diamond geezer

 Monday, February 26, 2024

A Nice Walk: Tottenham Court Road (½ mile)

Sometimes you just want to go for a nice walk, nothing too taxing, a bit of a stroll, lots to see, centrally located, historic buildings, well connected, retail proximity, easy to follow, multiple refreshment opportunities, won't take long. So here's a pleasant half mile treading pavements on the edge of Fitzrovia, nowhere near enough to make a day of it but a nice walk all the same. Throw in a few stops to enjoy all that today's sponsor has to offer and a couple of hours should cover it.

Our walk today takes us from the foot of the Euston Tower to a point halfway down Tottenham Court Road. Effectively we're walking one stop on the Northern line - that's Warren Street to Goodge Street - but you could also arrive via Euston Square station if you like. It's not a long walk but it's far enough for February.

Our starting point is Triton Square, a fine example of private public realm on the edge of a fully-managed mixed-use campus. To translate, that means it's a mostly-empty space surrounded by multiple modern office blocks overseen by security, CCTV and a long list of behavioural expectations. One of the largest buildings is occupied by Spanish bank Santander as its UK HQ, and edged by more cashpoints than the local working population could possibly need. Another was leased by Facebook, sorry Meta, but it seems they never moved in. Trees and raised beds of shrubbery supposedly provide eco-credentials for the development, each surrounded by slatted wooden benches as somewhere you might sit in nicer weather. The gardeners have done well because one bed is abloom with mini daffodils and hang on, seriously, primroses in mid-February.

The other end of Triton Street is more interesting, it has a moving artwork by Julian Opie called Ruth Walking In Jeans and an indoor bouldering wall, but best focus on Triton Square because there's no point in extending the walk unnecessarily. The most well-known building here, and by far the oldest, is the Euston Tower. Its 30 storeys opened in 1970 and in their time have been occupied by Capital Radio and various civil servants, but currently it's all stripped-out awaiting rebirth as a sustainable workspace paradigm. Thankfully the downstairs units remain open, one a gallery of sorts, another a bar of a kind, plus a ubiquitous Pret A Manger. None of these quite hit the spot for pre-ambulatory refreshment, however, so before we set off best drop into Starbucks for a warming beverage.

Starbucks Euston Tower (Unit 1A Podium Regents Place NW1 3DP)
The famous wavy-haired logo welcomes customers to the only coffee outlet on the east side of Triton Square. Drop in for the usual array of drinks and fine food, served from the counter by cheery baristas who'll be looking forward to interacting with all your hospitality needs. Perhaps enjoy a Grande Americano for just £3.55, paired with a tasty Spinach & Pea Falafel Wrap to fill a hole before the proper exercise begins. A small poster tucked into a basket urges punters to Keep Hydrated Throughout The Day, so why not pick up a bottle of still water to sustain your thirst going forward. If it's too inclement for a patio chair, best sit in the window and place yourself on full public view.

Suitably refreshed, it's time to head off on the first leg of this arduous journey. Head round the foot of the tower to the edge of the underpass and prepare to cross the busy Euston Road. This esteemed thoroughfare will be appearing next month in my sequential reportage of the Monopoly board so best not say too much now, save to urge you to look very carefully if you choose to take advantage of any supposed gap in the traffic. On the far side of the crossing is the entrance to Warren Street tube station, a portal to elsewhere, but instead continue past the small hut that sells all the tourist essentials - vapes, mobile covers and cheap brollies. Most importantly don't be in too much of a hurry to speed ahead along Tottenham Court Road, instead look to your right down the actual Warren Street where a few doors down you can drop into Starbucks for an essential refreshment stop.

(→ 200 metres →)

Starbucks Warren Street (5 Warren Street W1T 5LA)
The famous wavy-haired logo once again beckons to travellers in need of flavoursome sustenance. This is a relatively small outlet but nonetheless attractive with a message of welcome on the chalkboard ably illustrated with sprigs of cherry blossom. Admittedly there's little room for seating, indeed a family of 4 would find it impossible to cluster, but such are the priorities of a branch that mostly serves office workers on the go. Perhaps enjoy an Almond Biscotti Oat Latte, or any other combination of nutritional buzzwords the marketing department have chosen to combine for your sensory pleasure. Rest assured that when it's quiet, which would be most of the weekend, staff are encouraged to keep themselves busy by repeatedly cleaning all visible surfaces.

Suitably refreshed, it's time to head off on the second leg of this arduous journey. Head back round the corner into Tottenham Court Road which we'll now be following all the way to our destination. You might be interested to know that the Lidl on the far side of the road used to be a Sainsbury's, whereas the Tesco Express on this side celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. One of the most intriguing shops is a newly-opened M&S/WHS hybrid - food one side and a few books and periodicals on the other - the two halves combining to create as insipid a retail experience as the 21st century can muster. Ignore Santander and Pret because it's ridiculous they both have outlets so soon after the last. Also ignore Spearmint Rhino because it's closed, perhaps for refurbishment, perhaps forever, nobody’s certain. What's more its drinks menu was always vastly inflated, so how fortunate that you can instead drop into another Starbucks on the corner of Capper Street.

(→ 300 metres →)

Starbucks Capper Street (175 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7NU)
The famous wavy-haired logo once again signals the welcome availability of hospitality in a cup. This is a more substantial outlet with space for proper seating, although you could still sit in the window and people-watch if you choose. Mugs and reusable cups have been made available for the Starbucks connoisseur to add to their collection. Perhaps enjoy a new Golden Caramel Hot White Chocolate, hopefully for a limited season only, and best throw in a Ham and Cheese Panini because you're bound to be ravenous after all that walking. February is not really the time to take your delicious purchases outside to sit on one of Camden council’s woody stumps, but do admire the crocuses now bursting through.

Suitably refreshed, it's time to head off on the third and final leg of this arduous journey. Tottenham Court Road continues unabated, although now without the slew of electrical goods outlets and hi-fi dealers once synonymous with this world-renowned thoroughfare. Instead lower your sights to greetings cards and furniture - so many sofas - or up your game and admire the middle class beacon that is Heal's department store. It's great to know that some classic TCR traditions survive. But prepare to be jolted swiftly back to reality by the tented village outside the Lutheran church - so permanent a fixture that its homeless residents have installed their own shelving units and a dartboard. And if you're flagging fret not, we're virtually done, so you'll be pleased to see another Starbucks in a corner unit offering a perfectly timed final pitstop.

(→ 200 metres →)

Starbucks Tottenham Street (77 Tottenham Court Road W1T 2HQ)
The famous wavy-haired logo shines out like an old friend above the door to this esteemed customer-facing establishment. The exterior has been painted a vibrant matt black, whereas step inside and the digital menus and cheery baristas are as bright and familiar as ever. Perhaps enjoy a Tall Iced Chai Latte for just £4.25, which is certainly a bargain as far as a cup of tea goes, coupled with the indescribable offering that is a Cheese and Marmite Mini Ciabatta. If you'd used the store's mobile pick-up service you could’ve ordered them two paragraphs ago so they'd be ready and waiting to press into your greedy hand straight away, and what a suitable finale to a highly memorable walk that would be!

If it's all been too much, even with four refreshment stops, the good news is that the walk ends two doors down at the entrance to Goodge Street tube station. Before descending into the depths it might be a good idea to pick up a bunch of tulips from the In The Meadow florist as a souvenir of a classic urban ramble. Be aware that there are no public toilets in the vicinity after all that drinking, but cheers Starbucks, your bonhomie is never more than a short walk away.

Longstanding readers may remember I wrote a similar 'You won't believe how close together some Starbucks are' post in the autumn of 2005. In that case I walked from St Paul's Cathedral to Dr Johnson's House - an even shorter journey than above - and managed to clock up a faintly ridiculous six branches of Starbucks along the way.
1 Paternoster Sq → 75m → 30-32 Ludgate Hill → 50m → 57 Ludgate Hill → 150m → 32 Fleet Street → 75m → 90-91 Fleet Street → 125m → 151-152 Fleet Street
Who'd have guessed that Starbucks density in central London is much lower now than it used to be 19 years ago? I really had to scour the Store Finder map hard to find even four stores in such close proximity, suggesting either a thinning out or considerably more competition from other brands. I was also surprised to see that only one of the half dozen Starbucks in my 2005 chain is still trading, the first of the six, and all the others have faded away.

Longstanding readers will also be aware that I stopped for a coffee in absolutely none of the above.

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