Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hitting The Mall Wall, Rescued By The Cow

By Claire Roberts

Hallelujah, finally we have shops in Stratford. That’s not to say that the area was devoid of shops before. There’s a WHSmith, all the supermarkets, a Body Shop and even a small Dorothy Perkins, but when you’re in the market for new shoes, like I am, up until now it’s meant a hike into town.

But no more. Finally the hulk of building materials that has been ascending higher and higher into my local skies over the past year has completed its transformation and the doors to Westfield Stratford City Mall are now open.

I venture forth on opening day, in need of said shoes and also in the hope that the odd little freebie might come my way. 11am and I’m anticipating a fairly gentle stroll through the mall interrupted by a nice coffee and something.

Not so! Turns out my excitement (not sure why, it’s only shops after all) has been replicated several thousand times over in East London’s other residents. The whole place is heaving. And it’s not a small place, it is a city within a city, hence the name. Hotels, restaurants, outside shopping, inside shopping, four different levels and just for me, shoes.

But there’s no way I’m getting shoes today. A vast crowd has accumulated for Nicole Scherzinger’s opening turn upstairs and I can hear her through the mall’s seriously effective speakers. A good PA? Yes, she performs well, I like her. The right choice for the day? Not sure. Local boys JLS might have been better.

Two hours later and it’s still crazy mad. I have a good look round as much as the seething crowds allow. A huge M&S and John Lewis, hairdressers, jewellery shops, fashion, food in its many guises from Mr Pretzels to Jamie’s Italian outside. Yes, it’s a bit different to Westfield in Shepherds Bush (no Prada and the like) but shoes it does have.

The Mall Wall hits me though. I can’t do shoes at the moment. Too many people and too little space despite the fact I’m in the biggest shopping mall in Europe. So I press on through the crowds and head outside for some lunch and hopefully a bit of relative tranquillity.

The Cow calls (or moos) out to me from the end of a small avenue of restaurants with great views over the soon-to-be Olympic park. I go running. It’s allegedly the only pub on the Westfield site (although I’m certain I saw a work-in-progress Tap East pub down in the Great Eastern Market section) and that suits me fine. It’s an up-to-date pub in the vague guise of a cow shed; milk churns intact. Upstairs it’s relatively serene, thankfully. Relatively, as it’s still really busy. Clearly Mall Wall hits other shoppers too.

The food is good quality, British bloke-y pub grub. I’m getting my breath back. And it’s great that the Westfield mall has provided a few more places for local eating.

I hear the wine list here is chosen by a Master of Wine; I’ll be back for the wine another time. Same goes for the brilliant home-made Scotch eggs. And the fish platter. And those new shoes.

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