Growing up in London, to be taken to Hamleys was just about the best day out around. So much so that re-visiting the Regent's Street toy shop nowadays always makes it seem like an entirely different place to that in my imagination - didn't it have endless space and a skyscraper-number of floors and toys that went on forever, rather than the tourist-packed aisles of today?
But Hamleys has been the grande dame of London's toy shops for eons - so when tiny man and I were invited to the opening of The Toy Store, a 27,000 sq ft dazzling, brand-packed emporium taking on Hamleys on its own patch, we had to check it out.
The location is more central than the beans in a baby's rattle: just next door Bond St station, with big escalators leading you in from Oxford Street. (To access the lift, for buggy-users, you have to go into the ground-floor section, and pass a huge sweet shop so maybe take a blindfold if you've got hungry older kids with you too..)
It's very brand-focused: the likes of Lego, Barbie, Marvin's Magic and Thomas & Friends have huge areas, but it's also divided up into zones - creative, models, etc. And there's lots going on: kids zipping around testing out scooters, model helicopters buzzing overhead, huge characters strolling the aisles - a little like a free version of Disneyland, but good luck convincing the kids of that.
The customer service was pretty good too: Tiny Man picked out a Little Tykes toy turtle, which sang, popped out shapes and moved. Only when we got it home, battled with the packaging and put batteries in, turned out the turtle didn't sing, the shapes wouldn't stay in, and it wasn't too keen on moving either.
Luckily, The Toy Store staff were happy to switch it to a working one when we returned, with no fuss. This store definitely doesn't have the history or tradition of Hamleys, but that won't stop the kids loving it and its wares.
* Shop invited Run out of Womb for review, and provided a voucher. Rest assured, though, that I'm seriously gobby and would never rave about something that's rubbish.