What?: Ever seen Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s crochet playgrounds? They’re a sight to behold. Enormous, hand-knitted, rainbow-coloured, hammocky playscapes across which children can climb, jump, hang or just have a nice lie down. Sadly they’re all in Japan, but Windsor’s The Jelly Lounge boasts a pretty good imitation in the shape of a highlighter-hued crochet tree that forms part of its exceptionally beautiful soft-play area and in this, the land of aesthetically challenged children’s spaces, that’s good enough for me.
Opened in late-2017, The Jelly Lounge styles itself as a “family club” since if you’re local you can join and save money, but you can just as easily treat it as any other drop-in play cafe – albeit one with a much bigger, better play area than most. If you’ve been reading my infant hangout-themed ramblings for a while you’ll know that I can’t abide an ugly soft play centre, but if it’s tastefully appointed with a muted colour palette, clean lines and the odd kitschy add-on I’ll gladly climb aboard (although in this case that was probably fairly ill-advised since an hour of crawling at speed after my 19 month old almost killed me and I completely battered my limbs on the helter-skelter).
The Jelly Lounge also manages to bridge the usually gaping chasm between being small toddler-friendly and interesting enough to hold a bigger kid’s attention, but if you have any really little ones then there’s a toy-stuffed ‘baby lounge’ just behind the soft play.
Actually the whole layout here is pretty ingenious. Entry is through the cafe space, where you can place your food and drink order before either chilling on a big yellow armchair or making your way through to the enclosed back space, which houses the soft play, baby lounge and studio rooms. Bench seating and tables stretch across the length of the back wall overlooking the soft play, allowing you to keep an eye on the kids while you eat your lunch, and the toilets are cleverly hidden behind a partition wall – although they’re so pretty they don’t really need to be.
In sum, if your kids are demanding soft play but you can’t face an afternoon spent sweating your tits off in a garishly hued, net-clad, PVC prison then this place might just save you. It’s just a shame it’s in Windsor, since we don’t live there.
When and where?: The Jelly Lounge can be found at 29 William Street, Windsor, SL4 1BB. It’s a seven-minute walk from Windsor & Eton Central station and has several nearby car parks. At the time of writing it’s open 10am-4.30pm Wednesday-Friday and 9am-5pm on weekends.
Cost: For an hour’s soft play it’ll set you back £8 per child Friday-Sunday and £5 per child the rest of the time. The first accompanying adult goes free and each additional adult costs an extra £1.
Best bits: We all had a really fun and relaxing time here, and had the soft play to ourselves for the majority of our stay despite it being a Saturday. The staff came to clean the equipment once every hour and we were told we could stay into the next session as we’d arrived late, without me having to ask. We got stuck in traffic on the way here and messaged to say we were running late – to which I received an immediate response reassuring me that it didn’t matter and to concentrate on arriving there safely, which honestly means everything when your base state is crippling anxiety.
Worst bits: The back-room menu (assuming there was more choice on the main cafe menu) was quite limited with only a few vegetarian options. We got sweet potato fries, tortillas with dip and a buddha bowl, which seemed to be the only meat-free things on the menu.
Would we come back? Yes.
Disclaimer: this was a gifted experience but my reviews are always completely (sometimes painfully) honest.
Babu and Ro roam the soft play at The Jelly Lounge, Windsor.