Restaurant Review | Cave Forest

While plunging into the jungle that is the Cave Forest, we find out that it's not just for kids.. 

If the kids are being little monkeys in the seemingly endless summer holidays, I have a solution. Recently an eatery targeted at children opened on the ground floor of Baystreet and, to entertain French Friend’s sister – and more importantly, her six-year-old daughter Chloé – we decided, after mooching around the shops for the morning, that we would give Cave Forest a try. Arriving one cloudy lunchtime, we discovered that behind the giant animated elephant (sorry, I didn’t notice if it was of the African or Indian variety) there were a couple of tables, but we were the only people there with legitimate rights of entry, in the form of Chloé. We ‘grown ups’ were distracted by the waterfall – not in a good way, we were like an Olympic relay team going to the ladies on the other side of the complex. 

The walls are disguised as tree roots and you do want to go and touch them… or maybe that’s just me being a closet tree hugger. There is, like most real forests/woods/jungles a lack of animals which, when we raised the topic with bouncy waitress, were assured that these were being imported (stuffed ones, you understand, and not in the culinary sense with pistachios, herbs, and so on). Right after this animal-led observation, the lights went out. French friend and I were unsurprised though embarrassed, thinking it was another random power cut, so we carried on chatting while our visitors looked slightly stunned; a look which spread to us ‘locals’ when the clash of thunder and a melange of animal noises filled the air for a couple of minutes before the lights went back on. This happens with regularity, and we chuckled like children every time, though Chloé was taking it all very seriously while identifying the animals.

The menu offers themed dishes such as a cave meat mixed grill (€16.95 including grilled Ribeye steak, Pork loin, BBQ chicken wings, pork sausages, bacon and grilled tomato), or how about the Jungle Burger? A pure beef burger topped up with pork sausages, bacon, egg and melted cheddar cheese on a toasted bun (€8.25). Between us wehad a series of burgers and ahumungous chicken salad (€8.25) and I was finally able to order a pizza, which I had been craving for days. Once we had ordered,Chloé was introduced to the play room which is filled with colourful ladders, balls, foam tubes, nets and slides; allowing her to play human snakes and ladders while the ‘grown ups’ sampled a bottle of Leaping Leopard white. We chose it because of the name – well, we had to, didn’t we? It was quite good and suited our food choices.

Halfway through the bottle and a couple of thunderstorms later, the food arrived. Chloé was joined by some other children and they just played away the time in full view of the international parents and a strategic decision was taken to ask one of the staff to escort her from the playroom to the table. She would of course normally say no to strangers, but in this scenario, she would have said no to her mother, she was having so much fun in there.  Back at table she had a burger, which like all the kids menu items was just €4.95 (including a toy – an inflatable Sponge Bob square pants in this case). We were entertained by the toy for a few minutes and she for the rest of the afternoon – she even took him into the playroom as soon as she politely excused herself from the table post-burger.

French Friend had a huge cheeseburger with hand cut chunky fries (€6.95); a portion large enough for a big man. The fries were swallowed up by a mound of mayo (she is French after all), and the burger proved to be too big a challenge. Her sister ate a regular burger (€6.50) which was still huge but had no cheese, and my Napolitana pizza (€6.50) overlapped the plate and was packed full of toppings – though it had a light fluffy base the cheese was deep enough to drown the anchovies in and I couldn’t quite tear through it with my hands and didn’t even manage to finish half of it – I would have asked for a doggy bag, but with the beach as next stop, thought better of it. What I did manage satisfied the week-long craving though.

Maybe the brain drain associated with concentrating on a foreign language made me suggest dessert, but I was not discouraged. We ended up having strawberry cheesecake, banoffee pie and a chocolate slab. Again, all massive portions which just defeated us. I know size matters, but things can be just too big you know.

Overall we had fun, and while it may not be a gourmet experience, the good customer service and stress free entertainment factor for kids means I know where to point friends with small people in tow to or where to go when I am on ‘Special Auntie’ duty. You of course don’t have to take my word for it – here’s what Chloé had to say about the experience:

“I liked the game room. My burger and my fries were very good, and I was even given fries that were smiling at me. There was a very big and smiley elephant and I wanted to sit next to it but mum and auntie Steph said no because they did not want to sit under the butt and at some point there was a storm and a lot of noise and the animals in the jungle started to make a lot of noise, but I was not even scared! Mum and Monique were scared, I don’t know about Auntie Steph because she was in the bathroom. But I had to tell Mum and Monique that they were not real animals!

One of the waitresses came to play with me in the playroom and she was very nice. The door of the playroom was glass so it was good because I could see Mum all the time and she could see me. I would have liked to see more animals and they should hide the kitchen entrance, because I could see it from our table and it does not look like a jungle when you see a kitchen. They should put more trees in the restaurant.

At the end of the meal, I was given Bob the Sponge, really cool! I also got to keep my plastic cup as a souvenir.”

You see, restaurant reviews are child’s play.

 

Cave Forest

Lower Level, Baystreet, St Julians

Open Mondays to Sundays from lunch till late.

Tel. 21360011

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