Once upon a time everything at Canary Wharf was spanking new and everywhere you looked cranes were lifting building blocks into the sky. Classy apartments for rent and sale offered unrivalled riverside views and the journey up the escalator from the underground station felt as if you were borne upwards to a brave new world.
November is a time for reflection in changing times and the ride up from the Jubilee Line and the DLR invites questions as the emerging vista comes into view. The looming HSBC skyscraper looks Orwellian if you’re feeling glum but if the silence is being broken by jolly jazz from a busker in the concourse the melancholy is banished. Canary Wharf shows sign of change and there are new attractions and amenities to seek out and enjoy.
What used to be a Four Seasons hotel is gone, decamping in April of this year, and the building is now home to Canary Riverside Plaza Hotel [ www.canaryriversideplaza.com ]. First impressions on stepping inside are uplifting: the lobby and lounge area feels flooded with light and comfortable seating, spread out across the huge space, makes for a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle outside. If you’ve been wearing out shoe leather in one of Canary Wharf’s Dubai-style shopping malls, retail therapy demands coffee and a repast and the Quadrato Bar Lounge offers a relaxing escape.
From now until the end of February Canary Wharf’s Ice Rink [www.icerinkcanarywharf.co.uk] is open in Canada Square and a more thrilling experience than usual with 8km of LED lights laid beneath the ice. Over the weekend of 25-27th November a slide on the ice could be combined with the fashion shows that make up the annual Winter Fashion Event in the shopping malls, with pop-up boutiques offering opportunities for some early Christmas shopping.
The River Thames is what makes being in Canary Wharf special and nothing can beat gazing at the slow drift of the grey water and looking upriver to the landmark structures that now define central London’s cityscape — The Gherkin, The Shard, The Cheesegrater – and then looking behind you for the city’s second tallest building, the pyramid-topped One Canada Square, that was completed in 1991 and inaugurated Canary Wharf in its current manifestation.
For the best views of the Thames, a bedroom at Canary Riverside Plaza Hotel offers the unparalleled experience of contemplating the scene at night and then waking up in the morning to see it all again in daylight. And the bonus comes with the free use of a health club and leisure facilities, including what has to be the coolest swimming pool in London given its amazing location close to and parallel with the river. The ultramodern swimming pool offers a strange contrast with the Thames-side London scenes depicted in the black and white photographs that line the corridors of the hotel. The old photographs serve as a reminder that Canary Wharf owes its name to a time when the docks here received regular shipments of fruit and vegetables from the Canary islands.