• high chairs for Dining Hall;
  • change facilities in centre;
  • kid-friendly standard menu; and
  • pram access.

I used to work in the CBD and always had new places that  I wanted to try for lunch. But now with a baby in tow my needs are completely different – even without a pram it’s no longer as easy for us to fit into a cool laneway spot, perched on milk crates and balancing food on tiny wobbly tables.

So when I was heading into the city for Baby Bounce I asked Twitter for suggestions as to where I could have lunch with NKOTB near the State Library. Little Eats and EatShopPlayMelb both suggested Plantation, a cafe in Melbourne Central.

I admit that I’m a snob when it comes to food courts – I think it’s because I grew up in the suburbs of Brisbane and ate unimpressive food in food courts all the time. They are not normally my first choice of dining venue but Dining Hall at Melbourne Central tries to take a more upmarket approach to the food vendors (though McDonalds is there for those who want it) and I was sold by the fact that they provided high chairs, meaning I wouldn’t have to bring my own.

As befits a cafe that’s part of the St Ali empire, Plantation takes its coffee very seriously, providing pour over and syphon coffee as well as specialty beans. Since I’m not a coffee drinker I can’t attest to the quality of their coffee but I was impressed with the simple lunch that I had and most notably the excellent service I encountered.

You’d be surprised how many cafes do not offer to help you carry trays, pour water or move furniture even when you’re clearly trying to manage a child as well. I don’t think staff deliberately ignore you – it’s just not on their radar to help. So any small gesture of helpfulness is noted and greatly appreciated when I come across it.

I ordered my chicken and avocado baguette ($8.50) and on the waitress’ recommendation, the gluten-free nut slice ($4.50) at the counter. She loaded the items onto a tray and I could tell that I was expected to carry the tray, my nappy bag, wear NKOTB in the Ergobaby carrier while also dragging a high chair to a table. As I mentally organised a plan of attack, another staff member stepped in to ask whether he could help. He carried the tray, then the high chair and even asked whether I needed any help getting NKOTB in the high chair (and out of the chair when she started screaming). I was so grateful for his attentiveness.

The food itself was pretty good – a chewy, rather than crusty, baguette filled with fresh ingredients. NKOTB approved of it once she settled down :–) The nut slice was delicious – sort of a loose, crumbly, nutty Rice Crispie treat drizzled with white chocolate on top.

I will definitely be back to Plantation and Melbourne Central’s Melbourne Central on our next city visit. A tip if you have kids – sit at a table in the back corner by the window as it’s quiet, bright and the kids can look outside rather than get distracted by the people and bright lights of the shopping centre.

Plantation, Dining Hall, Level 2 Shop 253 Melbourne Central, corner LaTrobe and Swanston Streets, Melbourne

Mon to Wed 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Thu 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Fri 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sat to Sun 10:00 am – 6:00 pm


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