1. Lime Tree Café
Where: Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1 and Shiekh Zayed Road
Timings: 7:30 AM – 6 PM
Lime Tree offers tasty, fresh and healthy salads, sandwiches and hot meals, as well as take-away pots that are great for lunch (we love the salmon and quinoa). You go up to the counter to order, so service is quick and you can easily grab a quick granola bar to stop little tums from getting hangry, plus there's also free filtered water available in a hipster-style glass drinks dispenser. The design aesthetic is industrial chic (read: durable for wayward toddlers), there's a well-contained kids play area with toys and books and mini play kitchen, and they do a mean range of gluten -free cakes and baked treats.
2. Tub of Butter
Where: Umm Al Sheif, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, Al Safa
Timings: 7 AM – 11 PM
With a name inspired by the old saying of “landing in a tub of butter” (which means to have a good fortune), you're definitely onto a good thing at this spacious, modern cafe. If the moniker alone isn't enough to tempt you through its doors, you're sure to be impressed by its cakes - the Victoria sponge is a fluffy, luxuriant, vanilla-spangled assault on your waistline that you won't want to miss. It's a lounge-dining room-marketplace hybrid, selling a selection delicacies and gifts to take home, as well as a menu of delicious pastas, risottos, sandwiches, salads and breakfasts with a Mediterranean twist. It's large and airy, so no-one will be bothered by little ones running around, and it even has a little kids' area with mini tables and chairs, books and colouring. Check it out here
3. Couqley Dubai
Where: The Moevenpick, JLT
Timings: 7:30 AM – 10 PM
This French bistro is cleaning up in the family space due to its tasty food and spacious children's plays area; it's the largest permanent indoor café play space for kids that we have seen in Dubai. The atmosphere is an unusual mixture between Parisian wine-bar-chic, which attracts brooding arty-looking types, and family-friendly venue, which attracts large tables with hoards of children. There's a gourmet kids' menu (the mini-soup comes in an adorable thimble-sized ceramic tureen, while the organic grilled chicken would be good enough to serve at a grown-up dinner party) and the play area is safely cordoned off in a way that keeps little ones contained and safe. The service is swift and switched on - children's drinks come in non-breakable, non-spill cups with a lid and straw as standard - and the authentic French food is of a very high standard. It gets very busy at the weekend so be sure to book, and it only opens at midday so it's a lunch and dinner venue only. Be warned: the bar area is attached to the restaurant without any doors and can get quite smoky. Also, you might want to check out the menu beforehand, as it's on the pricier side, with children's juices Dh24 and dishes hovering around the Dh45 mark.
4. Jones the Grocer
Where: Opposite Time Square Center, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Safa
Timings: 7:30 AM – 11 PM
This bustling bistro and deli offers an international menu with an Aussie twist. The venue is modern - all full-length windows and high ceilings - and the noise level can be pretty loud at busy times (the perfect place to bring a scream-prone baby!). With lots of vegan and low-fat options, you'll be spoilt for choice between the scrummy eggs benedict and grilled meats, the artisan cheese selection and the vast array of delicious cakes and pastries. Plus, there's a safe kids' play area in the little yard outside, which is in full view of the tables indoors.
5. Tom & Serg
Where: 15 A Street, Al Quoz
Timings: 8 AM – 5 PM, 6 PM – 10 PM
This edgy, industrial-chic café has become a cult favourite with Dubains, and boasts some of the city's absolute best breakfasts, while also offering gourmet coffee and a wide array of creative lunch and dinner options. Encompassing two floors, parents will love the kids' area on the second floor (be warned: there's no lift for strollers), which is safely tucked away and features colouring, dinosaurs, chalk board, toys and more. There's also a great kids' menu.
Where: Near Al Manara, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Safa
Timings: 8 AM – 9 PM
This busy family-friendly eatery has a creative, hipster vibe and is a favourite with media types and yummy mummies, while the wonderful staff are kid-savvy, knowing to plonk down a colouring sheet and crayons from the minute you sit down. There's also a good children's play area with colouring, chalk board and toys, offering enough to keep little ones entertained while you eat avocado, eggs and sweet potato on sour dough (our fave). They've also altered the sliding glass entrance door so that it only works automatically one-way, meaning little ones can't go running out onto the road.
7. Reform Social & Grill
Where: The Lakes, Emirates Hills
Timings: 8AM – 12 midnight
If you’re looking for some good traditional English food, hearty gastro pub Reform Social & Grill is the place for you! With generous English breakfasts, roast chicken, mussels, fritters, and selection of beautiful desserts, you’re spoilt for choice. The kids also have an outdoor sandpit, climbing frame and play area, which is an absolute godsend in good weather, and there's lots of grassy space for them to run around in.
8. Café Ceramique
Where: Next to Mercato Mall, Jumeirah 1
Timings: 9 AM – 12 Midnight
Café Ceramique is a novel concept that art-and-crafts-loving kids will adore. The first question you're asked is whether you want to eat or paint first, and you can enjoy a burger, salad or sandwich before tucking into some absorbing, arty activities. There's a whole array of ceramic vessels at different price points waiting to be painted - from plates to vases to trinkets - and you're offered a palette of paint colours and different brushes and sponges: the rest is up to you! When you've finished your masterpiece, you will be given a token, which you will need to collect it again two to three days later after the pottery has been fired and glazed. It's worth the wait - we took a two-year-old and came away with three very, impressive- (if modernist) looking creations, which take pride of place at all dinner parties!
READ: '10 summer discounts on Dubai kids' activities'