The mosaic of building works and confused signposts that have formed large parts of Shepherd’s Bush’s landscape for the last few years have largely gone to reveal the Westfield shopping centre, finished in October, which is served by four Tube stations and the new Overground station (two minutes’ walk away).
Westfield is yet another shopping centre and yet it isn’t.
It’s true that if you were wanting to visit every shop there, they’d have to add a hotel (there’s a cinema and a public library coming later in the year) – the place is huge. There are touch-screen maps at every corner to help you find what you’re looking for, clusters of seats (including egg chairs) dotted here and there to relieve tiredness and small children can be pushed around in one- or two-seater cars. The size is actually a good thing – it’d have to be a very busy day for Westfield to feel crowded.
The design is big and white, much like the spaceship in 2001, with an undulating glass roof and show-room-esque lighting. This is dimmed slightly in the area they call ‘The Village’, which contains all the designer or more upmarket shops. Here the egg chairs give way to armchairs and examples of photographic art from the in-house gallery. A chap was sitting in one feeding his baby.
Over to Dan!
The selection of shops is something of a combination of high street and Bond Street. The reputation for it being a girls’ shopping paradise is probably about right. Don’t get me wrong though, any chap looking to update his wardrobe won’t return empty-handed by any means, and their branch of Hackett’s looks most enticing. There’s an attractive electronics corners too, featuring an Apple Store (full of teenagers abusing the free net access), a Jessops and a few other retailers.
One aspect of many of the shops I enjoyed was the space and the design. Too many shops in the UK are poorly suited for their type of retail; they have to make do with what retail space they can find. This leads to narrow aisles, cafe tables you can scarcely squeeze between and log jams left, right and centre. We began in a Costa Coffee which although not massive, simply worked in terms of design. The tables were all nicely spaced and the flow of people from entrance to barrister and onwards worked without the usual people build-up. Many other shops were the same; it’s so refreshing where well designed space makes the process of retail (which I seldom thoroughly relish) an ease, even a pleasure. Yes, I said it.
The size of Westfield does make it an endurance event, however, and I quite agree that that regular placing of seats is most welcome. The other key feature to enable many hours of energised shopping are the many, many eateries on offer. There are several eating areas, including the route in from the Central/Overground stations and the Mezzanine level. We opted for Fire & Stone, an Italian restaurant with pizzas named and flavours based on cities of the world. This makes for a mind-boggling selection and an array of toppings and flavours unlike any other Italian. After much deliberation I opted for the Sydney – a meat feast of ham and bacon. At first it seemed a little bland and normal but when the seasoning kicked in it became really enjoyable. However next time I try out Fire & Stone (there’s another restaurant in Covent Garden) I think I’ll be more adventurous and may be tempted by the Peking or something fishy from Newfoundland.