From scouring the menu for something they’ll eat to checking there’s a highchair and then expecting them to sit in it for more than a minute, eating out with children isn’t always the most relaxing of experiences. Thankfully there are plenty of family-friendly places to eat in York where things are more likely to be stacked in your favour, and The Balloon Tree, just outside Stamford Bridge, is one of the best. We’ve been many times over the years, for exactly that reason, and we found ourselves there again this summer after a stint of strawberry picking in the PYO fields. It was lunchtime, so it made sense to take a table and see whether it still ticks the family-friendly boxes.
Our kids asked if we could have an outdoor table, which translates as “Can we run around in the play area the entire time, popping back occasionally for a bite of toastie?”. The answer, of course, was yes because that’s the deal here: we get something nice to eat while they enjoy themselves. It was a hot day so we were lucky to get a nice table under a shady tree, and there were other families who looked happy with their covered seating too. There are plenty of tables outside, and lots inside too: the cafe itself is a bright, light and airy place to spend some time whatever the season.
Despite the temptation of the play area – free to use for all cafe customers – we did get the kids to eat something. The children’s menu is small but perfectly formed; in fact, we even had a hand in creating it with the team at The Balloon Tree and you’ll see them proudly displaying the Little Vikings logo. There are small portions of soup, chicken goujons with homemade chips, mini all-day breakfasts and the ever-reliable plain ham or plain cheese sandwiches.
Hungry from fruit picking, our girls went rogue and chose a plain cheese toastie from the adult menu, served with crisps (that they devoured) and a side salad (that they donated to the grown-ups). (N)ever the adventurous eaters, they’ve had a lot of cheese toasties over the years but they declared this one one of the best.
Maybe it was the fact that it was proper bread and good strong cheddar, or maybe it’s because they were eating it in the sunshine – who knows? Regardless, it was good enough to have them running back and forwards from the slide and massive tractor to gobble it up, along with warnings of what would happen if we dared to take a bite ourselves.
There was a lot of temptation on the adult menu, from quiche of the day to seasonal salads, but the heat had taken the edge off our appetite, so we just had a scone and some toasted cinnamon fruit loaf and they were lovely. For a genuinely relaxing place to eat and drink with children near York, The Balloon Tree really does hit the spot: it’s warm and welcoming, has plenty for them to do and serves good home cooked food. No wonder they keep winning Little Vikings Awards – as voted for by our followers – year after year.
The Balloon Tree – Good to know
- – The Balloon Tree, Stamford Bridge Rd, Gate Helmsley, York YO41 1NB
- – Admission is free
- – Toilets with baby changing
- – Play area with slides, tractor, wendy house and more
- – Farm shop
- – Pick your own fruit/veg (seasonal opening)
- – Christmas trees (seasonal)