This is not a cafe...

…it’s an experience your kids won’t forget. Dress like mermaids or unicorns and dine like your kid’s favourite movie characters at these themed eateries around the region. By SASHA GONZALES

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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Hello Kitty Grand Cafe, California

Located within the Irvine Spectrum Center, in the suburb of Irvine in southern California, this permanent fast-casual cafe offers sweet and savoury treats inspired by the beloved Sanrio character.

The unique, cute-sophisticated space features kawaii Hello Kitty icons and one-of-a-kind artworks created just for this location.

Specialties include sugar cookies, made-to-order mini hot doughnuts – cinnamon sugar, matcha and cookies n’ cream flavours – and a pick-your-own four-piece set of Sanrio character mini cakes. Grab and go or get a table – the cafe seats up to 12.

The cafe also houses The Bow Room (pictured top left), a separate pink oasis where you can admire the Hello Kitty-branded fixtures and enjoy afternoon tea. Tip: the room is hidden but look out for the bow-shaped knocker.

During the afternoon tea service, tuck into tea sandwiches (egg salad, cucumber and smoked salmon), tarts, buttermilk scones, mini cupcakes, macarons and more, served with honey, strawberry jam and whipped butter. The reservation-only service is available from Wednesdays to Sundays.


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Teddy Story, Toronto

You’ll find a charming little cafe at the back of this teddy bear store, which lets you customise your own teddy bear, even choosing its outfit and accessories.

The Canadian cafe is better known for its hot and cold drinks, the most unusual being the dreamy rose latte, strawberry shortcake cappuccino, toasted marshmallow mocha, red bean tea, sakura white peach slush, and dirty milk (brown sugar milk with tapioca). There are also fruit smoothies.

Some of the hot drinks feature teddy bear latte art. While enjoying their beverage with a slice of cake or a cookie, your kids can cuddle up to one of the many plush bears around.


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Unicorn Kafe, Hanoi

The founders opened this cosy cafe in Vietnam because they were inspired by their daughter’s love of the mythical creature.

And it’s everything you’d expect a unicorn-themed cafe to be: cute, bright and cheery, with lots of glitter, rainbows and candy hues.

The drinks and desserts are equally colourful. On the menu, you’ll find hot and cold beverages like slushies, milkshakes, hot chocolate, fruit tea and bubble tea, and sweet treats like rainbow cake, cookies, cupcakes and cake pops.

But this place goes one step further and even lets you dress like a unicorn – just choose from its range of unicorn onesies. Zip yourself and the kids into these and have fun taking wefies.

If that’s not enough, check out its shop selling unicorn-themed merchandise such as stickers, necklaces, plush toys, headbands, cups and pens. If you’re celebrating a birthday or special event, the owners can also organise a package for you.


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Charlie Brown Cafe, Hong Kong

If you’re a Peanuts fan, you’ll love checking out this cafe in Tsim Sha Tsui, which has Charlie Brown and Snoopy murals on the walls, oversized Peanuts comic strips, plush toys, and life-sized fi gurines of popular Peanuts characters.

The food, all MSG-free, is guaranteed to please kids of all ages – there are burgers, sandwiches, pasta dishes, hot dogs, chicken wings, hot cakes, French toast, as well as all-day breakfast sets loaded with bacon, sausages, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms and waffl es.

Be sure to pick up a Peanuts-themed toy or souvenir from the retail area before you leave.


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Rainforest Cafe, London

Located in the heart of the West End, this cafe was designed to resemble the Amazon jungle – think lush green canopy, trumpeting elephants, giant birds and butterflies, a snapping crocodile, chattering gorillas, exotic fish, tropical showers, and real running waterfalls.

Everything is brought to life with the aid of stunning special effects and animatronics, so your little ones can interact with the animals as well as experience the sights and sounds of the rainforest.

The menu is extensive, with American, Tex-Mex and Italian dishes like lava nachos, Raging Thunder chicken wings (spicy buffalo-style chicken wings), Rasta pasta (pappardelle pasta with green pesto and veggies), jungle steak Sandwich, and explorer’s ossobuco (slow-cooked beef shank stew).

The Total Kids Adventure Menu includes a kids’ main, a kids’ dessert, a soft drink and a Rainforest Cafe activity pack.

To cap off the meal, stop by the South American bazaar-style retail store. There, you will find rainforest-themed toys, clothes and games.


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DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe, Kuala Lumpur

Treat your little ones to a meal at this venue, which is inspired by Batman, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, and a slew of other Justice League superheroes (and villains).

Located at the Pavilion shopping mall, the cafe is right on the money when it comes to the furniture and decor. The artwork, tableware, glasses, tables and chairs are all designed to fit the theme, and even the menus look like comics.

The cafe offers plenty of fast food-style options, like hot dogs, burgers with fries, pizza and fried chicken. There are also pasta and rice dishes and breakfast items. If your child doesn’t have a superhero-sized appetite, he can always order something from the kids’ menu.

Keen on dessert? Choose from pancakes, cakes, and waffles or crepes with ice-cream.


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Alice Is Coming, Taipei

This charming little cafe in Taiwan is based on the classic fairy tale, Alice in Wonderland. When you first enter, you have to make your way down a “rabbit hole”.

As you descend the steps, you’ll hear songs from the Alice in Wonderland movie soundtrack playing from the speakers.

Inside, you’ll notice decorative elements, like playing cards, character-themed artwork, and oversized teacups and cutlery, that will make you feel like you’re part of the book.

Choose from booth or table seating; if you prefer, you can even sit in the oversized teacup that sits prominently in the centre of the cafe.

The menu is made up of standard cafe fare: omelets, chicken nuggets, pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, cupcakes and French toast.


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9¾ Cafe, Hong Kong

Make your way to this cafe in Mong Kok for all things Harry Potter.

Named after the hidden Hogwarts Express train platform from the books, the eatery is decked out to look completely magical, even ghoulish, with portraits of witches and wizards, strategically placed stuffed owls and skulls, wall-mounted brooms and wands, towering bookshelves with ladders, and hanging electric candles. You may feel as if you’re in a haunted mansion.

Some menu items are Harry Potter-themed. For something light, order Aragog’s Salad, named after the massive spider from the book and loaded with prawns and veggies.

The cafe also serves fried snacks, such as onion rings and fries topped with ham and cheese. For a heartier meal, try the pasta or risotto, or the Hogwart’s Feast, an all-day-breakfast item with bacon and eggs.

Of course, to wash all that food down, you can choose from a variety of beverages, like Harry Potter’s favourite Butterbeer (butterscotch-flavored soda topped with whipped cream) and Veritaserum, a neon-green concoction of apple soda and yogurt, served in a light-bulb “glass”.


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Peter Rabbit Garden Cafe, Tokyo

Young fans of author Beatrix Potter’s rebellious rabbit will adore this character-themed dining venue.

Designed to resemble a quaint cottage, complete with a garden, the interior transports you to the English countryside. Paintings and drawings of Peter Rabbit and his friends adorn the walls, and you’ll also notice cabinets full of memorabilia from the classic children’s tale, including plush toys, cups and stationery.

Most of the dishes are named after characters from the book: There’s Benjamin Bunny’s Wool Hat (baked rice with veggies and a burger patty, topped with cheese); Tom’s Milky French Toast; Peter Rabbit’s Scone with Milky Cream and Jam; and Ribby’s Cottage Pie.

The menu also features desserts, spaghetti with sauce, beef stew, and the very fitting “British” omurice (Japanese omelet rice) with roast beef.


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Mermaid Castle Cafe, Bangkok

This cafe will bring your children’s underwater dreams to life. For starters, the four-storey building in which it’s located is dedicated to mermaid-themed products.

Browse the first three floors for swimsuits, sleepwear and accessories – coral and seashell “crown”, anyone? – before heading to the top floor, where the small cafe is.

Here, you’ll find mermaid murals on the pink and purple walls and even more mermaid paraphernalia. Don’t forget to slip on your mermaid’s tail (provided by the cafe) before taking your seat.

The cafe serves mostly sweets. Check out the glass cases filled with colourful cakes and a dish called the Mermaid’s Shell, made from two thick cookies sandwiched together with cream to resemble a clamshell. The menu has waffles, shake-like drinks and hot drinks, as well.


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Gudetama Cafe, Osaka

This eatery is dedicated to the lovable Sanrio character, a lazy and unmotivated egg that always looks miserable.

Located at the Hep Five shopping mall, which is a short walk from the Umeda train station, the cafe has Gudetama plush toys and pictures of the character just about everywhere.

The menu is quite extensive – savoury dishes include pasta, Japanese curry, rice bowls and onigiri – and the food is presented to resemble Gudetama: think eggs with the character’s eyes and mouth piped onto the yolks, and yellow rice shaped like Gudetama himself. Even the drinks and desserts get the whimsical treatment.

If your kids are fans of Gudetama, they may also want to pick up some merchandise from the cafe. The retail section has a good range of T-shirts, plush toys, magnets and bags.