Westfield Stratford City is the UK’s newest shopping mall. Depending on how you do your calculations it is also the largest shopping mall in Europe. We visited on Friday and it is certainly impressive, with 300 shops (most already occupied), 70 restaurants, a cinema and bowling alley. Comparisons with Westfield London are inevitable; Stratford City lacks the high end shops and adds a food court of fastfood outlets such as McDonalds and KFC. But for those with money to spare after an intensive shopping session there is a champagne bar. We didn’t think the architecture was as impressive as the White City centre, but it’s far more luxurious than the more utilitarian shopping malls that we are used to in the Philippines.
We were impressed by the cafe court which has a number of midrange outlets serving a wide range of international cuisine. We opted for Caribbean cooking from the Rhythm Kitchen, which specialises in Jerk style barbecue. I opted for lamb curry with rice and peas, which was quite acceptable. Mary Ann had jerk pork, but wasn’t a fan of the sauce in which it was served, which tasted strongly of cloves. It was also a bit hotter than she was expecting – so I was left with the task of finishing a plate of jerk pork on top of the curry while she went off to the Chinese outlet for duck and rice. It was a little disappointing that the basmati rice served with the pork was broken rice. The soft drinks were also a little pricey – we missed a trick here because near to the food court is a newsagent selling a wide range of drinks.
One of the great advantages of Westfield Stratford City is its accessibility by public transport. We got there on the Overground from Caledonian Road and Barnsbury Station, from which it is a 20 minute journey, with step-free access the whole way. The entrance to the shopping centre is right next to the station.
Westfield Stratford City will form the gateway to the London Olympics – it is reckoned that 70% of visitors to the Olympics will pass this way. Inevitably it has its critics, but as shopping centres go it could be worse. Avoid after 4pm on weekdays when it fills up with schoolkids (and goodness knows what the crowds are like on Saturdays).
A monument to tacky consumerism or the centrepiece of much-needed regeneration? You decide.