Another World

I don’t get up to the O2 very much at all. Why would I go to a bunch of chain restaurants and corporate stuff when I could go into Greenwich and get independent eateries and one-off quirky things?

That doesn’t mean I don’t go at all, of course. And when I do go I’m reminded just how different that end of Greenwich is.

Take last night. I wanted to see how far the cable car had progressed our side, so I took a stroll along what bits of the Thames Path we’re allowed at the moment, starting at the Yacht Club and working ‘backwards’ past the Best Bench in Greenwich (about which I’ve been learning some more – but that’s for another day…), what looks like a new mini-playground – a bit of ‘legacy,’ perhaps? – and an old dock that I am sure a group was trying to get a selection of historic ships and boats moored at. No sign of any yet, but it would be a good thing if they did.

The cable car looks like it’s coming on now – the big curvy thing that will be the on/off platform looks finished, the podules are there, albeit wrapped in plastic for now, and the pylon is looking really rather elegant – though worryingly high for a somewhat heights-challenged Phantom. All that seems to be missing is the actual cable.  No pic, I’m afraid, my camera’s just not up to night photography.

We’d planned to eat at the Pilot, but realised that there are so many new hoardings and we’d been looking at the pylons so much we’d gone right past it long ago. It was clearly time to see what the ‘other world’ had to offer.

The O2 when there’s no show on is even odder than when there is, we discovered. Perhaps part of it was the combination of disparate folk who were there for separate events last night that added to the unusually peculiar atmosphere.

Firstly there was a small group of onlookers (not sure I’d exactly call them ‘rabid fans’) standing behind giant set of barriers and another small group of bored-looking security guys. They’d come to see another small bunch of people in sparkly frocks and tuxes arrive for the premiere of Street Dance 2

Since I wasn’t aware of Street Dance 1, I wasn’t too bothered about staying for the whole shebang.

No Phantom Outing to the O2 is complete without my going right to the end of glamorous Entertainment Avenue to see what’s going on, I asked how we could get round to the rest of the ‘street’ and was directed – cor, the excitement – round the back – past the loos and through the usually ‘no entry’ doors into, well, what looked like backstage in every giant venue in the world. A long, circular, breezeblock corridor painted yellow and grey.

We came out next to strange happening number two – in the area where they sometimes have the indoor beach or the ice skating or the dodgems etc, was a Celebrity Speakers conference, which, as far as I could tell, consisted of rival I-Can-Make-You-A-Millionaire gurus giving their spiels in little exhibition-style rooms.

There was a row of lifesize cardboard cutouts of said gurus, plus posters etc. and a timetable of when they were to speak. Thinking on it, I rather wish I’d got a photo of the group of cardboard cutouts. Maybe they could have added them to the film premiere to make the event look more crowded…

We trudged to the end, past the British Music Experience, which one of these days I must test out. It’s just so darn expensive to get in  I’ve never really got around to it.

As usual Entertainment Avenue peters out into a giant space of nothing. No news of any outlet village yet.

Having reached the end of our excitement, we turned back to try to decide which of the array of restaurants to test out. I notice it’s gone a bit more downmarket these days – some of the posher-end eateries have gone, replaced with Harvesters and Garfunkels. We’d seen a new Tex-Mex place that looked a bit like Wahaca, which I rather like, so we were heading for that, when our heads were turned by another oddity.

The Nissan Innovation Station is a baby entertainment arcade all based around their latest electric vehicle, the Leaf. The entrance was the picture at the top of the post – a sort of river of electric bullrushes that light up and make noises as you touch them. What Phantom could resist?

We were each given a little keycard thing, which ‘personalised our experience’ – mainly TV gameshow-style quizzes with buttons to press. The answers weren’t hard to guess – just go for the answer most flattering to the product and you won’t go far wrong.

There were sit-in driving games, touch-screen explorer-thingies and guess-the-distance-you-can-go-on-half-a-charge type challenges culminating with the opportunity to win an iPad (and be spammed for the rest of your natural) and I have to admit I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I should have done.

By this point I was really hungry and one of the Millionaire Gurus had started a rather noisy evangelical speech in the exhibition-complex, but they were moving away the barriers from the premiere and we could actually get to the restaurant we’d had our eye on.

Armadillo is where the S&M cafe used to be and sells food inspired by Santa Fe, whose city-dish appears to be rice-stuffed tortillas served with rice. Not sure what else to say about it – it was okay, but nothing to write home about.

Sorry about lack of photos today – my camera was being a bit rubbish.

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