Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Jozi WAHM's Quintessential Guide to Restaurants with Play Areas in Johannesburg



Our family loves food and with two energetic little ones, we do tend to spend some time at the many play areas Johannesburg has to offer. I thought I would put pen to paper on our experiences at some of them. 


Note: I know there are several other play areas around and have only mentioned some of the noteworthy ones that I have physically visited.


BAMBANANI 

 

4th AVENUE MELVILLE


This eclectic and whimsical hide is first on the list, as it is my go-to sanctuary. The food is brilliant (I cannot say the same for all the child friendly eating places in Johannesburg). Their iced coffee milkshakes and lemon meringues are some of my favourites.  Most important, there are phenomenal indoor and outdoor play areas for the little ones. 


The outdoor section has an amazing multi-story jungle gym and there is a little role-play area with a child-sized fantasy house and shop, where Noodle is happy to spend hours. There are also lots of toys for babies and younger toddlers, which is lacking at similar establishments.


Indoors, there is sand art (at an additional fee), books, Playstation games and a fabulous oversized Barbie dollhouse- more than enough to keep kids busy on rainy days. They have caring and attentive childminders and the front gate is locked and you need to sign your kids in at the front gate and produce the correct slip to sign them out again. This (together with the free WIFI) makes it the perfect haven for me to catch up on a few emails while the kids are entertained and safe. The down side is that it can get quite busy and being on the main road in Melville, parking can also be a challenge. 


PAPACHINOS


CHRISTIAAN DE WET ROAD, RADIOKOP


Papachinos has several branches (I know that there are branches in Fourways, Morningside and others), but we frequent the Clearwater one. The outdoor restaurant area is colourful yet sophisticated. It has a lovely large outdoor play area, with an adorable motorbike track. Importantly, their food is great (I even know of friends without children who frequent this restaurant simply for the good food).


The childminders are not as attentive as at Bambanani though, so you do still need to keep an eye on your kids, which is difficult without following them around as the play area is quite big. There is usually someone at the front gate but I know of at least one child (not my own) who escaped alone into the busy parking lot alone.


LIFESTYLE GARDEN CENTRE


CNR YSTERHOUT AVE AND BEYERS NAUDE DRIVE, RANDPARK RIDGE


I usually get lost at the entrance of this centre, as I am drawn to the West Pack shop at the entrance, which sells a huge assortment of inexpensive but good quality storage accessories, toys, home ware, stationary and craft materials (which we love).


I digress. This centre, primarily a nursery, is also cloud nine for children as it also hosts a beautiful large kids play area, with a playground, funfair rides and even pony rides. There are a few good of eating places, the Silver Birch, Primi Piatti (which has its own play area, you do need to book in advance to sit anywhere close to the play area though) and Smooch. You will have to beg the kids to come home from here!


JIMMY’S KILLER PRAWNS


IMAGE LIFESTYLE CENTRE, CNR MINT ROAD AND CARR STREET FORDSBURG


As mentioned earlier, our family eats Halaal. Now, you may be familiar with Fordsburg (or Foodsburg as it has been dubbed), an Indian section of the inner city which has a lot of your standard food franchises but for a large part has been taken over by foreign business owners. Our family loves Fordsburg for its sheer variety of Halaal eating establishments. On the flipside, most of Fordsburg is dirty, parking is lacking and you get attacked by flocks of beggars. Also, most Halaal establishments have not cottoned on to the idea of providing entertainment for the little ones. 


The newly opened Jimmy’s is the exception. The Image Lifestyle venue is actually a wedding venue, so it boasts a beautiful green garden with fountains and delicate arches for taking those quaint wedding photo’s. Nestled within this oasis within the urban jungle, where you will forget that you are in Fordsburg, is the new Jimmy’s, which is wonderful for Alfresco dining and also boasts a large and pleasant play area and jumping castles. Their food also happens to be excellent.


SPUR


THE ZONE, OXFORD ROAD, ROSEBANK


This one obviously needs no introduction to any South African parent and is a standard option when eating out with our extended family. We opt for the Fordsburg, Rosebank or Trade Route Mall branches, due to Halaal dietary requirements (at most of the other places I have listed above we are limited to vegetarian or dessert options).


HEATHWAY SHOPPING CENTRE


BEYERS NAUDE DRIVE (JUST PAST CRESTA SHOPPING CENTRE)


There are two lovely new outdoor play areas at this centre. One belongs to the Spur at the Centre and the other one next to Smooch is accessible to anybody. This is great for a quick stop for frozen yoghurt while the kids burn off some energy and Smooch has some scooters which the kids can play with. 


ORANGO TANGO’S


NORTHCLIFF SHOPPING CENTRE, CNR MILNER AND BEYERS NAUDE DRIVE, NORTHCLIFF


This large indoor play area boasts a huge jungle gym, a smaller area for younger kids and lots of soft toys for the younger ones so there is plenty to keep the little ones entertained. Noodle, a bit of an adrenalin junkie, loved the enormous, very fast slide and Squish enjoyed the ball pits. 


Sadly, the restaurant area is uninspired (a bit like a big warehouse), the waitresses inattentive and the food mediocre. The bathroom lights were not working and I had to change a nappy in the dark. Their signage boasts an hourly and a daily rate but they seem to default to whichever works out more. They also have a bizarre rule that children have to wear socks and I had to fork out an additional sum for socks for my sandal-clad offspring. So, while the kids enjoyed it, I feel like there are other good options which are better value for money in the surrounding area.


YEESH


WOODMEAD COMMERCIAL PARK, WATERFALL CRESCENT, WOODMEAD


This one is hidden between all the factory shops. I cannot give a completely impartial view on this one as we did not stay very long, Noodle was cranky after a long day of shopping so I did not end up sampling the food here. It is a bit like Orango Tango, large and warehouse-like and the entrance fee feels a bit steep. The play areas are incredible though, and there are other craft activities for the kids at an additional fee.


RUMBLE JUNGLE


PANORAMA SHOPPING CENTRE, KLIPRIVIER ROAD, MULBARTON


I once went to this venue in the south of Johannesburg for a birthday party before Noodle was born and it was fabulous. However, on a more recent visit, the play area had shrunken and most of the entertainment was coin operated rides which you paid for in addition to the entrance fee. That being said, it is still fun for the kids and there is a Mugg and Bean coffee shop for the java deprived adults.


THE FOOD COURT, CLEARWATER MALL

CNR HENDRIK POTGIETER AND CHRISTIAAN DE WET ROADS, STRUBENS VALLEY


There is nothing exceptional about this one, but for some reason, this remains Noodle’s favourite play area and is slap bang in the middle of the busy shopping centre, offering a welcome break for the children after the tedium of shopping (did I mention that I love shopping?). A new McDonalds has opened right next to the play area so it is easy to watch your kids from there while having a milkshake or ice-cream.