Rainforest Cafe: Review

This weekend my Mum and I treated my eldest daughter to a big girls day in London. Darcie is 5 going on 15, so a show and lunch seemed fitting. I love London at this time of year and try and make a trip every Christmas time. The festive buzz, the lights, the window displays, random Christmas fairs- as an interloper from the sticks, what’s not to love?!


Rainforest Cafe

20 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7EU, Piccadilly Circus tube –  on the dark blue line!

I remember being taken here when I was little, and I have never forgotten it. So, off we toddled to see if the magic still existed 25 years later…

Rainforest Cafe has a great position right on on Sharftesbury Avenue, a stones throw from Piccadilly Circus. Leicester Square sits right behind it, and the famous Trocadero money pit is right next door: handy…!

What’s right with it:

  • The atmosphere. This place is jaw droppingly impressive. I have never been to a rainforest, but if I ever did, I’m pretty sure it would look just like this place. The walls and ceilings are alive with foliage and wildlife.

  • The animals. Meet the gang of actual sized Gorillas who come to life at random intervals, admire the huge elephants who twitch their ears, marvel at the massive Butterflies and Parrots suspended from the vines overhead, and if you really have your eyes peeled, you will spot a Cheetah catching some zzzz’s on a branch of a tree.

  • The waiting staff. This place runs like a well oiled machine, every member of staff seemed to know exactly what they are doing. We were asked if we had any allergies or if we were celebrating a birthday at the time of arrival. You are given a ‘passport’ with this info on it to pass over to your waiter. Our’s asked Darcie her name, and used it when speaking to her which was a really nice touch. It’s the first restaurant I have reviewed which has taken the trouble to do this. They were all super friendly and even the toddler projectile voming over his Dad and the floor didn’t phase them…
  • The Food. The children’s menu was a big thumbs up. There was plenty of choice, from pastas, burgers, and chicken, mostly with chips. Nothing ground breaking here, BUT it’s all stuff that kids tend to love. Rainforest’s Rascal Menu – £12.90 a main, desert & drink. OR upgrade to Total Kids Adventure Menu – £15.90. for an additional side and a super duper activity pack. We did this (I must have been feeling generous) But I must say the better activity pack was worth it. It came with stickers, a wallet, mask, puzzle book, pencil rubber ruler set and probably a few things I’ve forgotten about, all in a handy carry case.

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  • Adults Food: There was a wide rang of options, from Chinese noodles, to a huge rack of ribs, pastas, and burgers. It’s all clearly marked with allergy information. The food was pretty good, but its not the reason I would go back.
  • Entertainment. Apart from the obvious sights and sounds of the Rainforest, you are given a child menu with an activity sheet on the reverse. You can upgrade your child’s meal and have the Total Kids Adventure pack – as above.

  • Changing facilities & loos were spacious and I would have been happy to change my baby in there.
  • It’s FULL of kids. Every table has children, babies or toddlers on it.There were tantrums, squeals, laughter, stern “one more mouthful” and other go-to parenting phrases being banded about all over the place. Rest assured you can feel totally at ease here should your Treasure break into the mother of all tantrums. We are all in the club. We all understand.

What’s not so right

  • It’s FULL of kids. Tinder users take note: DO NOT go here on a first date. Or any date actually. Unless of course you want to be put off having a 2nd or 3rd date in fear of morphing into the 2.4 lifestyle sprawled out around you.
  • It’s pricey. I say this with slight trepidation; Considering it is London, and there is a real theatrical element attached to this dining experience I thought it was justifiable, as a one off. Our lunch for 3 was £75 without any booze.
  • You cannot book a table in advance from now until after Christmas without booking a trip to Santa’s Grotto as well, which is £45. It does include the standard 2 course children’s menu! As we didn’t visit I couldn’t say if this is good value for money or not.

Top tips!

  • Arrive early! If like us you haven’t booked in advance then arrive early. W arrived at 11.45, it doesn’t open until 12 noon, and were in a queue to be seated.
  • Watch out for the thunderstorm! It’s loud, and very realistic. Babies faces were a picture…
  • If it’s your birthday you will be given the royal treatment and invited to stand up on your chair while the restaurant serenade you!

Verdict

This is Child Friendly Dining at it’s peak. This place will capture even the biggest kid’s imagination and run a mile with it. It’s a must do – if you can. A definite treat, and if I’m anything to go by, the memory of your visit should last until your children have children. Now there’s a thought…

(Oh and here’s what went down later on that afternoon: Beverly Knight was on form, she is one fierce performer. Her standing ovation said it all.)

Growing down for a day

“You do know Muma is just a girl who grew up”
Imparting these words to Darcie has been somewhat of an eye opener for her.
“No you aren’t”, came her reply. Visibly shocked, face all screwed up- eyebrows almost at her hairline and I’m sure the words ‘Old Troll’ were dying to escape her.
It never occurred to me that in Darcie’s eyes I have been forever old.
Being ‘old’ is quite a tiring label really: responsibilities weigh heavy on my shoulders as the day to day task of keeping our girls alive mainly boils down to moi. Just keeping the peace between them is like a military operation and reasoning with an exhausted 5 year old post school is a real edge pusher. It’s enough to see me heading for a cheeky aperitif at 4pm.
But I am not just a Muma, I am a daughter and a sister too; sometimes it’s hard to juggle all of my hats, and not neglect those who were once the only ones I called family- long before the crazy world of parenthood took over the care free please yourself equilibrium.
Last week I escaped domestic bliss life, and went to London to spend some time with my sisters and my step Muma, before the eldest younger sister up sticks and emigrates to Hong Kong on a pretty impressive career path. We rarely get a chance to just have a conversation without a toddler hanging from one of us, usually upside down whilst making aeroplane noises. It’s hard enough to keep up with their 20-something lives, without having to performing some kind of aerobics while I try and grasp the bones of their latest promotion.

Swanky Swoo
The chance to ‘grow-down’ for a day was, frankly, bloody marvellous. To have a day when I have my sister / daughter hat on is a rare treat. We saw the incredible Sheridan Smith performing in Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre, if you are into your musicals then this one is a classic. We over indulged in a totally OTT afternoon tea, complete with pink champers (no Lidl prosecco for us that day…) at the fabulous Sketch, just off of Regents street. It was super swanky, no ball pit or foam rollers in sight: fish out of water here. We sat on the dusky pink velvet uber-cool non-sharpied-on sofas and chatted, with no interruptions. Well, apart from the rather delicious waiter offering free replenishment’s of sandwiches, cakes and scones… I could get used to this: If it hadn’t cost my entire weeks shopping allowance.

Boys Boys Boys…

I made a pretty huge realisation whilst gallivanting about London. And no, it’s not a corny and cheesy family epiphany at all. Quite the opposite: it’s more a gritty, FE-MALE realisation…

We sat down for a quick coffee before the day’s proceedings got going. Conversation was happening but my eyes were darting all over the place, then it dawned on me why;
I was getting redder and redder by the second as I realised this was the first time in years that I had seen so many men in one room. It hadn’t ever really occurred to me before now, that my life is so female heavy!
Christ, Men still exist!

I was seeing men, blokes, guys, MALES all around us. (Sadly I don’t mean we were a honey pot for these suited and booted boys, we just so happened to be near the counter and so as position would have it, we were, in fact; Surrounded!)
Apart from the odd Dad in the playground and of course, my Hubster… I live in ‘girl domination’!
We have 2 girls, their friends are all girls, I socialise with other Mumas.
I don’t go out to work so really do not have any contact with the Male of the species anymore. It has taken me 5 years to realise this, so clearly I don’t feel there is a huge empty testosterone shaped hole in my life. It’s just strange that after years of working alongside men, in male dominated offices, I really have very little to do with half of the country’s population!
As suit after suit wandered in for their caffeine fix, little did they know this Muma was getting a little fix all of her own…
Ok, I’ll get off of my smutty, pheromone high horse, back to business: The Famalam.

I guess what I’m trying to say is if you are lucky enough to be a sister or a daughter, and you actually enjoy their company, then go hang out with your original tribe: Grow down for a day, shed the responsibility of your rug rats and belly laugh with your circle.
It’s oh so good for the soul.

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