Lunch with a Gorilla at the Rainforest Cafe

A day out at The Rainforest Cafe in London. Not just good food but dining alongside elephants, tropical fish, a gorilla and flapping butterflies.

The youngest editorial team member at young londonist decided he had enough of January’s grey cold days and wanted to escape to the rainforest, to roam free amongst crocodiles, monkeys and elephants.

Unfortunately booking a ticket to the Amazon proved too complex (even to an accomplished two year old features editor) and instead booked a trip to the Rainforest Cafe.

He sought adventure and fun and was blown away by the experience of dining alongside elephants, tropical fish, a gorilla and flapping butterflies.

Having enlisted our one year old sub editor (a second opinion is always helpful) they toddled along towards Shaftesbury Avenue on a Friday afternoon (pram clad parentals followed closely behind)

With a skip and a choo choo ride (tube for those of us who don’t speak toddler) we arrived at our destination. Balloons beckoned us to enter and the doors opened – always helpful for those of us pushing prams – and we escaped the bustling streets of Piccadilly into an oasis of green. Our two editors were unsure of where to look first, the talking tree, the stuffed crocodile or the waterfalls adorning the staircase.

Prams parked in the designated space and mums and tots are free to wonder down into the rainforest. There’s crickets and birds singing and sounds of creatures David Attenborough has most likely encoutered and could tell us a tale or two. Our guide is Andrei and he shows us to our table we are seated next to the elephants but within view of the Gorillas.

Our two editors are holding on to their mummies – they are enchanted, frightened and delighted all at the same time. Soon enough they make the place their own as they explore the interiors greeting frogs, pointing at tropical fish and then wow the gorillas are moving – they are swinging branches around – not sure what to make of this development one starts crying and the other runs to mummy.

All is restored when Andrei brings the Meat Feast Combo sharing platter. Chicken wings, Pork Ribs, Chicken Dippers and Onion Rings with an extra side of chips. Our editor loves a good dip – so the chicken is dipped in barbecue sauce, the onion rings in the blue cheese sauce (of which he is a little unsure) and the pork ribs are divine by themselves no need for any sauce.

First course finished and whilst mummies are enjoying a cocktail, toddlers are back to exploring (although they are keeping a cautious eye on the Gorilla). Suddenly exploration is stopped in its tracks – there’s thunder and there’s lightning, its a tropical shower which is so much more exciting than the rain we had yesterday!

The rainforest has been refreshed and post shower the birds are chirping and the monkeys cooing and it’s time for us to have our mains. We’ve chosen New World Lamb Shank laying in a cloud formed of potato and mushroom pure with some steamed vegetables on the side. This is cooked perfectly and falls of the bone. Both toddlers and mamas are happy.

The Ossobuco is a slow cooked beef shank with a rich butter sauce, olives and tomatoes and comes with mash potato. Delightfully indulgent.

The Rainforest Cafe also serve a variety of children’s meals which include Fish and Chips, Macaroni Cheese and Burgers. We found our two year olds were more than happy to share our starters and mains with us but older kids may want their own meals.

Two hours spent in any establishment with two excitable toddlers is an achievement so the Rainforest Cafe has our vote on that front.

On a more serious note, as a parent worried that my son may only get to experience a simulated rainforest, I was pleased to hear of the Rainforest cafe’s work with the World Land Trust, whose Patron is Sir David Attenborough. Rainforest Cafe has chosen to support the Trust’s work in Ecuador and have already funded ‘The Rainforest Cafe Reserve’ which is part of the larger Tapichalaca Reserve located in SE Ecuador. Rainforest Cafe’s purchase currently protects an area of 3.3 million metres2.