Yesterday Mary Ann and I headed off to visit London’s newest attraction: M&M’s World. Occupying four floors of the building erected on the site of the Swiss Centre (which also houses the ‘funky’ W London Hotel and luxury penthouse apartments), the store opened just a couple of weeks ago.
I have to admit that I’m not a great fan of M&M’s; when it comes to chocolates in a hard sugar-coated shell I’ve always been more of a Smarties person, probably because M&M’s weren’t introduced to the UK until 1980 and therefore (unlike Smarties) were not part of my childhood. However, they are much appreciated by other members of the family, including my dear wife, and we were in the West End, so why not?
I have to say that the store is impressive, and I wasn’t the only one who was walking round open-mouthed, dazzled by the sensory overload of primary colours (well, the colours of red, blue, yellow, orange and green), up tempo pop, and if you sampled the product, the sweetness of chocolate, peanut and sugar. I feel guilty even saying this, but I thought it was good fun and some of the cultural references (such as four M&M’s characters walking on a zebra crossing a la Abbey Road) raise a smile. We weren’t the only ones enjoying taking photos around the store, and this is positively encouraged, with shop assistants (all young and enthusiastic) offering to take the pictures for your you.
Spread over four floors, this is apparently the largest of the M&M’s Worlds, and the first one in Europe. In fact it is stated to be the largest confectionery shop in the world, though I think this is a bit misleading, considering that much (most?) of the floorspace is turned over not to confectionery, but to branded products – shirts, hats, mugs, even electric guitars. More a M&M’s theme store than a confectionery shop, then. And – surprise, surprise – the prices are not cheap. The part of the store where the chocolates are sold is lined with tubes of M&M’s in a wide variety of colours. You dispense these yourself by pulling a handle – but don’t pull too hard! At £2.10 per 100g filling a bag is an expensive proposition and unlike the old Woolworth’s pic-n-mix, there’s no scales to check the wight of your chocolate-filled bag, though I have to say that the nice young lady on the till was happy to half the contents of Mary Ann’s bag when she found out she had inadvertently dispensed herself £5-worth of sweets!
Overall, a fun place to visit for ten minutes, and the more cynical part of me is impressed that such a slight premise – five coloured sweets and the characters (apparently called “spokescandies”) associated with them can be stretched over four floors of prime West End real estate. And if it is all too much, there is the advantage that, like us, you can retire afterwards to one of the numerous nearby Chinese restaurants for dim sum and tea, and recover from the sugar rush.
If you want to see more photos of M&M’s madness, visit this Facebook album.