Heathrow T2: Making a statement about airport F&B

It’s just over two months since the opening of London Heathrow Terminal 2 : The Queen’s Terminal, and the transition continues for many of the carriers that will eventually use the new facility. The stores and restaurants at T2 won’t reach their full trading potential probably until 2015, as airline capacity builds and as passengers get to understand their new surroundings.

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If, like me, you spent the past two decades arriving or departing Heathrow T1 from Ireland, T2 is a sight to behold. Where once you had to navigate the walkways of a long metal tube to access the crowded arena of boarding gates way beyond the centre core of the old terminal, today it’s a stride or two from check-in through security (currently an easy five minutes or less) and into the spacious airside complex. In that respect, so far so good.

Commercial is housed on two levels, a little like T5, with a mix of retail and F&B on both levels, with the gates leading off from the lower area. It’s quite compact, and those gates are all within fairly easy reach, which should enhance commercial dwell times in the future.

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The retail offer does, as Heathrow Airport promised, carry a British flavour, though how many of the brands really surprise and excite? John Lewis is a fine addition to the portfolio – and its offer is neatly tailored for the airport market with smaller items and some great gifting selections – but is that mirrored elsewhere? Not so much. (We’ll review the World Duty Free Group offer separately soon.)

But there is a channel where T2 does offer a real point of difference, with bespoke concepts and sharp executions, and that’s in food & beverage.

Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionists’ Café already looks like a highlight, with an accessible and accessibly priced menu (not always the case with celebrity chef openings), plus fine views over the lower floor and out across the airport.

Ca’puccino is a lovely, modern café with comfortable seating, enticing décor and a nice range; and Caviar House & Prunier, though not a new name, blends a vast restaurant space with iPad ordering with its own top-class retail offer – something new and different from a well-known brand.

Leon restaurant is quite quirky and even the main bar delivers something a little different. The London Pride Pub & Kitchen is bright, airy, comfortable and nothing at all like some of the less than welcoming bar environments at Heathrow and other UK airports. The menu too, though it lean on British classics, is a step above these counterparts in terms of quality.

Hopefully we’ll see some of these outlets up for nomination in future FAB Awards, assuming they can match their originality with strong trading in the months ahead.

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