I think there are places in Perth that are welcoming to families with small children, but they are not what I would call kid-friendly, and that's fine. Not every café needs to have a kids' corner. Not every restaurant needs to have a separate kids menu. It's okay to cater primarily to adults if you're still welcoming to those under four foot.
Located on busy Hampden Road in Nedlands, a string of businesses, café and medical suites that join the University of Western Australia and the massive QEII complex, Boubar is one of a number of small cafes that populate the area.
Boubar is really cute - but in an understated way, not a kitsch way.
Exposed brick walls, vintage lighting and overhead fans, a wall of circular mirrors, and a small piece of art by Stormie Mills. The wooden display shelves behind the counter feel unhurried. The small cake display case drips with choice. A chalkboard offers daily specials.
A sliver of an old verandah or al fresco area has been covered over, creating an unusual space just large enough for a plant or two and some high bar tables. Permanently open French doors make the room feel open, although it is all enclosed. It has the atmosphere of somewhere where you could spend a few hours sipping coffee, although in reality, most people hurry through on their way to and from work.
I was searching for breakfast for myself and two small daughters. I had promised them pancakes and we were heading for the large coffee chain down the road when I saw Boubar. A waitress was walking out the door just as we passed. 'Do you have pancakes?' I asked hopefully. 'We don't, but today we have waffles' was her reply.
A half serve of waffled with cinnamon, cream and strawberries from the specials menu
It was good enough for us. Unfortunately the booths inside were all taken by single men leisurely reading newspapers so I sent the girls to find a table. It's here that I began to see that Boubar wasn't child-friendly.
As I pondered the menu and waited to order at the counter, the girls wandered outside to chose a table. It was only early Spring but the morning sun was bright and glaring and there was no shade to speak of. The small al fresco area of 14 tables is fenced along the road, but it is still a busy street and not one you'd want kids wandering around.
Boubar is primarily a breakfast and brunch destination although it is open until 5pm. The breakfast menu does not have any 'kids' meals, and seems to be primarily focussed on dishes made with eggs and toast.
Poached or fried eggs with toast (choice of sourdough, rye, multigrain or gluten free) is $9/$12, scrambled is $9.50/$13.
Adding a side of smoked salmon, chorizo or feta adds $4.50. You can select eggs benedict ($18.50), eggs royale with smoked salmon ($19.50) or omelette (mp).
Muesli ($14.50) and porridge (mp) round out the menu together with roasted tomatoes on rye (with feta and avocado) at $15.50 and the boubar: two poached eggs on your choice of toast, with hollandaise sauce, roasted roma tomatoes, king oyster mushroom, wilted spinach and scallion ($18).
That's it. Eggs and toast. It's very vegetarian friendly (and gluten-free friendly).
No big breakfast or pancakes or fritters. Of course, there is an extras menu that you can build yourself a more carnivorous breakfast if you wish, with bacon ($5), pork and fennel sausages ($7.50), chorizo ($5), smoked salmon ($7) and house-made baked beans ($4).
But it is almost as though they are saying meat is an afterthought rather than the main event. It also makes a meal with protein very expensive once you add it to one of their eggy dishes.
That aside, I found Boubar very enjoyable. I probably would have found it even more enjoyable if my two daughters hadn't finished their waffles with strawberries and cream (from the specials board $14.50) in record time. They began moaning about the sun and there was nothing to do since I wouldn't let them go for a walk on the busy road. Funny that.
They also reminded me I hadn't ordered them a drink. No cheap bottles of juice here. Everything is freshly squeezed ($6.50). I offered them watermelon but they looked puzzled ('watermelon is a fruit, Mummy, not a juice') so we settled on orange.
Just like the waffles, it was no trouble for the staff to split the serve into two. They didn't even bat an eyelid, they were happy to do it.
I have been to cafes where the staff have handed me a paper cup and told me to divide a milkshake myself. Lousy service. That was certainly not an issue at Boubar.
The food was enjoyable although it didn't break any barriers. The waffle was large but crispy (this didn't seem to bother the girls) and my eggs boubar was enjoyable. The mushroom surprised me: I had expected a large whole mushroom, but instead it was cut into slivers. It was really tasty, as were the slow roasted tomatoes. I found the toast too crunchy and hard, and combined with the wobbly table, it was quite difficult to cut without spilling all the drinks.
Boubar is small and intimate. The little tables only amplify this, and having three large plates on the table was pretty squishy. I needed to put my coffee on the table next to us to prevent it winding up in my lap.
This would be a lovely place for a coffee and cake with a friend, lunch with a small group or even just breakfast on your own. Boubar is friendly to kids, they have a high chair and splitting serves is no trouble. I wouldn't hesitate to say 'sure, take your children' (assuming they're not fussy eaters) but it's definitely directed towards an older crowd. And that's absolutely fine. I'd like to go back one day without my own kids, sit inside and take my time...