The school holidays are an expensive time for parents; activities for children do not come cheap. This delightfully-situated oasis on the rooftop of Princes Mall works well for visitors who happen upon Boxsmall.
Anything blatantly marketed as “family” often fails to provide the basics required for a family excursion. In this case, it is the simple fact that toilet facilities are three difficult-to-navigate floors below, cost twenty pence and, according to a visiting family who had to queue for the privilege, “lack in the hygiene department.” There is no mention of Boxsmall on the Princes’ Mall website, making it difficult for one family to find in advance.
The area is set out like an Asian hawker centre but with a beach hut feel; it is pretty, wooden and today basks in blustery sunshine. Do mind out for the toe-crunching metal loops; despite their striped wrappings, they took a few folk by surprise. Different food stalls line one side, including sultans of spice, Kampung Ali selling their trademark delicious sate. A top recommendation comes from a Venezuelan mother visiting with her family: try the arepas from the arepas stall – a bun of corn dough comfort, filled with a variety of surprising fillings including fried plantain and black beans – are deemed truly authentic. These gluten-free treats make for satisfying hangover fodder and the coffee stall further down provides the perfect temperature, creamy cappuccino (remember this during Festival time people). The longest queue, however, is at the burger stall and it is disappointing that people do not eat outside their comfort zone when the opportunity arises. The ice-cream stall is limited to child-pleasing flavours, is mean on the portion size and, consequently, over-priced.
The Bubbleparc activity section is popular, with its bungy dome and bubble pod; the kids are happily treated to a lot longer than the advertised time.
On the shopping side, the face-painting is merit-ably artistic but the market stalls are not all local crafts as claimed.
The one stand-out Showbox belongs to Mix’n’Pick Theatre, a small but perfectly formed interactive theatre experience for children. Each piece starts on the half hour (with a big shout out from the main character – it maybe a pirate, a wizard or a mad scientist), is about ten minutes long, and becomes so involving for the children that they want to do more; every child loves being part of a story. It’s like having a super-real guided imagination adventure. Great value as the price reduces for bulk-watching.
Overall, a lovely space for weather-permitting al-fresco lunch with kids (the bouncy snake is inspired), particularly since the Showbox will soon also feature tasters of family shows available at the Fringe, which further helps in the myriad choices placed upon a family wallet.