If you were a Londoner living near The Exchange Square in Broadgate, 9th November would not be a usual day for you. Because that morning instead of the popular area surrounded by City buildings and restaurants, you would see a snow-covered pine forest. You would smell the scent of a spicy mulled wine and faintly discern lights softly twinkling in branches. And you would probably wonder whether your childhood dreams came true and which fairytale you must be the part of now?
This is the new magical project called The Winter Forest launched by the creative Broadgate team in early November. It seems like British people cannot be surprised with another Christmas market, yet it barely has something in common with a well-known and overcrowded Winter Wonderland. Broadgate is a 32-acre fully managed estate in the City of London which is owned by British Land and GIC. This year the team has definitely outdone itself creating rather a fantastic getaway from city hustle and bustle: the atmosphere of the Nordic-inspired forest is cosy and surprisingly calm for the public place in the Central London. Until 12th January a small pop-up invites everyone to disappear into the woods next to Liverpool Street Station. The Winter Forest is open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day, the entry is free, and it is a must-visit destination of this season.
The Winter Forest arrived in London for the first time bringing festive wood and an impressive variety of attractions hidden in the white pine trees. And despite that snow is made of paper, – which is hard to believe, as real it seems – entertainments are genuinely diverse.
Bar & Grill is situated in the centre of the enchanted forest. Here visitors can try delicious seasonal food or warm up with some festive drinks.
Giuseppina Turi, 23, a barman at Bar & Grill, says: “Mulled wine is really popular, but Lowenbrau and other draught beers are very nice as well. Hot chocolate with a special Bailey’s cream is very popular too – like all the hot drinks basically.” Giuseppina is from Italy and she admits that working at Winter Forest is “a bit cold sometimes, but it’s an exciting experience” showing the collars of three sweaters she wears and laughing. She also adds: “There’s a lot of visitors and we hope that there’s going to be more.”
At first sight “more” seems impossible: people are queuing at the bar and all the tables are full; however, more and more visitors join their friends or family and enjoy their drinks surrounded by fairy lights.
Sindhu Kajjam, 25, a cook at Bar & Grill, says: “The project is very good and successful because visitors have all the options here… At Bar & Grill it depends on who comes first, but if you have bookings like in The Hideaway, it’s even better.”
Yes, Bar & Grill is not the only eatery with a great menu. The Hideaway Supper Club which is designed as Swiss chalet offers a unique culinary experience. It comes as no surprise: the founders created two extravagant menus in collaboration with the best London’s food companies – SWITCH and Schmaltz. In The Hideaway visitors are offered an opportunity for a special private feast up to eight people per table with the shared food and drinks for a minimum spend £250 per table.
Sam Ford, 22, an assistant event manager, says: “The busiest days are Thursdays and Fridays probably because people who work in this area enjoy coming here to relax after a hard day… Weekend days are mostly family days. I’d say the most popular and profitable place is Bar & Grill, but Tipi Cinema is also usually full and all 45 seats are sold out pretty quickly.”
Tipi Cinema is another attraction in the huge tipi glowing with a warm light like a forest bonfire. Watching favorite Christmas films while laying on pillows under the stars – what can be better for a perfect date or friends’ night out? Cinema-lovers are invited to enjoy the best festive movies ever made like Home Alone, Love Actually, Elf and others. Tickets can be booked for £15 and include free soft drinks and popcorn.
Just outside the enchanted woodland, The Winter Market can be found – only five stalls, yet full of exceptional treasures. It is the perfect place for Christmas shopping and unique delicious gifts. The Amazing Chocolate Workshop sells unique chocolate wonders whereas in The Somerset Ploughmen visitors can try all the kinds of chutneys and award-winning cheeses from Somerset. Moreover, The Wonderland Collective has put together a diverse collection of hand-made jewellery and homewares of British designers.
Kate McKenzie, 45, The Wonderland Collective’s event and project manager by trade, says: “There are many interesting and unusual gifts, for example, we have an amazing series of books called “Little People, Big Dreams”… These are the stories for children about inspirational women like Coco Chanel and Rosa Barks… So little boys and girls can grow up having fantastic female role models and not just princesses who want to be saved. I really like going out and finding this kind of things, then putting them together into a nice collection…” Kate is a head of Eat Me Drink Me, the company which is running the markets and organizing events. She personally finds The Winter Forest project “exceptionally beautiful” and adds: “The Winter Forest is magical with its trees and lights, you can’t help with Christmasy when you are here!”