Children’s activities in Karachi are few and far between which is why The Owl’s Nest Play Cafe is such a welcome addition to Karachi. The Owl’s Nest is the first play cafe in Karachi, a place where mums can enjoy a coffee or a meal while their kids enjoy some stimulating play. The best part about The Owl’s Nest Cafe is that there is not a coin-operated ride in sight. Instead all the activities and play areas are firmly geared towards encouraging children to use their imagination.
The Owl’s Nest has several dedicated play areas aimed at the age range from 0 – 6 years old. The cafe area downstairs is adjacent to the most striking play area; a brilliant water play table modeled on the water play area at The Garden at the Science Museum in London, an interactive exhibit for 3-6 year-olds.
The cafe provides aprons so the children don’t get too wet, just like the Science Museum, and there are plenty of boats and fountains and funnels to help them enjoy splashing about. Adjacent to the water table there are chalk boards to draw, sensory boards, a little rope-net to climb on, a kitchen set and a magnetic dartboard. There’s a little hide and seek area under the stairs that’ll be ready soon. Upstairs the cafe has a treehouse/loft area carpeted in faux grass where children can play with blocks and wooden train sets and more. There’s also a soft play area for kids and, wonder of wonders, a feeding and changing room for babies with a comfy chair for breast-feeding mums.
The cafe is the brainchild of three couples with young kids themselves; Mehreen and Shaharyar Nashat, Mina and Adeel Shahid and Sameen and Mustafa Naveed. Mehreen Shahryar explains,
“As a mum of a toddler and a baby, I really felt there was a need for a place like The Owl’s Nest in Karachi. I’ve enjoyed play cafes abroad and wanted that here in Karachi – somewhere children would love to go and play and where a parent can grab a good cup of coffee without having to try to make their child sit still.”
Mina Adeel goes on to explain that the The Owl’s Nest Play Cafe’s plans go beyond just interactive play areas. There is a lovely big room upstairs that will be used for parties and for activities such as kid’s yoga, kick boxing, story-telling, prenatal yoga, music classes and kids zumba.
The menu is a mix of healthy options and comfort food – for example quinoa salad for a good day and mozarella sticks or chocolate cake for when only a hit of carbs will get you through the day. Although the menu isn’t extensive, there’s plenty of choice on the main menu. The kid’s menu is, however, a bit thin – limited to burgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken strips etc. Fettucine Alfredo is the healthiest thing on the kid’s menu and there’s not a fruit or vegetable in sight. The pizza may be the delicious wood-fired type and the pasta home-made but the kid’s menu doesn’t quite live up to expectations. It would be nice to see the cafe offer some more innovative options for children but till then, you can always order off the main menu for your little ones like I did. One good initiative worth noting is that there are no fizzy drinks on the kids menu, with only juices and milkshakes on offer.
Another concern was that water from the splash area does make the floor and stairs slippery which is something that needs working on. There’s a cover charge of Rs450 to cover use of the play area so remember that’s over and above your bill. However, there’s no membership fee so you can drop in without committing to hefty membership fee. The cafe has attendants to help kids but there are clear notices explaining that parents are responsible for their own children which is fair enough. With not all the play areas visible from the cafe area, I can’t imagine leaving my child to roam unsupervised. The Owl’s Nest does allow attendants for children but you have to pay a cover charge of Rs350 which is meant to encourage mums to interact themselves with their children at the cafe. The Owl’s Nest is introducing a tagging system to ensure children leave only with the people they came in with but it’s not up and running as yet so that’s something to watch for.
The tagging fee will also help with the table turnover because the biggest problem they have at the moment is that children just don’t want to leave and so each table stays for hours on end. Although they’ve just opened, the cafe is becoming popular which will mean long queues unless they introduce a maximum stay time. As long as they ensure service is prompt, a two-hour stay time sounds fair enough.
Overall though I loved the concept and the attention to detail the owners have put into the cafe. The brilliant water play area alone will ensure that the cafe becomes an instant favourite with kids. As a parent, you can’t help but welcome a restaurant where children don’t have to sit still and where mums and dads can go with their children for a relaxed family meal. The play areas are well designed and everything we tasted off the menu was delicious. The space itself was bright, welcoming and beautifully quirky. It’s definitely somewhere to head with your little ones!