GO GO Bambini (GGB) is one of those business models which makes so much sense, you wonder why you didn't think of it first.
It's a pay-for-play concept, where parents pay for kids to enter and have fun in a safe play area - but tweaked such that the adults aren't just hanging around, waiting for an opportune time to drag their young ones out.
Instead, parents can sit down to a meal and a decent conversation with friends at the on-site cafe which serves a variety of salads, sandwiches and pastas, or simply relax with a cup of coffee, slice of cake and some reading materials.
On our visit, the kids were wide-eyed with excitement and couldn't wait to gobble down their lunch so they could dash off into the custom-designed playscape with its 5m-high spiral slide and other features that involve climbing, crawling, sliding, bouncing, balancing and other acrobatics only kids could do.
There are also two function rooms available for birthday parties, a comfortable room for nursing and nappy changing, clean, well-designed loos (more important to mothers than most businesses realise) as well as two computers for access to the Internet and online games.
It's a self-contained, 7,000 sq ft operation where parents and children are a captive audience, and naturally, more likely to spend more moolah. The creator of this successful two-month-old enterprise is the business-savvy Marie Genn, a former restaurateur from New Zealand who poured almost $1 million into GGB.
'We used to go to places similar to this back home, but I also wanted to modify the traditional pay-and-play model they had because the food they serve is greasy, like chips, hot dogs and just nasty, take-away stuff that's not enjoyable for parents.'
Food-wise, pricing is on the high side for a cafe, with a soup at $7.50, most salads in the $13.50 to $14.90 range, and sandwiches and pastas at $14.90 to $15.90. Not that the mainly expatriate moms at lunch were complaining. The kitchen forgot to put the parmesan in our arugula, pear and parmesan salad, but even when the cheese was replaced, it didn't do much to perk up the dish. A better bet is the roasted pumpkin, marinated feta and chickpea salad, which offered a nice mix of flavours and textures.
A favourite is the vegetarian eggplant lasagne, and for good reason. Made without any pasta whatsoever, lots of mushrooms, zucchini and carrots are stuffed between layers of egg plant and baked with just the right amount of cheese in a tomato base, then topped with arugula (which appears in three of the four dishes we ordered) and slices of radish.
The kids seemed happy enough with their ham and cheese sandwich, and chicken nuggets, carrots, beans and half a boiled egg mains. Both came with rather anaemic-looking fries though.
All in all, GGB is definitely onto a good thing. It's got all the hardware in place - including rather forbidding security gates, GGB cards to record your purchases (which you'll do well not to lose), baby items like nappies for sale if you forget to bring your own and even disclaimer forms which all parents/guardians must sign before their kids can enter.
But a little more work on the software - the stern-looking gatekeeper can be less business-like and the cafe staff ought to chill a little and remember to smile - wouldn't hurt.
Go Go Bambini
Blk 8 Dempsey Road
#01-15, Tanglin Village.