more experienced eaters have several other meal choices. A ‘shake me salad’ and juice are included in the £5.95 price tag, and for 50p more you can also get fresh fruit (or ice cream!).
Best for… cheap eats: Crisis Skylight Café at the Old Fire Station
40 George Street, OX1 2AQ, 01865 263972, Monday-Saturday 8:30-16:00 (food served until 15:00), Sunday closed
With all-day breakfast, light lunch and sweet treats available at super-affordable prices (the main plus side salads deal is £4.95), the Crisis Skylight Café is the place to go for a meal that’s easy on the wallet. The mains are substantial and the salads are more inventive than the usual cold-pasta-with-mayonnaise variety that’s all too common at inexpensive lunch counters. You can easily fit your pram or buggy at a table unless the café is totally packed, and the quiet ambiance makes it a perfect place for a sleeping baby. The café’s revenue goes to Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, which makes having lunch here a feel-good experience for more than just your stomach.
Best for… foodies: The Oxford Kitchen
215 Banbury Road, Summertown, OX2 7HQ, 01865 511149, Monday 9:00-18:00, Tuesday-Saturday 9:00-late, Sunday 9:00-18:00
Who said that eating out with a baby meant that you couldn’t enjoy a fine dining experience? The recently-opened Oxford Kitchen has already had great reviews from Oxford’s foodies, and it’s no wonder. It’s got a drool-worthy menu featuring innovative flavour combinations such as duck with vanilla or crab with grapefruit, and a very reasonably priced set lunch/early supper menu. But it’s also baby-friendly, from the charming staff down to the spacious changing facilities. The restaurant covers two floors so it’s best to make a reservation so you know you’ll be seated on the ground floor; there’s space for a baby buggy at most tables.
Best for… vegetarian and vegan: The Magic Cafe
110 Magdalen Road, OX4 1RQ, 01865 794 604, 9:00-18:00 daily (according to their FB page)
If you and your little one are committed to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you’ll find plenty of good, wholesome fare at the Magic Cafe. This homey spot offers a changing menu with meat-free entrees, bakes, and salads, plus cakes, coffee, and tea. It’s one of the only places in town with an actual stand-alone changing table, which means there’s plenty of room for your bag and other necessities, and there’s also a good amount of space for strollers in the simple but pleasant dining area.
Best for… all-around: The Jam Factory
Hollybush Row, 26 Park End Street, OX1 1HU, 01865 244613, Monday-Friday 8:00-15:00 and 17:00-22:00, Saturday 10:00-15:00 and 17:00-22:00, Sunday 10:00-21:00
When my baby was tiny and I was terrified of taking her out in a city that was totally new to me, the Jam Factory saved me. The staff were so kind and attentive to both me and my newborn and the ambiance was so pleasant and relaxing that I felt my new-parent worries dissolve, even when the little yowler was screaming at the top of her lungs. I’ve been a loyal patron ever since, going for solo lunches or to catch up with friends, and the service has always been unwaveringly wonderful. The space in the café area allows for more than one pram or buggy to be parked at some of the tables, so it’s a nice place to meet with a group. There’s plenty on the menu you can eat with one hand, they have a good kids’ menu that changes with the seasons, and their baby-changing facilities are always clean and fresh. There are some couches and benches that make it a nice place to breastfeed, and if you’re bottle-feeding they’ll bring you some hot water to warm up your bottle. And since you never know when you have to take a break with a baby, it’s nice to know they’re open from 8 am on weekdays.