It was when visiting new restaurant Wilks last week on Chandos Road and a member of kitchen staff was dispatched to get a high chair for my daughter from a friend who lived nearby, that brought into sharp focus the lengths some establishments in Bristol go to being baby-friendly, and the lengths others will go to make you and your babber feel anything less than welcome.
Wilks definitely falls into the first category, while Park Street Cafe falls into the latter after a member of staff recently made a customer sit in the corner when she tried to breastfeed her baby, and later verbally abused her in the street, resulting in the arrival of a lactating flash mob a few days later (see this report in the Sun).
Only yesterday, the captain of the Mary Brunel, the small ferry that criss-crosses the Floating Harbour next to the ss Great Britain, offered my daughter and I space inside the tiny cabin on our journey across the water. He then waived the 70p fee, having radioed and stopped one of the larger No. 7 ferries from leaving their berth when hearing that all we wanted was a journey around the harbour to nowhere in particular.
On our return to the other side of the water, we scampered through the rain to the nearby Caffe Gusto. Now, I know that I have previously been none too complimentary in the past about this omnipresent Bristol chain, but in this particular branch there is a fantastic selection of toys in one corner that can keep my daughter occupied for hours. She is such a fan that on passing once and finding it closed, she lay on the ground by the entrance beating the ground in despair.
Here is my top-five baby-friendly Bristol businesses:
1) Bubba Hub, North Street, Bedminster
A recent opening and one whose mission is to create a safe and welcoming place for little ones and their responsible adults. A buggy park, lots of toys, clothes for sale, even a toddler thali. Read review here.
The cafe in At-Bristol is one of my daughter’s favourite places in the world, and it has been somewhere we have been going since before she could walk, with a great little soft play and many child-friendly exhibits in the museum itself.
3) Rimando’s, Gloucester Road, Bishopston
The venue for my daughter’s first birthday party, with a soft play room for children to let off steam in and a cafe in which adults can unwind, with a television screen showing whatever mischief is being created in the soft play section. See review here.
4) Portico Play, North Road (just off Gloucester Road), Bishopston
Divided into areas suitable for littl’uns as they are growing up, from a baby room full of sensory toys to the central area with a house in miniature with kitchen cupboards and ovens that are allowed to be opened by small hands. All in Venue’s old offices.
5) Playful Cafe, Chandos Road, Redland (below)
A shop selling toys, books and clothes upstairs, with a corner also full of toys to play with. And downstairs, accessed unfortunately via a particularly child-unfriendly metal spiral staircase, a soft play with bouncy castle and slide.