Sunday 29 June 2008

Gambado, Natwest Sports Ground, Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, Kent

A frenzy of excitement and noise, Gambado is a full-on indoor children's playground with an elaborate multi-storey climbing frame, complete with slides, tunnels, assault course, trampolines and the like. This centerpiece, adorned with Gambado's tiger mascot, is flanked by a small bumper-car circuit and a gentle merry-go-round, plus a cafe with lots of tables, and even a handful of Internet terminals, for bored parents. But bewarned Gambado is easily big enough to lose your offspring if you aren't paying attention. In any case, the service in the cafe can be agonisingly slow, especially when children's birthday parties are in full swing. The party tea, served in a dedicated room upstairs, includes some fruit, cheese sandwiches, jam sandwiches, pizza bites, crisps and a big plate of chips. The birthday boy or girl gets to sit on a large tiger-shaped throne at one end of the table, while loud pop music, such as the Eighties hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight, is pumped over the sound system. Admission for children (aged 4 to 10) is a hefty £8.45, plus £2 for an accompanying adult, while parties cost £14 a head. 6/10