What?: We visited Purple Dragon’s Chelsea flagship in November and were very kindly invited back to try out the club’s smaller Putney venue just before Christmas. Having half expected it to simply be a pokier version of its ‘big sister’ branch, I was excited to discover that PDLB had its own distinctive look and feel, complete with minimalist decor that differs from the Chelsea club’s more playful look, unique features such as the beautiful two-storey Wendy house in the main play area (or ‘Imaginarium’), and a much more intimate vibe than its SW1W counterpart.
We began our tour with a latte and wander around the cafe while we chatted to the resident chef about the mind-boggling array of treats on offer, including breakfast pastries, brunches, lunches and homemade ice cream. Halfway through his flawless recital of the encyclopaedic menu I realised Bab had wandered off stage-right and had a minor heart attack. My tour guide sensed my panic and reassured me that it’s very hard to get lost at Purple Dragon thanks to the secure card-entry doors and the myriad ‘Play Buddies’ poised to entertain the tinies. I wondered if I could ever feel happy letting my nearly-two-year-old who at home refuses to be in a different room to me wander off while I catch up on some me time and decided that yes, yes I could.
After we’d finished our tour we were free to explore the club at our leisure, though I still felt the need to shadow Bab as she ran from room to room marvelling at their contents. PDLB might differ from its older sibling but it does share some similarities: both have state-of-the-art music, art and cookery studios; soft-play areas that are unusually clean, genuinely exciting and wonderfully non-awful; dedicated parental chill-out areas; immaculate ‘little ones’ and ‘big ones’ toilets; and, of course, armies of purple-shirted entertainment enablers who are all so nice and helpful its almost unnerving (but mostly just awesome).
What the Putney club lacks in square footage (and the small matter of the 14-metre swimming pool housed by its sibling), it makes up for with its calm and cosy feel. Everyone seems to know everyone else, most of the parents and carers are much friendlier than you’d typically get at your average stay-and-play, and the Play Buddies know every child by name. There are no harassed adults or tantrumming toddlers because no one is bored or tired. Instead they’re all just chilling out and doing their thing, whether that’s catching up on work in the cafe (adults), ‘shopping’ for groceries in the play-food shop (kids) or banging the shit out of an electric drum kit (adults and kids).
Bab’s ‘thing’ turned out to be running up and down the Wendy house steps six billion times, getting stuck in the soft-play nets and shouting “help me Babu” at me, and compulsively applying Pritt Stick to pieces of sugar paper but refusing to actually stick anything onto them. She did these three things on repeat for two full hours, after which I decided we were slightly taking the piss if we stayed any longer, even though I don’t think anyone would have particularly cared if we had (actually we were offered lunch on the house but I felt that the complimentary play session and two complimentary lattes was probably enough freeloading for one day).
So I reluctantly collected our belongings from the lovely shiny cloakroom, rounded up a tearful Bab who had just clocked the magazine library and absolutely did not want to leave under any circumstances ever, and sadly exited via the shiny sliding doors – buggy handle in one hand, complimentary latte in the other – as the cold December air rudely awakened us from our lovely, surreal, soft-play dream. And yes, I know I have a tendency to over-romanticise when I really like something but seriously, this place has absolutely ruined us.
Where?: Purple Dragon’s Little Brother is located at 131 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, and is a two-minute walk from Putney (mainline) and five from East Putney (District).
Best Bits: There is a lovely personal feel here; something you really don’t expect of a glossy London (albeit toddlers’) club.
Worst Bits: The woman on reception hadn’t got the memo about us coming for a free trial, which was slightly awkward.
Facilities: Step-free access, buggy parking, restaurant/cafe.
Cost: Membership packages start from £163 monthly for the whole family.
Would We Come Back?: I might consider buying a block of sessions if they opened a club in North West London, otherwise we’ll just have to wait until I write my bestseller and buy a house in Richmond.
Bab checks out the DJs & Divas room at Purple Dragon’s Little Brother, Putney.