January 20, 2012 13:22
| Children and Kids
Right before the December school holidays, I had the decadent good fortune of being invited for a return visit to Purple Dragon in Chelsea to meet with the visionary entrepreneur and super-mum, Shari Meyers. Shari is the creator and hands-on owner of Purple Dragon, London’s first and only proper family club.
Unlike family clubs that exist in every other capital city, Purple Dragon has everything. Five hours flew by so quickly I completely forgot about picking up my oldest from school (oh the shame)! I can report since its opening, like all good things, Purple Dragon has only improved with age.
Located just inside the Brahma development at the foot of Chelsea Bridge, near the junction of Grosvenor Road and Royal Hospital Road, Purple Dragon is a mecca for all things fun.
Over lunch, Shari and I had a long, productive chat about the merits of having Purple Dragon to compliment city life.
For those of us committed to the convenience of Central London, but not in a position to afford expansive gardens and square footage, Purple Dragon is the answer. You have your maid, your pool, your babysitter, your gourmet chef, nutritionist, governess all working for you and your kids from the base price of £11 a day.
What does £11 a day get you exactly?
The club boasts a fabulously warm pool complete with splash pads, fountains and loads of fantastic floatation equipment and swimming lanes. Once children have earned their swimming badge from the club, they can swim on their own. Until then, the family-friendly changing rooms have it all. Swimming nappies, organic shampoo, luxury towels and large beach huts for everyone to change inside.
After your swim, kids and adults both have lots of options.
Adults can grab an iPad and a latte; play on the virtual golf range, have a meeting, drink a martini, play table fooyball, eat a meal or book a manicure or pedicure.
Kids though, literally have an infinite choice.
There is the mega-climbing frame complete with ball pits and trampolines; the kitchen room, where staff help the kids make all kinds of goodies from scratch. There is the multi-media room where children are aided in paints, crafting, gluing, sticking, jewellery making, digital design and video movie making. There is the music room where children can play with an array of quality instruments from piano, guitars, drums … you learn it, play it and record it. Purple Dragon facilitates tuition not only for music, but languages, swimming lessons and homework help (food, tuition and lessons are additional fees).
Then there is the heart of Purple Dragon, The Imaginarium; an expansive, sunlit room, with sumptuous, low-level (perfect for cruisers and toddlers to mums and granddads) sofas, chairs and coffee tables.
My three year old stayed here for hours playing in this room bursting with fabulous toys, and not just the stock items from chain stores either. The Top Ten list includes electric racing track, a ball pit, model volcano, 3D dinosaur, dressing up clothes, home corner, towering model fire houses, loads of trains, Lego, multi-story doll houses, spaceship control panel … the list goes on and on. The near-by loos are stocked with nappies and wipes, and there is always an attentive staff member only footsteps away.
In addition to being treated to a morning of endless play, I enjoyed lunch from a menu like no other.
Having been up much the night before with my son in the A and E for asthma, I was not even slightly interested in typical family fare of fat-laden, sugar-coated food. I did a complete 180 when I saw the menu.
My goodness: baked salmon goujons, Ginger Pig sausages for the kids; super foods such as salads of raw cabbage, roasted carrots and sweet potatoes with cranberries for adults. There was seared tuna, rare roast beef, salmon filets and lots more. I will be writing more about the menu in part two.
Throughout our meal, Shari Meyers effortlessly engaged simultaneously with her toddler, her manager, her staff, her clients and graciously hosted my friend Janis, myself and our three children. I worked in the service industry for years and I have yet to come across more difficult clientele than two year olds; Shari handled her clients with lavish attention and patience.
What was truly exceptional about Shari, was watching her work, play and mother all at the same time with equal parts focus and enjoyment. Shari Meyers sets that gold standard for this mumprenuer who is routinely spotted at family-friendly venues begging her children, to no avail, for silence so that she can Tweet.
What’s more, Shari’s goal with Purple Dragon was not just about providing hospitality for children, it’s about enjoyment for young and old alike. The idea is that the club should be enjoyable for anyone from 0-100; you can come along with small children, or leave the kids and bring guests for a fabulous meal, Purple Dragon is just a fantastic place to be.
As I was describing a conundrum I was having deciding how to entertain my husband’s visiting bachelor cousin, his childless friend, their mutual friends with a child a year older than ours; our limited space, our limited entertaining options, Shari welcomed us back again to Purple Dragon.
We are off tomorrow with two child-free adults to put Purple Dragon to the real test and scrutinise the kitchens offering more carefully. How much fun will a lawyer have with two seriously silly kids and one demanding three year old? I will come back at the end of January with Part II
Laura Vogel is a local mum of two and runs London-baby.com, a local parent's guide to free and affordable activities for babies, toddlers and young children in London.