What?: Soft play in a pub. But we’re not talking Wacky Warehouse here. Jam Circus might sound, as a friend suggested, “vaguely menstrual”, but this Brockley favourite is rather more welcome than a visit from Aunt Flo (although really how many things are less welcome?), offering quirky decor, a tempting brunch menu and helpful, friendly staff.
As a result of this winning formula – and the baffling scarcity of pub soft-play sessions in London – Jam Circus’s Friday lunchtime beer-and-ball-pool session is crazy-popular and by midday you might find it a bit of a struggle to find a table for brunch or even a space to park your bum in the little side-room where all the squashy things are set up. With that in mind you’d be wise to get here when it opens and order before everyone else; we succeeded on the first count but failed on the second and ended up having to cancel our order because there was literally one cook dealing with about 30 brunch orders and I didn’t need avocado and toast badly enough to wait all day for it.
Slow service and crowds aside though, I really liked this place. The Bloody Marys are killer, the decor is brilliantly weird and the soft play, while small, was interesting enough to keep Bab entertained for the duration – and we stayed for a good two hours. I would be mindful of the fact that, although babies outnumbered older toddlers by quite some way, very little ones could quite easily get very squashed given the compactness of the space and the popularity of the ball pool. I’d also bear in mind that the soft-play room isn’t isolated from the rest of the pub, so you still need to keep a close eye on toddlers to ensure they don’t waddle off down the steps and out into the road (basically plopping them in the playroom then going off and getting pissed in a corner probably isn’t advisable).
Where and When?: The soft play room is set up on Fridays from 11am to 2.30pm. Jam Circus is located at 330-332 Brockley Road and is a one-minute walk from Crofton Park (mainline) station and 14 from Brockley (Overground).
Best Bits: Such a great concept and in a really nice venue. The staff were brilliant and contacted me a few days later to reunite me with my purse, which I lost while I was there (most likely because Bab buried it in one of their sofas).
Worst Bits: When we visited it was incredibly busy and the service was painfully slow (though I got the impression they were missing staff that day).
Facilities: Baby changing, buggy parking, loads of high chairs.
Cost: Free but you might want to at least buy a coffee or something so you don’t feel like you’re completely taking the piss.
Would We Come Back?: If we lived nearer we absolutely would.
Bab does laps of Jam Circus, Brockley