During the first few minutes in this child-friendly venue I noted three important things, listed in my own order of priority: the watermelon-skin green La Marzocco SD80 espresso machine; that service and coffee were great on a quiet afternoon; and that there’s free Wi-Fi.
I overheard two more important facts (neither surprising): this is a very crowded place on Saturday mornings; and there are plans for a franchise.
Others will notice the large infant play area and in-house child-minding attendant – it’s $15 an hour to have each pre-schooler minded while you eat/drink/catch up on emails and watch them through the glass.
I arrived at Cheeky Chinos at nap time (my babyccino days are over). The raised play area is behind a well-maintained glass screen and in clear view of the café area below.
There’s a “feet sanitising station” with pigeonholes for shoes and a breakfast, lunch and snack menu with a healthy bent and plenty of choices for little ones.
Owner Pam Bucca was working as an aviation consultant in Switzerland when she saw a similar concept.
The café and play centre, which opened in March, was three years in the making, including 18 months to find the double-fronted location near South Melbourne Market. Bucca imported the play equipment from the US and says she wanted to create “somewhere that you don’t feel as though you are sticking your child in a corner with broken toys and a box of chalk”.
Her own children are four and 11 months and she has plans to open an identical café in Sydney soon.
James Stanton began working as a barista while studying to become a schoolteacher, so a job in a child-friendly café seemed the perfect choice when he arrived from Perth.
He learnt his coffee-making skills at that city’s Australian Barista Academy and honed them in cafés there.
A flat white at Cheeky Chinos (he didn’t make mine) will be served in a white tulip-shaped cup, prettily etched, its milk texture excellent and the Allpress coffee well-extracted with subtle notes of malt and nut.
Stanton says the café offers the roaster’s Supremo blend for milk-based coffees, its De Cafe blend for black brews and decaf for sleepless parents. Chai lattes are popular, too, he says; they’re made with Calmer Sutra’s wet mix of fresh herbs and spices.
145 Cecil Street, South Melbourne
Phone \ 9077 6492
Barista \ James Stanton
Coffee \ Atomica
Barista’s choice \ Cappuccino
Open \ Monday to Friday 9am-4pm; weekends 8.30am-4pm
Polished surfaces and vivid primary colours keep the mood upbeat at this child-centric café. The multicoloured play centre featuring a jungle-themed mural catches many a young eye, while its adjoining café interior, featuring bright nursery-style paintings (all for sale) and 3D butterflies, wins the approval of their minders.
Smooth white tables and modish curved chairs, stamped with a pretty hexagonal pattern, seat the adults in comfort, while deluxe high chairs are available for their youngsters. Through the glass wall, there’s a padded play area suited for active children up to five years old and a child minder to keep an eye on them.