Let the kids loose and feed the parents

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This review comes with a warning. If you are looking for a place to share an intimate meal with a significant other, read no more. But if you want somewhere to take the family for a meal that caters specifically for kids but is adult friendly, and offers much more than McDonald’s or other fast food outlets, then read on.

During the day, on any day of the week, Fair Play Cafe plays host to a plethora of mums and dads seeking somewhere to enjoy a meal, a coffee or just a chat with friends without the distraction of fractious offspring. No, this is not a playgroup, childcare centre or babysitting service – simply a large purpose-designed, airconditioned indoor play centre with a resident chef and professional kitchen on the side.

Come for dinner Friday or Saturday and you can sit and enjoy a pre-dinner drink while waiting for your meal, secure in the knowledge that the kids are not far away. There’s even a supervised climbing area so while they may be up the wall, you’re not.

But what about the food, I hear you ask. This is no brought-in catering pack sort of place. Almost everything, down to the cupcakes, is prepared in house. You will find the ubiquitous chicken schnitzel, but there are plenty of other well-prepared and presented dishes on offer.

You might start with a serving of Turkish bread (either garlic or with grilled cheese, garlic and sweet chilli), toasted sourdough with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic and dukkah, or a trio of dips and grilled breads. Go on to a main from one of four categories; salads (including a vegetarian roasted root vegetable), fried (fish, calamari or chicken schnitzel), oven (lasagne, lamb or duck) or grill (steak, chicken breast, salmon or beef and reef).

Each main comes with an appropriate vegetable and carbohydrate. A medley of vibrant, steamed vegetables – batons of zucchini and carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets – and roasted chats partner the slow-roasted, rosemary-and-garlic-infused, pink-centred lamb rump. A red currant and red wine jus moistens the very generous serving and the whole lot is topped with a thatch of delightfully crisp kumara chips.

Flash-grilled Atlantic salmon is given an Asian twist with pak choy, mung bean sprouts and a Thai green curry sauce. The chickpeas seem a strange addition but do work as a tasty alternative to rice.

I do take issue with the kids menu, which doesn’t stray from the fish piece/chicken nugget and chips format. Why not include smaller versions from the adult menu even if it they do have to add a small surcharge? Some kids do like their vegies.

The pick of desserts is the sizeable platter of four house-made sorbets and ice-creams, in this case scoops of espresso, chai and vanilla ice-creams and strawberry sorbet. Why not share?

It’s not fine dining, but it’s not the golden arches either. It’s worth a go for a family night out.

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