City Kids editor Morag Turner on London’s latest club for families and why these places are great for both kids and parents.
For over a decade private members clubs for families have been popping up all over London. The concept being that you can relax in a home-from-home environment with your little ones, enjoying classes, events and a sense of community with like-minded parents. Think Soho House for the under-fives and with a soft play area.
These are truly nice places to be. Yes, there will be plenty of toddlers running around screaming (this is not the world you inhabited pre-kids after all) but the décor will be stylish and you can have a decent coffee while your children have a ball.
Something I realised a long time ago is that it’s perfectly acceptable for mums to want to have just as nice a time as their kids. Yet all too often it seems to keep our little ones entertained we have to compromise – sitting in cold church halls, shaking a tambourine and getting a custard cream at the end of it. Not exactly what we’d imagined hanging out with our little darlings would be like.
This is where the world of private members clubs for families comes in, offering a nice balance between kiddie fun and happy mums. Something increasing numbers of parents are very happy to pay for.
So when I got an email asking me if I’d like to visit London’s newest one, I couldn’t wait to take a look. Cloud Twelve is located just off Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. It differs from the similar clubs as, while it has fantastic facilities for little members, there is also a real focus on their parents too with a spa, salon, wellness centre and adults only restaurant.
Our visit to Cloud Twelve
It was a cold, wet February day when my four-year-old son and I visited, but as we walked through the door it felt like we stepped into summer. The amazing Family Zone on the ground floor is home to a beautifully designed and well laid out play area with a nature theme. A tree house to climb in with a slide down to a pirate ship ball pool and a giant ladybird to crawl inside for a sensory light experience. The stuff of pre-school dreams.
Off the main play area are smaller rooms filled with immaculate toys and books that are used for classes and a creche, as well as a craft room that most A-level arts students would be enthralled by. My little Picasso couldn’t wait to start painting and sticking.
We had lunch at the café in the Family Zone which offers varied and delicious vegan menu. I’m not vegan but try to cut out meat two or three days a week – if I was coming here regularly I’d mange it with ease. Fresh, healthy dishes that were also genuinely tasty. My little boy wolfed down his vegan mac and cheese.
Next it was time for me to pop upstairs for a treatment in the spa. I felt perfectly happy leaving my son with two of the ‘play buddies’ – fully qualified child carers who not only look after, but also seem to really engage the children. Of course he didn’t even notice I was gone, such was the excitement of hanging out with his new grown up buddy and such the selection of toys available.
The amazing spa
Even though Cloud Twelve inhabits an old building there is absolutely no sign of that whatsoever from within. The spa resembles one you would expect to find in a five-star resort in the Maldives albeit without the outside space. The treatment rooms are huge and luxuriously fitted out, complete with Dolomites quartz beds ‘to help promote a deeper state of relaxation’. The thermal area with its sauna, steam and salt room is positively dreamy.
They offer an extensive range of treatments and I opted for a full body massage, which was every bit as wonderful as the setting. Afterwards popped into the upstairs brassiere (which is adults only) for a cup of herbal tea. Next to this area is the salon for blow dries, manicures and pedicures.
What’s great about this entire adults’ area is that it’s open to anyone. While the Family Zone is members only, anyone can use the spa and salon. It struck me that this would the perfect place to pop into before a night out in central London – arrive harassed mum, leave feeling (and looking) a million dollars.
There is also a wellness clinic offering holistic treatments and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, osteopathy and colonic hydrotherapy. It too is open to the public. I didn’t sample any of these, but they club manager told me they have some London’s best practitioners available to book.
Cloud Twelve is a lovely family-friendly oasis in the heart of the Notting Hill. The price tag is steep with memberships starting from £2000 per year, but that’s no more than many other adults-only private members clubs all over the city.
We both loved our day there. Needless to say, my son didn’t want to leave (neither did I to be honest) and I would definitely pop back in again to use the spa.
Why Family Clubs are so good
My visit reminded me of the days when I was a member at Cupcake in Putney, a mum and baby club that I joined when my first son was a little baby nearly 11 years ago.
It offered a selection of baby classes (yoga, music, massage etc) along with fitness classes for mums and a creche where you could leave your little one while you worked off the baby weight. There was also a café to chill out in. An interior designer had clearly been involved, there were comfy chairs and great food on offer – like the places I chose to spend time in before I had a baby but with a family-friendly twist.
It was a great club though things have definitely moved on – I seem to remember us eating a lot of brownies that were definitely not vegan but that was well before the ‘clean eating’ revolution.
I made wonderful mum mates who became, and still are to this day, some of my closest friends. A decade and several kids later, and we still meet up regularly and holiday together.
With time we grew out of Cupcake as these places are great for a period in your life when you have very young children, but less so when they go to school and/or you return to work.
But I look back so fondly on the time I spent there, enjoying time with my baby and making friends. Never once did I feel bored or isolated as so many new mums do in the early days because I always had somewhere to pop into, even if it was just me and my son. A godsend when you are adjusting to life with a new baby.
More family clubs in London worth knowing about
The Putney club closed but another branch remains in Cupcake Parsons Green. Lots of mums sign up when still pregnant to enjoy the antenatal fitness classes. A full membership now costs from £139 per month with a one-off joining fee of £99 but they do offer different packages. I’ve never been to this branch, but if it’s anything like the original I’m sure it’s wonderful.
Others private members clubs for families have since opened all over London. As well as Cloud Twelve, there is Maggie and Rose who have branches in Kensington, Chiswick. You’ll find an amazing soft play area, fun kid’s classes and camps, as well as a great café.
Dreamt up by Maggie Bolger and Rose Astor, the idea was to provide a beautiful creative space for children in surroundings that appealed to grown-ups too. The principle clearly works as both London clubs have waiting lists and they are set to open a third in Islington this year. They have even ventured abroad with a club in Hong Kong and one opening in Singapore.
Purple Dragon who have two London clubs in Chelsea and Putney, cater for kids from six months old through to the tween years and are rumoured to have a number of celebrity offspring regulars. Young members have the options of beach club (indoor pool), massive soft play centre, music booth, kitchen (with cooking activities), music room, and art lab. And of course, there is a restaurant for the grow ups to chill out in while their kids are entertained. But these amazing activities and plush surroundings come a at a price. Membership fees are from £450 for 10 visits.
My days of mum and baby clubs are coming to an end now with all of my boys in school full time come September, but I really do think the concept is a good one. Yes, there are fees to pay but by becoming a member of one of these places you open up a world of fun activities to do with your little one all under one (very nicely decorated) roof. Whether you’d pop in every day or just use it on the weekends, these clubs provide a home-from-home environment where mums can connect with other like-minded women and form friendships, which I believe is an essential part of enjoying new motherhood. Joining Cupcake all those years ago was the best thing I have ever signed up to. For the fun, the friends and the wonderful memories of lovely times with my first little one that positively shaped my experience and view of motherhood.