One of the things I love most about London is the way that it reinvents itself. Times change and London changes with it. Stratford has been reinventing itself ever since the Olympics rolled into town. Every time I visit, there is something new to see. Discovering the International Quarter London the latest space to emerge has been fun. It will be gateway to the new Cultural Quarter with the V&A and Sadlers Wells.
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Why visit the International Quarter London?
Views, picnics, fountains and a café are the quick answer. Also calm. I find the atmosphere of Westfield to be a tad on the frenetic side but Endeavour Square, at the heart of the International Quarter London, offers the opportunity to sit beneath trees or recline on cushions whilst taking in the view. A couple of years down the line it will be the perfect place for a pit stop on the way to the new V&A East and Sadler’s Wells.
The Pavilion Building just begs to be climbed on. Right at the front there is a bank of deep sitting stairs. Does that make sense? Too tall to comfortably walk up but perfect for sitting on and soaking up the sun. Don’t worry, there are normal stairs running up the sides to make sitting on the topmost sitting step easy. In addition there are normal staircases snaking up the outside of the building leading up to the second floor cafe and the roof garden.
Roof gardens reek of exclusivity: not at the International Quarter. Here during the day there is free access to the roof terrace anyone. Come up here with your picnic and take in the panoramic views. In the evening the space becomes a regular roof top bar, the best of both worlds. Somehow sandwiches are good but a gin and tonic bought from home not so good.
All three floors of the Pavilion are home to Haugen, a mountain inspired brasserie. Think raclette and fondue. I can vouch for the coffee and apple strudel available for breakfast from 8am. The middle floor is the place to head for lunch with a view and the roof top for cocktails in the evening.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Information Office
Maps, boat trips and all manner of information about the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park can be found in the Information Office housed in the Pavilion Building. This is also the place to come for the key to get inside the Hot House.
I grew up on a fruit farm and always like to see a fruit tree. There is a mini orchard in Endeavour Square, but an orchard with a difference. This one can move. Not walking trees, that would be incredible. Rather they are in huge planters that can be moved. Each planter has a bench on it providing space to sit in the shade. Although I would avoid sitting under the medlar tree when the fruit is ripe!
My eye was drawn to what looked like a curved greenhouse and turned out to be exactly that. Inside are growing the kind of tropical food plants like pepper and avocado. The aim is that the food grown in the hot house and the on the fruit trees will be used in the kitchens of Haugen. Anyone can go into the hothouse you just need to ask for a key from the information office in the Pavilion.
Artwork and Fountains
Look down as you walk around Endeavour Square you may well be walking on a work of art. Troika have created a zig zag black and white tiled artwork in the paving. Elsewhere there are sinuous bands of steel weaving through the paving, a visual reminder that where you are standing used to be a railway yard. Best of all for children on a hot day there are play fountains, where accompanying grown-ups can watch the water frolics from the comfort of those big sitting steps on the front of the Pavilion.
How to get to the International Quarter London
Stratford tube station and Stratford International are the nearest public transport stops. If you are coming from Stratford. You can either submit to the lures of Westfield shopping that lure you in right outside the tube or you can resist and head to culture. Note to self and all other non-shoppers, come out of the tube, walk across the Westfield entrance and then up the stairs that look as if they go to nowhere. Once at the top walk down the path that is lined with restaurants and the Olympic Pool and Stadium will hove into view.
If you are headed to Stratford for a day out discovering the International Quarter London, check out my Guide to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.