What?: I won a day pass to a Maggie & Rose club of my choice at the end of last summer. Well, I say won – I was literally the only person who entered the competition so they kind of had to give it to me. We’d just been to their Islington summer pop-up, which was set up to promote the new club that was opening there in September (or so they said), so I decided to wait for that rather than trekking to M&R’s Kensington or Chiswick clubs. Anyway, September came round and I heard from a friend who’d signed up that they wouldn’t be opening until December, and then by December they were talking about February. Finally it opened properly at the beginning of March, so we headed down there with said friend and our copious children to catch it while it was still looking fresh.
Predictably the second we got there I was informed by the mega snarky receptionist that my pass – which was marked September-December – was no longer valid, despite the fact that I’d ok-ed it via email beforehand and despite the fact that it was literally opening week and we couldn’t possibly have visited any earlier. Then when I was like “oh sorry I didn’t realise I was meant to use the pass when you were still building the club” I was asked if I’d like a “quick tour” instead, which like… no, no I wouldn’t. Anyway, we were let in in the end and I just sort of went along with being made to feel like I was really lucky for being granted entry to Maggie & Rose’s hallowed halls when really I just kind of wanted to tell her to shove it up her bum.
So, real talk – and I’ve said this a million times before – family members’ clubs make me uncomfortable. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re wonderful places if you have the money. But that’s kind of my issue. Not because I’m bitter that we don’t have the money because, to be honest, if we jacked in the daily excursions in favour of joining one of these clubs it probably wouldn’t work out any more expensive. It’s just the elitism I really can’t stand. Exclusivity irks me. And sure, we’ve hung out at Purple Dragon a few times and been to a couple of Maggie & Rose pop-ups and it’s always a really nice, easy-parenting day, but I’ve always felt horribly awkward at the same time. It’s my problem, I know, but I’m sure I’m not alone.
That said, Maggie & Rose feels rather more accessible than its rival, the mega-exclusive Purple Dragon where the nannies wear Chanel and all-access fees cost in excess of £4,000. M&R costs less than half that, although admittedly you get a bit less for your money. For example, unlike at PD where you can wander off and leave the kids under the watch of one of the super-enthusiastic ‘Play Buddies’, so long as you stay on site, parents and carers take full responsibility for their charges at M&R. There is a ringside adults-only room with a picture-window view of the soft play and some pretty cool artwork, but you’ll need to bring another responsible adult with you if you want to use it. Unlike PD there’s no swimming pool here, and no ‘Imaginarium’ either, but it does have a cinema room, a pneumatic ball room and its own nursery, so I guess it depends what you’re looking for.
And if we’re still comparing the two then I have to say I kind of prefer M&R’s soft-play situation, which feels spacious and exciting with its various tree houses, bridges and tunnels to clamber through, yet relaxing thanks to its muted colour scheme and spongy mattress floor… although I do have beef with the steps leading up to it that made watching two (and at one point four when my friend went to the loo) small kids who kept disappearing in different directions impossibly stressful and felt like such a glaring design flaw in a space intended for young children. Anyway, we basically spent our entire visit hanging out here and in the adjoining cafe (whose menu looks insane but we only ate cake) and cinema room, but M&R also runs some fun-looking classes for a variety of age groups in its suite of learning rooms, with subjects including art and crafts, music, cooking and ‘movement’. And I have it on good authority that they’re all pretty good, so there.
Where?: Maggie & Rose Islington Square can be found on Esther Anne Place, N1, and is a 10-minute walk from both Essex Road and Angel stations.
Best Bits: For us it was the soft play – minus the steps issue.
Worst Bits: The rude receptionist really put me off this place.
Facilities: Membership grants you access to the club’s restaurant with adjoining soft play, smaller play areas and cinema room, as well as a weekly timetable of music, art and sports activities in its state-of-the-art studio rooms.
Would We Come Back?: If we were super-local it might be tempting to join, but we’re not so it’s unlikely.
Ro discovers the soft play at Maggie & Rose Family Club, Islington Square