Located on Alma Road in Wandsworth, The East Hill is a Geronimo pub, we’ve been to a couple, and they’re definitely child-friendly.
The general rule is no children after 7pm, but before then you’ll find parents, families, kids, pets – there’s enough space so you can have your buggy by your table, and there’s enough child seats your little one will have somewhere to sit (they use this kind).
I’ve not seen a child menu there, although the side dishes are cheap enough you could get away with those.
Baby-changing wise, the toilets are just plain weird. You go through one door, and within are four or five cubicles – so you’re sharing sink space with everyone – you just have your own privacy beyond the door. I’ve not actually tried taking a buggy in the loos, so we’ll come back to that one.
Let’s be honest. Debenhams in Sutton is showing its age. From the grubby changing rooms to the consistently broken down escalators and smelly lift, signs of wear and tear abound. So it’s safe to say I didn’t hold much hope for the child-friendliness of the ‘restaurant’ (we’ll call it a cafe for this review).
Don’t be fooled! The cafe is a perfectly acceptable place to feed your baby / toddler and had a few surprising touches. First of all, there is SPACE! And plenty of it. No need to squeeze my postnatal belly and buggy here (yes, Starbucks Sutton, I am referring to you). Enough space for your pushchair or double buggy even. Then there are the highchairs – bassinette style for newbies and good old standard wooden seats for the toddlers. And the safety straps are intact – mostly.
So, once you have unloaded your luggage and baby and strapped them in, you can make use of the ‘At Your Own Risk’ microwave. It’s super powerful, nuking baby food (I sneak my own in but there is a limited selection of children’s food available to buy, including innocent smoothies and annabel karmel ready meals) in minutes. The food area is clean, the microwave doesn’t pong and they even provide small food cartons (with lids) for you to heat and serve food. Handy if, like me, you forget/drop/melt your Boots baby food bowl and lid.
Helpfully, there are disposable bibs, individual wet wipes in sachets and plenty of napkins.
The food might not be all that, and the cafe staff aren’t that friendly, but just have a coffee and a sandwich and be thankful that baby is fed and might just drop off in the buggy afterwards while you browse the clothes. Be warned that the shopfloor is not as accommodating as the cafe in terms of space, so mummies, drive buggies carefully to avoid the tutting staff.
Generally, most shops cram as much in as they can, and there’s very few which acknowledge people with buggies or wheelchairs might want to visit. However, I’m trying to stay positive, so here’s some shops which you should generally find are good to visit for various reasons.
Mothercare – a bit obvious, I’ve never been to a store yet which doesn’t have a changing/feeding area in it – comfy seats and a bit of quiet when you need it and don’t feel comfortable feeding anywhere.
Starbucks – while I’m not the biggest fan of their coffee, almost every one I’ve been to has good baby changing and facilities, plus plenty of space for buggies, child seats if you need them, plus what seems to be groups of NCT mums all doing the same as you…
Caffe Nero – much better coffee, and again really good facilities – though I’ve found quite a few of these you need to ask for a key at the counter before you can get into baby changing (apart from the one in Croydon!) – all well and good, but it’s a popular shop and there’s the conundrum of queueing or pushing in to ask for it… which is never ideal with a stinky/upset baby