Shop-and-scoff hotspots for that final Christmas shopping push…
When time is of the essence (ie. it’s Christmas Eve and you’ve still got 20 gifts to buy), these convenient complexes hold the answer. Offering all your favourite stores and a scattering of great eateries in one place, each of these destinations is the last-minute shopper’s self-contained Christmas saviour.
St David’s – Cardiff
Wales is known for many things – tricky tongue-twister town names, rolling hills and verdant valleys, an unfaltering love of rugby, and the ability to spawn a crooner, to name but a few. But those aren’t the only reasons people love it here. St David’s, Cardiff’s buzzing shopping centre, houses many of our best-loved stores, all full to the brim with top brands. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of coffee shops and eateries in which to pull up a post-spree pew.
Crave coffee and cake? Get yourself over to BB’s, where coffee and fresh muffins are served by skilled baristas. Or perhaps hot-foot it to Starbucks – I’m sure you’ve got your favourite festive ‘Bucks beverage. Alternatively, if all that credit-card bashing has made you really ravenous, St David’s has a whopping 20 restaurants to choose from, including Yo! Sushi and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (which serves some of the best chunky fries ever – trust me). Café Rouge is another favourite; satisfied tummies are guaranteed when French classics like steak frites and moules are involved. Or pop by Jamie’s Italian, where you can enjoy rustic Italian flavours in casual surroundings – pukka, as the man himself might say.
Cabot Circus – Bristol
This shopping and dining mecca stands proud in the heart of Bristol, offering style and sustenance under one (glass) roof. Here you’ll discover not one, but two areas to explore: the main Cabot Circus complex and Quakers Friars. In the former, the list of places to dine is almost endless – will you devour peri-peri chicken at Nando’s, stop for Gallic fare at Café Rouge, noodles at Tampopo, or fresh sashimi from the conveyor belt at Yo! Sushi?
Even after you’ve sated your hunger, it would take a strong-willed person to walk by Patisserie Valerie’s cake-filled window without stopping. The same goes for all-American purveyors of fried dough, Krispy Kreme – I don’t know about you, but my mouth waters at the mere mention of maple glaze.
Yet with all this talk of Cabot Circus’ many culinary delights, we certainly can’t overlook the upmarket eateries found in Quakers Friars. Harvey Nichols, for example, doesn’t just stock designer togs – it also boasts an elegant restaurant bedecked in golden hues. You can also sample contemporary Italian fare at Carluccio’s and Piccolino, and sophisticated French gastronomy at Brasserie Blanc. With so much tasty grub on offer, you might just forget about splashing the cash on those Christmas party shoes – I said might.
Princesshay – Exeter
Historic Exeter is a city brimming with heritage, but it’s not all about sightseeing – although I’d recommend taking a look at the magnificent Cathedral to up your culture quota. If you’d rather a bit of retail therapy, you’re in luck. Right next door, Princesshay offers a fantastic array of shops and boutiques for your perusal, as well as friendly cafés, casual eateries and posh restaurants in which to take a load off those tired feet.
Early birds should give a Giraffe breakfast a go – I can heartily recommend the stacked pancakes (although if you don’t have an appetite to match mine, the light and fluffy smoked salmon scrambled eggs are just as delicious). To combine lunch and Christmas shopping, visit Chandos Deli – a must for foodies. Not only do they offer delicious hot and cold food and drink, but also a plethora of farmhouse cheeses, oils, chutneys and artisan chocolates to take home and distribute to your nearest and dearest.
Football fans in need of a bite, take note – next to the ruins of St Catherine’s Chapel you’ll find creperie and café, Gourmandine, run by ex-Exeter City player, Bertie Cozic. Who knows – you may even be served your crepe by Bertie himself.
For a scrumptious lunch or dinner with friends, take a seat at award-winning Wagamama. Or, to partake in evening dining à deux, head to modern Italian eatery, Strada. Exeter’s branch is located on Princesshay square and has a great view of the Cathedral – a lovely spot to take a loved one for dinner after picking out their Christmas present.
Westfield – London
Westfield is a Christmas shopper’s paradise, boasting pretty much every high street store and luxury boutique you can think of. It even offers a premium ‘hands-free’ shopping service so you don’t have to cart your purchases around all day, leaving your mitts free to hold, say, a revitalising Fairtrade coffee from benugo, a fruity smoothie from Boost Juice Bar, or (for a really glam day out) a glass of fizz from Searcys Champagne Bar.
All cuisines are represented here – you could eat your way around the globe should your appetite allow. Perhaps try Brazilian street food at Cabana Brasilian Barbecue, traditional British classics at The Bull Freehouse, a tasty meze at The Real Greek, or a flavour-packed pizza at Pizza Express. You can even grab good-old seaside favourite, fish and chips at Chip + Fish – they also serve oysters and Champagne for a special treat.
You’ll also find famous Dublin chocolatier Butlers Chocolates here – and if the prospect of shopping and chocolate isn’t reason enough to visit, I don’t know what is.
Xscape – Milton Keynes, Yorkshire & Braehead
All three Xscape centres are known for their action-packed indoor activities – including bowling, skiing, snowboarding, rockclimbing and skydiving – making them a great day out for thrill-seekers. You can also buy all the appropriate gear in shops like Ellis Brigham, Billabong and Ark. But even the most adventurous among us still need to eat; luckily, Xscape has got that covered too.
At the Milton Keynes site, perhaps enjoy a spot of casual American dining at TGI Friday’s, Tex-Mex fare at Chiquito, or hearty, all-Italian cuisine at Ask. Those in Yorkshire might head to Flaming Dragon and have the teppanyaki chefs magic up something delicious before their eyes, or go to Primo’s Gourmet Hotdog for a new take on a classic.
In Braehead, family favourites like Frankie & Benny’s and Nando’s are in attendance, as well as exciting Japanese food at Fujimama. If you’ve worked up an appetite rockclimbing, skiing or adventure-golfing, then head to China Buffet King, which serves up an all-you-can-eat buffet of over 40 items at lunch and 70 at dinner. Just make sure you’ve let your food go down before getting back on those ski slopes.
Gunwharf Quays – Portsmouth
If you’re lucky enough to have your own water-based transport, then sail away to Gunwharf Quays, where you can moor right beside a huge array of shops and eateries. Vessels of all shapes and sizes are welcome for both long and short stays, and the first-class selection of shops will ensure you certainly won’t be stuck for somewhere to buy those last-minute gifts. Those who aren’t seafaring are, of course, still more than welcome to take advantage of all Gunwharf Quays has to offer – which includes breathtaking views over the Solent. Not a bad setting for indulging in some retail therapy followed by a slap-up supper, I’m sure you’ll agree.
One of the best spots to enjoy the vista is the Waterfront Café, thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows and open-plan layout. If a good-old pub lunch is more your thing, then pop along to The Old Customs House. One of the few surviving original naval buildings, this Grade I listed, family-friendly inn offers a menu of locally sourced traditional fare and some lovely views across the water to boot.
Perhaps pick All Bar One for everything from light, tapas-style lunches to full-blown three-course meals. Or choose The Slug and Lettuce, a relaxed retreat where you can catch up over nibbles such as crispy potato wedges and bread and hummus.
Before you sail off home, don’t forget to take a peek at the exciting high-speed powerboat rides, ice rink (for a month from 6th December), bowling and gym. Or, for a slightly more sedate afternoon, stop by contemporary art gallery, Aspex, which is rather handily situated right behind Loch Fyne.