What central London wants, central London gets, and what central London wants is a destination for Ikea meatballs. That is: an Ikea.
The Swedish food company that also sells furniture has acquired the building that formerly housed Topshop on Oxford Circus for £378 million, and plans to open by autumn 2023, according to the Guardian. Those opening plans include its famed food offerings: the restaurant; the bistro; the Swedish food market. The meatballs, the hot dogs, the pilaf, the ice cream, the soft ice (which is not ice cream, but some other frozen category.)
But Ikea’s appeal as a dining destination is not just about the food. In a seminal essay on inclusive eating practices in cities, I Dream of Canteens, Rebecca May Johnson, writes:
Hiding one’s body and one’s lack of money has become part of survival in London. I have hidden sandwiches or hidden myself where I should buy before sitting in places all over town: haven’t you?
Oxford Circus, though it does have some excellent restaurants in its environs, is one of the most privatised spaces in London: it is a place of either walking purchase to purchase or sight to sight, a place of motion and transience and an awful lot of money. Ikea dropping its furniture collections in the middle of this retail wonderland is very definitely a business calculation; but adding a genuinely affordable eating space, and somewhere to be still, is also a vitally important addition to the area. Swedish meatballs: coming 2023.