When I was tapped to write a thing about Maggie & Rose—the information I was working with was a flyer promoting their Beer Pong Night including free flowing Kirin Beer, Gin & Tonics, and Cuba Libres for 99RMB—my initial impression was that I was reviewing a competitor for Ellen’s and all that implies.
I was overjoyed to find that I COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG.
Maggie & Rose is a family-oriented member’s club originally established in London, with the compelling founder’s tale of a working mother frustrated by the lack of stimulating and interesting activities and spaces for kids and their families rolling up her sleeves and doing something about it.
The resources, staff, design, and activities all support this account. Located a five minute walk from the People’s Square stop in Xiaoshan, Maggie & Rose is filled with experienced and energetic people, play spaces filled with blocks and ball pits and finger paints, a mini-theater for movies, a stage for plays, a music studio, a full kitchen for cooking classes—*deep breath* mind you, I was under the impression that I was only going to review their restaurant (it turns out they have two, one is members only)— a spa, fitness yoga and beauty studios, and an abundance of quiet and co-working spaces for when things are overwhelming or for when you need to get some work done or your kid needs to focus on some schoolwork.
Back to the restaurant, this is a good western-style affair with some delicious local accents and the cornucopia they upended on our table was a delicious spread including apparently every item on their Happy Hour grill selection (I particularly enjoyed the Grilled Salty Chicken Skewers with Scallions and the Grilled Bacon and Okra Skewers, both 20RMB/2, and the Grilled Squid Skewers, 30RMB/2), but the Mushroom & Onsen Tamago Pizza (88RMB for a 12” pizza) was particularly fantastic.
I had to take a walk around, and a got a very nice tour of the membership club’s offerings. Maggie & Rose is an excellent oasis for kids in China, with a focus on fostering interest and creativity: there’s a room for drama classes where they they focus on make-believe; for cooking classes there’s a kitchen stocked with imported ingredients and appliances; and the art room they showed me had a separated, paint-splattered chamber for particularly messy endeavors.
It seems like for every season and holiday, Maggie & Rose offer a variety of themed classes in their kitchens, art rooms, and other creative spaces. Kids can make Valentine’s Day candies, snow-dusted chocolate truffles for Christmas, and all manners of arts and crafts for every occasion throughout the year.
I sat at my table again for an attempt on Fish & Chips (45RMB) but just then a birthday party concluded in the member’s area and my table was repopulated with their extra offerings, and a home-made strawberry mousse is my new priority. They know how to play hardball with my heart.
This place is wonderful and I wish there were more like it in China; I’ve more than dipped my toe in the teaching profession here and I can’t tell you how frustratingly dulling a lot of childhoods can be, with entirely predictable hobbies like basketball and sleeping—nothing wrong with either, just problematic in their regularity!—invariably rising to the top of a distressing number of lists.
This place is a strong move in a different, deeper, inspiring direction and the relentless positivity of the staff would perhaps be getting on my jaded nerves but now, as of this writing, they’re feeding me cocktails. (Espresso Martini, 35RMB; Summer Gin Fizz, 35RMB).
Maggie & Rose offer a compelling mix of free range childhoods and deeply engaging creative activities, all with a strong feeling of sincerity, authenticity, and community. Those of you who now me best know that my genuine enthusiasm is a little hard to draw out but a word limit is the only thing stoping my praise from being even more effusive than it is.