If you used to go clubbing at Bagley's, in the derelict wastelands north of King's Cross, you'll be amazed at its transformation. A pair of 19th century fuel sheds have been reborn as Coal Drops Yard, a premium retail experience designed by Heatherwick Studios, who've basically taken credit for dropping a glass swoosh on top of two brick warehouses. It opened yesterday at noon, and I visited during the first hour to see what it was like.
Fundamentally it's a shopping mall, albeit a particularly smart one, in two halves with a canyoned piazza inbetween. Visitors swirl in from Granary Square, or descend the steps from the unfinished corner by the gasholders, or walk through an arch direct from the Regent's Canal towpath. Security guards linger here and there to make sure nobody does anything too unruly. Hoardings declare CDY's purpose as STORES DINING CULTURE, but the website prefers to go with SHOP EAT DRINK, which is more to the point.
The uppermostpointy level will be occupied by Samsung, whose brand showcase promises to "bring the latest technologies to life with curated experiences". It opens next year. Lower units are already filled with boutiques, botanicals and eateries - no big chains - with names like Morty & Bobs, Emin & Paul and Form & Thread. The ultimate double act is Wolf & Badger, whose three-storey repository is a painfully modern kind of department store, little more than a sparse scattering of independent brands for the smart set to pick over. Above the wellness cooler and the metalwork corner I followed a corridor of crafted cushions to a barely-stocked bookshop, and marvelled at the carefully-considered irrelevance of it all.
The first visitors were already perched on barstools downing bespoke caffeine, or nosing through doorways to check out a handful of handbags, or eyeing up collections of high-end trainers, or perusing a limited range of quilted gilets, or mulling over the viability of having heritage corn tortillas for lunch, or fully occupied lining up inaugural photographs, or peering through the glass of one of the many units which aren't yet open. I never stumbled upon the Visitor Centre, but eventually found my way to the toilets, which was more like slipping into the gents at a voguish restaurant.
One brightly-lit retail unit appeared to contain nothing more than two racks of jackets, eight pairs of socks and some cacti, these advertised in the window as "excellent essentials, mindfully sourced". But nothing about Coal Drops Yard is essential, it's more a magnet for the over-moneyed to enjoy consuming the unnecessary.
Coal Drops Yard looks fabulous, and I can imagine Time Out getting quite masturbatory about the place, for it ticks many boxes. I am not target audience, so don't envisage spending pounds here, but am delighted to have discovered a new location where I can spend a penny.