The newly opened Waitrose in King’s Cross is that rare beast: a supermarket that inspires shoppers to linger around in it.
When was the last time you can honestly say you enjoyed going to a supermarket?
A typical journey to a typical supermarket used to entail shoppers being processed every bit as much as the food they selected from the shelves. Things are changing however.
Last week, Waitrose opened a store in yet another part of the revitalised inner-city area – King’s Cross in London.
The store is housed is in a Victorian storage shed, previously used by trains ploughing up and down the main East Coast line. As such, it is is a thing of rare beauty, composed of brick and cast-iron.
That is hardly the point however. It is still a supermarket and there are aisles and some nifty looking slim-line self-checkouts, if that’s what does it for you.
For most people however, it is the bolt-on goodies that make this one a different experience.
Whether it’s the various counters, none of which impinge on the Grade II-listed building’s structure, or the winsome approach to the store via Granary Square, the fountain-festooned public space in front of the Central St Martins school of art, this is a pleasure to visit.
Two things stand out however. The first is the cookery school. There are in fact two other cookery schools in the Waitrose estate, but this is the largest and even has whizzy ovens that maintain their heat while open.
For those of a less culinary bent there is the wine bar.
There are now a few Waitrose wine bars, from Horsham to Swindon, but this one trumps them all, largely owing to the fact that while it may be part of the store, it feels almost separate from it thanks to the store layout.
Indeed it would be perfectly possible to graze some of the food that is on offer in this store, have a glass of Merlot and not do any grocery shopping at all.
There is a fine line between leisure and shopping and when it is blurred too much you must consider whether it is a supermarket any longer.
Waitrose at Kings Cross is a long way from this and remains a food retailer that pulls off that tricky task of being a grocer that shoppers might wish to linger in.
And before you think ‘how very middle class’, consider the fact that “growlers” (an old-fashioned word for a flagon, apparently) containing local beer are on offer at the ‘wine bar’. All angles covered, for your correspondent at least. Cheers.