(Review of Goose, Harrogate by Charlotte Howard, York)
Soft play… Two little words which drive my daughter Florence into an excited frenzy.
My reaction is rather less euphoric. Watching my little precious diving head first into a ball swamp of gastroenteritis or having to rescue her on my hands and knees from a sticky labyrinth of noxious smelling tunnels, is my idea of a garishly coloured padded hell.
I prefer the two little words ‘spa day’ to be honest.
However, at only two years of age, Florence has less than zero enthusiasm for a hot stone massage so I frequently find myself entering soft play centres with defeated resignation after exhausting all other toddler entertainment options.
I’ve often thought that there was a gap in the market for a play centre which also provides a pleasurable experience for parents and doesn’t leave them questioning their choice to procreate. Goose in Harrogate, self-styled as a ‘family clubhouse’, is that very place. An innovative, imaginative, exciting play space for children with a parent-pleasing foodie menu, beverages of the alcoholic variety and stylish décor.
Goose centres around a spacious, light and airy dining room surrounded by a variety of different play areas. The first play area is for the under 4’s and features a large ‘castle’ on two levels where little ones can climb, swing and slide. It is carpeted with soft ‘grass’ and stocked with an abundance of Scandinavian style pre-school toys and cute wooden ride-on animals.
The next area is an ‘aerial play’ section for older children which comprises an 8ft wooden ‘beanstalk’ structure to climb, suspended ceiling nets to scramble across, a tubular slide to whizz down and a bouldering wall to traverse. Whilst this is aimed at 4-10 year olds, any child can use the area based on their ability and Florence was keen to try it.
After a few tentative starts, she learnt to copy the older children’s techniques and was soon fearlessly bounding across the ceiling nets like a small treetop monkey!
For all ages, there is the ‘blue room’ filled with large foam shapes which children (and parents!) can stack and combine to build imaginative structures. The room is painted blue and all the shapes are blue too which creates a very aesthetically pleasing space, a world away from the eye-bleedingly bright visual assault characterising most children’s play centres!
The whole space is very open and relaxed, with children free to explore. There is a wall of books, jigsaws, wooden toys, board games and drawing materials behind reception which children are welcome to help themselves to. I thought this was a lovely touch and allows for quieter play after the excitement of the activity areas.
One of the things that really makes Goose unique for children though is the emphasis on creativity. There is a ‘creative bench’ where staff organise daily craft activities. They ran a slime making workshop on our visit and it was very noticeable how engaging the staff were with the children.
After all that playing, Florence and I were both eager to have lunch and the Goose café did not disappoint. Homemade, fresh and delicious food is not the norm at a children’s play centre so I was seriously impressed to discover that this is what Goose offers. On the menu are wholesome all-day breakfasts (think achingly hipster smashed avocado!), beautiful seasonal salads, daily sandwich specials, tasty hot dishes, proper coffee and a far too tempting selection of delicious homemade cakes.There’ s even a drinks fridge stocked with prosecco, wine and craft beers!
For the children, there are freshly prepared, child-friendly classics like pasta, sausage rolls and fish fingers as well as free fruit. They also do really sweet little metal lunchbox tins which Florence loved! Unfortunately she suffers from severe food allergies which makes eating out difficult but the Goose staff could not have been more accommodating, checking all the ingredients and creating her a special tin with items she could eat.
The whole place is spotlessly clean, including the bathrooms which in play establishments are usually best avoided unless armed with a full pack of antibacterial wipes, a gallon of hand sanitising gel and in some instances, a hazmat suit! Here, the bathrooms would not be out of place in a boutique hotel – super stylish and featuring heavenly scented Neom products.
Goose is a genius concept, aimed at parents as well as children. Florence and I both had a genuinely lovely experience here and we will certainly be coming back regularly.
Now if only they could add a spa room.
For more information on GOOSE in Harrogate CLICK HERE