Farmopolis, London – an interesting morning visit
Mum was visiting at the weekend and we hadn’t decided on our Saturday activity yet. Unexpectedly, my Saturday morning run gave me the answer. I was a good few miles into my usual river route when I spotted something different on one of the jetties just past North Greenwich tube station. Emblazoned with the bright lights of ‘Farmopolis’, the jetty was lined with a variety of green foliage which led to what looked like a really big greenhouse. It piqued my interest enough for me to stop and ask a guy unloading a van at the entrance what was going on. He told me that Farmopolis was a pop up which would last around a year with workshops for kids and a little cafe. Today was opening day. Saturday activity officially sorted!
When I got back home after my 10 miler, I googled Farmopolis and quickly realised that the helpful person I spoke to really hadn’t done the pop up any justice at all. It was much more than a day out for the kids. The foliage lining the jetty was in fact rescued plants from Chelsea Flower Show. The restaurant looked classy with an interesting menu (on the downside, though, I didn’t see any high chairs or a child’s menu on offer which is in conflict with the many interesting activities for children at the back of the greenhouse). We took the bus to North Greenwich and walked the 15 minutes or so it took with two toddlers, a Parkinson’s suffering Granny and a mummy with tired legs. We were greeted with smiles by everyone with whom we came into contact. One guy, who could have been a punter had he not been dressed slightly more smartly than the rest of us and and after smiling AND saying hello (this is highly unusual levels of nice-ness – we are in London after all), I can only assume he was a grand fromage. This was a good start – I’m fussy when it comes to customer service and a friendly welcome always makes a big impression.
Entry was totally free (although I’d seen on the website that a £3 donation was recommended but I didn’t subsequently see any opportunity to donate). There were fashionable people supping refreshing looking drinks from champagne glasses which had a sprig of greenery in there for added style. It was 11am and while we weren’t quite ready to hit the fizz yet, we were gagging for a coffee. I went to the bar to order. ‘I’m terribly sorry madam but we can’t offer you any coffee… Our coffee machine isn’t working’ Whhhhhaaaattttt?! A major school boy error to launch without a functioning tea or coffee machine whilst simultaneously marketing themselves to parents who, by 11am, were highly likely to be into hour seven of the waking day (we were anyway…).
That aside, I was highly impressed with the kids’ activities on offer, which NEARLY made up for the lack of caffeine. The first stop was the homemade apothecary. Luring us in with the promise of homemade sleep potions (my mum suffers from horrendous insomnia so was particularly keen to get involved), Romilly and mum took their seats and got mixing. Romilly was able to choose from a range of essential oils and as a particular and pedantic three year old, revelled in the process of putting the drops in the little gift jar. The person running the stall used to be a nanny and that was obvious – she had a natural way with kids and Romilly took delight in the whole exercise. So much so that she asked if she could make another one for daddy which thankfully got the green light.
Next stop, a two person show for kids in the makeshift theatre at the very back of the space. The actors drew in the crowds by blowing bubbles – a hit with Jasper – and then began. Full of puns and much too long (30 minutes or more I think) for the attention span of toddlers, it was definitely aimed at older children and grown ups. Nevertheless it was quite entertaining and the message was in keeping with the rest of the pop-up and provided some education about wildflowers and how to look after them. There was a small bit of audience participation (my daughter had to look after a pair of gloves at one point) which kept the kids engaged a bit longer. At the end of the show, the team announced that they were running summer acting workshops for children. Not one for us with our little youngsters but I’m sure they will have captured some new business from parents of older children (five upwards I would suggest).
Our final stop before we went to find somewhere for lunch (not the café though due to the lack of high chairs and children’s menu) was face painting. There was no queue which was an added bonus. Romilly requested a butterfly and the lovely Emma – also with a fantastic way with kids (crouching down and speaking directly to Romilly, introducing herself, finding commonalities to make Rom feel comfortable) – obliged. Ten minutes later we had a beautiful sparkley butterfly on the face of our very happy daughter.
Given that we hadn’t packed a picnic and the restaurant didn’t appear to be suitable for young kids, we decided to make a move and find something to eat at North Greenwich instead.
All in all I would say Farmopolis is worth a visit. We went on a warm day so it was on the verge of becoming uncomfortable in there as it is like a genuine greenhouse. There were fans blowing and I also liked the other thoughtful touches like the complementary kids sunscreen. I would have liked to have been able to buy some plants but this didn’t appear to be an option. With a name like ‘Farmopolis’, I also expected to see some animals which was not the case. I’d like to return both with the kids again but also just with my husband for a date night. It’s open till 10pm and we never did get the chance to hit the champagne…