One night just recently my boyfriend went out with his mates and promised he wasn’t going to have a ‘big one’ and that he’d be home before midnight. Then, when I didn’t hear a word from him after he stepped out the door at 8.30pm, he stumbled into the house at 4am smelling of beer and souvlaki. I was furious and I made him sleep on the couch. Then, like any real girlfriend, I made him get up at 7am and go out to judge a breakfast an hour from home. He was of course an absolute delight to be around, so it was always going to be a challenge not to kick him out of a moving vehicle and into the Yarra on the way through. The thought of doing that made me laugh, so I chose a place perfectly suited for the occasion - Happy River Cafe.

Luckily for me, Happy River Cafe is also the place every single parent in the Northern suburbs takes their child under two years of age to let them run riot, which delighted me immensely and disgruntled the boyfriend even further, who ordered a coffee (which I sneakily ran inside and asked the waitress to change to a decaf) and grumbled something about it being too bright in the shade.

The great thing is that Happy River uniquely sprawls outwards into a kind of kiddie play yard complete with play mats, toys, and oversized building blocks designed to encourage climbing and minor bone fracturing. This design meant that we sat no more than a few meters from a busload of toddlers and hardly heard a thing. In hindsight I guess I should have checked to see if they were mute or something. Irrespective, it means that although Happy River isn’t really designed for single, professional, 30-somethings, they could find themselves there and not be overwhelmed by small people learning how to use their entire lung capacity at the breakfast table. It was actually quite delightful.

After deciphering their truly complex menu layout and realising there was no French toast, I took one for the Judgement team and ordered pancakes with a side of berries. I spent the next 15 minutes marvelling at the awesome kiddie menu this place has to offer, with stuff like Nutella Fairy Bread and Little Boys with Sauce (I report this to see how many childhood nutritionists can collapse at once around the country).

While we were waiting for our meals someone complained about not receiving their soy latte, and I wondered if that was intentional seeing as no one could possibly really like soy, they just like it because it’s a bit groovy, like slap bands and hypocolour t-shirts were in the 80s. I loved slap bands. I also loved Pop Tops until one day my brother convinced me to set a Pop Top off on my face.  For those of you who are younger than 25 and older than 35, a Pop Top in the 80s was kind of like a plastic cup that you could flip one way and eventually the pressure would build up and it’d unflip with gusto in the other direction, launching into the air and providing hours of fun. If you can’t envisage it think of a diaphragm with attitude. Got it? Great. Let me continue…

The pancakes at Happy River, like most of the clientele and furniture, were in miniature. They were pretty much pikelets. And they were great, although a touch dry. Luckily the berry compote that came with it was ace and served on the side, meaning that I was able to make my pancakes as soggy as I liked, but on my terms. I felt empowered. The presentation was so sweet too. It was kind of like I was eating a kiddie drawing.

For those who are after a more ‘grown up’ dish, I also ate most of The Boyfriend’s eggs Benedict, and that was pretty grouse. I don’t really even like Benedict, but ate it out of spite and rather enjoyed it.

All in all, Happy River Cafe is a sweet little find, with sweet food and sweet service and sweet furniture and a sweet ambiance. Now I feel like some honeycomb.

Kids love red.

Birds love Happy River Cafe too!

Robyn Box

About Robyn Box

I’m Robyn – a typical 30-something Melbournian. Most of my time is taken up being a Government office drone and an apathetic TV watcher, but occasionally I break out of the excitement of everyday life to dress my cat up in humiliating costumes, buy my niece and nephews expensive gifts in the hopes they pin me as ‘best Aunty’, wear amazing shoes that render me cripple within 60 minutes and eat foods that will no doubt bring on early cardiac arrest. Then occasionally I write about it. Find me on Twitter


  1. Nic

    Why is it bad for boyfriends to go out get drunk and come home late? I don’t get it. Mine does it every now and again and I don’t care.