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At Last: An Eataly for London

While other major cities worldwide have seen branches of Eataly, the Italian food theme park, open, it has taken almost a decade-and-a-half for the first one to reach the U.K. capital.

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I’VE HAD BULLET-PROOF confidence in Eataly since we started work on it – I’m convinced it’s going to be a great new space for London.” In the normal run of things, you’d expect any outfit working on a new retail project to mingle optimism with caution. The words of Jack Dixon, Project Director at Structure Tone, which worked on building the Eataly outpost that has just opened in the U.K. capital’s Broadgate, do look like an unusually strong vote of confidence.

To an extent, it’s easy to understand. A two-floor, 42,000-square-foot store which combines hospitality and retail, in the shape of three restaurants and as many bars, with an Italian deli and a massive wine offering, does create an attractive proposition. The design, as is the case with many Eataly locations, is the in-house work of Thomas Bartoli and his team. The unusual building is a former bank office in the heart of The City, London’s financial district.

The stairs that lead the shopper/diner up to a rotunda, the entrance and a “natural landmark,” according to Dixon, make this one hard to miss. Alongside this, there is La Terrazza di Eataly, an external Aperol Spritz-themed terrace restaurant, in case visitors can’t wait to get inside.

Within, the initial vista is of a mid-floor café that precedes La Via del Dolce (aka Sweet Street), a fairy-light studded corridor filled with buy-by-weight candy, or an escalator taking shoppers up to the retail action on the first floor. Finally, to the right, there is a supermarket-style block of cashwraps for those nearing the end of their shopping journey.

The ground floor is in fact largely focused on prepared foods with the bulk of the retail offer being on the upper level. Practically, this means that if you want to select from the 125 different kinds of pasta displayed on mid-shop white units or to visit a freshly prepared mozzarella counter, then heading for the escalator will be the probable choice. Counters form a major part of the layout on this level, with cheese, meat and fish all featuring. Then there is the “Enoteca,” which runs along the front of the building, meaning that natural daylight permeates its entire length.

This is home to more than 2000 various Italian wines, arranged library style by wine-producing region on dark wood fixtures. Prices are at the better end, meaning these choices are intended for occasion, rather than casual drinking.

In total, this is an Eataly that has much in common with other branches, but has been tailored to fit the needs of London locals with confectionary and wine to the fore. Tourists will probably make the trek to the store as well but given its location, it will be financial workers and fashionable East Londoners, from nearby trendy Spitalfields, that will form that bulk of the shopper cohort.

Dixon says: “I think it will take traffic from Spitalfields, people will be drawn to the quality of the offer.” If the length of the lines to get into the store are any indication, he may well be correct.

Photography Courtesy of Eataly

PHOTO GALLERY (27 IMAGES)

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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