Friday, 22 August 2008

Rainforest Cafe, London, Restaurant Review

I first discovered the Rainforest Café in Shaftesbury Avenue in 1999 and it has been a favourite destination for the younger members of my family ever since. The world is awash with themed restaurants but, from my experience, none are quite as child friendly as this one and still provide an enjoyable gastronomic experience for adults.

Just a two minute walk from Piccadilly Circus, the Rainforest Café is easily reached and accessed via their retail shop. This is, of course, a sneaky bit of marketing as the kids will no doubt want to buy everything they see before they’ve eaten and then want to buy more gifts as they leave – blindfolding your little ones is an option!

The rainforest/safari theme is all consuming here from the wonderful décor to the staff uniforms. On my most recent visit, earlier this month, we were asked if it was anyone’s birthday. I had not booked in advance so was not expecting any special treatment for my nephew but we were given priority seating and every member of staff wished my nephew happy birthday (which he actually found embarrassing!). He was provided with a kids menu to colour in and a set of crayons. Whilst 12 year olds don’t generally need this level of entertainment, they’re always a good idea for younger kids and, actually, my nephew did sit quietly and colour the picture!!!

The menu itself is a wide ranging mix of international cuisine with wacky names and descriptions. The kids menu is a refreshing change from the usual fish fingers and chicken nuggets with organic, nut-free, gluten-free and even egg-free options! My nephew chose the “Mini Mojos” (oven roasted BBQ ribs with fries) which, going on the speed at which they were eaten, tasted pretty good! I had Sea Bass Samba which was melt in the mouth delicious!
Prices are reasonable with a kid’s main meal, drink and dessert costing £10.90 which also includes a fabulous goodie bag (wallet, mask, pencils, stickers and more). Adult main courses average at about £13.50. When it came to desserts, I ordered a fancy ice cream from the kids menu, allowing my nephew to order a mega-fancy ice cream from the adult menu! The Sparkling Volcano (pictured right) arrived with a large sparkler, candles and yet another “happy birthday” to embarrass my nephew and was big enough to feed a family of four with a surprise in every spoonful! Scrumptious!

Accompanying our meal was a harmony of rainforest noises… the life-like elephants (left) trumpet their tune, the chimpanzees chatter to each other and thunder and lightening crashes over head. Giant butterflies flutter and (real) tropical fish swim around their massive tank. This is one London restaurant where children are not expected to sit politely at the table – wandering around and exploring the surroundings is one of the delights of the Rainforest Café!

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