Hot on the heels (not really, but I’ve been busy for the last two months) of the news that Eataly is finally to open to London, I thought it might be faintly useful to take a look here at an existing store to give my compatriots an idea of what joys we might expect when it opens in two years’ time.

British Land announced back in March that Eataly is to open its first UK location at Broadgate’s 135 Bishopsgate in 2020, taking a lease on a lease for 42,000 sq. ft. spread over the ground and first floors of the building. Now, this is very good news indeed, as all of the Eataly units I’ve visited have been rather lovely – part theme park, part supermarket and part restaurant – all centred around a celebration of Italian food and drink.

The company, thought to be considering a flotation, was kicked off in Turin by Oscar Farinetti in 2004 and now has nearly 40 sites across the world, straddling the USA, Brazil, Japan and Europe. I’ve been to quite a few now and they vary from magnificent standalone sites to rather less glamorous affairs crammed into the basement of department stores (the UK rumour mill had Eataly opening in Selfridges for a while), but, regardless of scale, every single one I’ve been to has been a total joy.

One I’ve not yet had the chance to visit is the new FICO Eataly World in Bologna, something I’ll hopefully rectify in the near future, as it looks stupendous, combining farms, restaurants and stores and seemingly requiring a bike to fully explore. Sounds like my kind of place.

Anyway, the subject of this week’s lacklustre analysis is the location in Rome, a 170,000 sq. ft. unit spread over four floors in the old Air Terminal. It houses a remarkable array of shopping, dining and learning opportunities, a ton of best-in-class merchandising and store design features and a brewery. What’s not to like?

The produce section is spread across some lovely market-style displays and chilled units, with plenty of informative signage and far too many stark reminders that supermarkets in the UK compare very poorly when it comes to celebrating produce.

Eataly is fantastic at taking what might be considered fairly humdrum categories (e.g. oil or pasta) and joyfully bringing them to life via awesome merchandising, playful shopper marketing, tastings and the provision of salient information. It is also an enthusiastic proponent of the Slow Food concept and the store is awash with reminders that we should make more time to prepare, cook and enjoy food in our increasingly frenetic lives. Couldn’t agree more.

There are many great counters in the store (meat, fish and mozzarella being my favourites) and another great feature is the ability to watch staff making and preparing food. The restaurant offering is superb (pasta, coffee, ice-cream, pizza, sandwiches, seafood, steak and burgers from memory) and one other highlight is the booze section.

The range of beers (assisted by the onsite brewery) is jaw-dropping, with a mammoth range of local brews together complemented by an extensive selection of world beers. Wines and spirits aren’t bad either.

The excellent range doesn’t stop at the edible: the book section hosts a remarkable range of titles centred around growing, making, cooking and eating food and drink, while there is also an impressive kitchenware department that would put many department stores to shame.

If the forthcoming London store is as half as good as this, then the city should rejoice. Sure – not a destination for the extremely budget-conscious to shop in on a frequent basis, but a lovely place that reminds us that food can be so much more than mere fuel.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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