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Oriental City - They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot


Regrets, I have a few. And one of them is that I only managed to haul my ass over to Colindale three times before the mighty Oriental City was felled by developers.

Our affair was brief but intense.


For instance, I immediately fell for Utsuwa No Yakata, the wondrous Japanese porcelain purveyor.


The vast Oriental City supermarket was the stuff of dreams - Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, fresh, frozen and dried - you name it, they had it.

I even managed to get fresh mentaiko there.


I adored the Durian Centre with its durian shaped menus (even if it was never blimming open), the shonky Sanrio Shop, the tiny Japanese household goods shop, and the crummy little Sega Arcade.


But ye gods, it was truly love at first sight when my eyes fell upon the Oriental City Food Court.


From roti canai to ramen, via dimsum and som tam, through to pho and sushi, all washed down with fruity smoothies and ice kachang, every Asian and Oriental cuisine under the sun seemed to be represented.

It was a street hawker paradise.


Here's a selection of what I managed to eat and drink before the end:

Kiwi Smoothie

If Oriental City had been easier to get to, I would have exploded like Mr Creosote long ago.

Sadly soon after I discovered this culinary haven, on 1 June 2008 Oriental City closed its doors and all its fabulous purveyors dispersed, many never to be seen again (though some have survived).


On my third and final trip, I realised I had to preserve the food court experience in some way, so I wandered around videoing as best I could.

I just wish I could have captured the smells and tastes the way they captured my heart.

And why am I posting about this now?

I found out from the wonderful Randomness Guide to London that the Oriental City supermarket had actually managed to relocate to Queensway, but my excitement was dampened by the fact that there's a chance even this new outpost might close.

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got till it's gone
They paved Paradise
And put up a parking lot"

(Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell)


Oriental City RIP

UPDATE: Is Pacific Plaza for real? Please let the developing gods say yes to this proposed replacement for Oriental City!

UPDATE: 05.12.09: Utuswa Tableware has relaunched as Doki Limited at Pacific Plaza!


Kavey said…
I adored Oriental City. Working from home a number of days each week and living only 10 minutes drive away meant I managed to persuade the OH to take me there more than is healthy but less than I could easily have managed without getting bored!

I was so upset when I heard about the closure. I signed the petition and asked as many friends as possible to sign it too. I pimped the news (and petition) in the various online communities I could.

To no avail.

Even though we got back from a holiday on the day the food court closed; a loooong drive home indeed I insisted that we visit the Food Court on it's last ever day.

I cried. Yes, I really did.

And how much more upset I am now to know that it was all for nothing - the developers who refused at every turn to find an alternative home for this vibrant and unique community have, it seems, pulled out of the purchase of the site altogether, let alone the development plans that necessitated the closures.

The supermarket did move, though I've been told by those who visited that the range offered was vastly reduced. And the Food Court that was so vital in making it more than just a shopping venue but a community as well, did not get a new home.

Kake said…
Good post, thanks for the nostalgia. I actually read all the way through to the end thinking how good it was, then noticed you'd referenced us :) I'll put a link to it with the others we've got.
Signe said…
Zowie! Great post Meemalee. Can't believe I missed Oriental City :( sounds like it was a cornucopia of culinary goodies. Nice reference to Joni BTW, just been listening to 'Chelsea morning'...
Su-Lin said…
I miss Oriental City so much... :( It took me ages to get there but it was always worth it.

Thanks for the heads up on Pacific Plaza though...looks promising!
Anonymous said…
What?! When did it close? I loved that place! Totally worth the bus ride from Brent Cross. Will definitely check out the new one, but am sure it won't be the same. Boo!
Dennis K. said…
Loved the video meemalee! I think I should do more of that in the future.. Anyway really sad that this place had to close. At least in the clip it seemed pretty bustling. I wanted to be there just so I can pay for my tempura bento or bowl of pho in British pound! :)
Louise said…
The food court looked amazing MiMi - reminds me of an utter noodley heaven in Sydney's chinatown called Eating World.
meemalee said…
@Kavey - I love that you went on its last day! I always sign petitions - don't know if they ever work, but hope springs eternal :)

@Kake - You inspired me - and thanks for the link!

@Sig - As you can see, I barely found it myself. Joni rocks.

@Su-Lin - If it comes together then there'll be one in Wembley and then one in Borough. Yes!

@gastrogeek - It closed June last year, but very quietly and very sadly.

@Dennis - Oh yes - I'd love to see some US hawker centres!

@Louise - I've googled Eating World and it looks amazing! When were you there?
~Char said…
I loved OC. Went there almost every sunday with the family...I miss it alot!! Apparently they are trying to make Wing Yip kinda like it...but...NO WHERE NEAR!!. Hello fellow Londoner!!