Rainforest Cafe, London

Every year we go to the Rainforest Cafe as a Christmas or birthday treat for Josh. We have done ever since he was officially diagnosed with Autism. We always found that when in restaurants, he would find it extremely distressing, and it was a constant battle to get him to sit still; however, here, at Rainforest Cafe there is so much going on and so much to see, he was in his element. He wasn’t stressed; he could eat his meal without endless trips to the toilet. He was content, and he smiled here and smiled because he was happy, not because we asked him to – for the birthday photograph to send to the Grandparents.

I hate starting a review with negatives (there are many positives!) but let’s get the bad bits out of the way first… Rainforest Cafe has cleverly placed its gift shop at the entrance, so to get to the restaurant (that is downstairs), you have to go through the shop and then queue before being shown downstairs to wait for your table in the bar area. The issue is every parent’s nightmare because, of course, the kids are browsing. But not browsing with their eyes, browsing with their fingers, touching everything and every 5 seconds saying “DAD! Please, can I get this?! Please! I have wanted one my whole life!!!”

I’m pretty sure Finn has NEVER asked for a slimy burping frog before. I, on the other hand, look at the positives of this; it keeps them entertained while we queue for the table in what would otherwise be a nightmare few minutes of “but I’m hungry, can’t we just sit down and eat” – basically moan, moan bloody moan. Beard Decides we aren’t buying them anything.

….Moments later, we buy the burping frog….

The second bad point is disability access. Yes, there is “access,” but it’s not the best. We have previously been to Rainforest Cafe with a friend who is in a wheelchair and to get to this you go out of the establishment to the side street where there is access for deliveries; from here you go through corridors. So if you have difficulty walking, this would be awkward. Then you reach the basement via the goods lift. Herein lies the problem, you can only gain access to the very bottom floor of Rainforest Cafe. Therefore you can’t experience the fun bar area, the face painting, the elephants or gorillas – just the fish tank. Although the fish tank is enchanting and you still get the lightning storm, I find it rather upsetting that disabled diners – many of which are likely to be children – will be missing out on the whole experience all because a disability lift wasn’t installed.

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The stairs down also aren’t suitable for buggy’s, and it is recommended to leave your pushchair in the designated area upstairs.

I appreciate things have changed over the years. I also recognise the tremendous amount of work that has gone into The Rainforest Cafe. However, I would urge the owners to think about renovating the building to be more inclusive for its audience.

DESPITE THESE ISSUES, NOW THE POSITIVES, YAY!

First and foremost, book a table here, and you WILL win parent of the year – your kids will do anything you say, all for the promise of returning again next year! It is the ultimate experience where you are whizzed away from the hustle and bustle of the West End, straight into the crazy world of the rainforest.

As you enter via the stairs, you walk through the cave that has a waterfall cascading into the frog pool. Downstairs you’ll find yourself in a safari setting with the cave dripping into the river while you sit at the bar sipping a Mojito with your rear end looking like a zebra, a tiger, or an ostrich.

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You’ve got the most divine lady doing face painting (fee payable – you pay at the bar) which passes the time until your table is ready. She’s a real character and very warm and friendly, creating anything your child wants or trying to persuade them to have their face painted as something other than “a dead person with a worm coming out of his eye” (as Finn requested).

Once your table is ready, your safari explorer, clad in all the gear, will come and greet you, show you to your table and find out if there are any special occasions – because if there are, you get a complimentary pudding with a candle and the staff singing you HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Once you’ve sat down, now you can sit back for a couple of minutes and see your beaming kid’s face(s). It bought a tear to my eye the first time we came here. They all have those big wide sparkling eyes with a ‘this is the best day ever’ kind of look. The ‘wow, this is amazing” dreamy look on their face, and then they’ll flash you the goofiest smile followed by the biggest hug. It’s heartwarming to see them overjoyed with such a spectacle. Honestly, it warms the soul.

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It’s a wonderful assault on the senses. The animatronics going off around you, the thunderstorm with its loud clatters, while lights dim and flash. The sound of the jungle continually chattering away, as well as the colour and vibrancy around you.

You could consider the kid’s menu a bit on the expensive side, but when you think of the immersive atmosphere, you’re paying for the food and the experience, so at around £11 for a main and a pudding, it’s not the worst in the world.

Personally, we always go for the £16.40 children’s menu option, which includes a main, a dessert, and a drink, including a safari pack. This works out excellent value for money, as there’s lots for the kids to do at the table, including activities for the train journey home.

The menu at Rainforest Cafe is extensive; the choice is pretty big, the portions are pretty big – it’s American dining with a twist, you’re in a bloody thunderstorm with an elephant flapping its ears at you!

Naturally, there’s no gourmet dining; there’s no eloquent presentation – it’s decent food accompanied by a dining experience you’ll never forget. Prepare to be blown away!

I am a massive advocate for Rainforest Cafe, not only for everything it does for us having a family meal but also for Josh. He’s genuinely content, happy, and stress-free when he’s here. The staff are incredible with him and the atmosphere never fails to impress.

What’s not to like? Be parent of the year; take your kid(s) here! That’s our motto.