Reviewed by Amy Dixon
We were given the amazing opportunity of visiting the O2 Icon shopping outlet and restaurant. I chose to bring my 8 year old daughter with me as she enjoys a shopping day and her older brothers would have enjoyed a meal out and probably would have opted for the trampoline park or bowling rather than shopping. With at least a 2 hr journey from Portsmouth we were really excited to come and experience what the O2 had to offer without needing to attend an event. We had originally planned to catch a train to get to the O2 but unfortunately our visit coincided with rail strikes, so opted for driving up. Getting to London was a pretty painless journey, however once in London it was a little stressful navigating the roadworks and my sat nav not re-routing well.. however that will be less of a problem once the roadworks have been completed. Saying that if you are attending for a booked event/meal then you would need to plan for traffic getting into the O2, otherwise you could be late. We parked in car park 3 which was very close to the main entrance. It was quite busy outside the O2 with people queueing for UFC events, however we could walk straight past the queues to enter the O2.
When we arrived there was a bag search queue, however this was for larger bags and backpacks so we were waved past. There was clear signage as to where the Icon shopping outlet was and we used the stairs and escalator to get up to the first floor shopping level. After our journey our first stop was the restrooms and they were easily located and very clean. My daughter loved the smell of the soap and the dyson hand dryers.
We then starting our shopping experience, there are a large range of designer stores within the outlet centre and we enjoyed browsing through some of the high end shops and window shopping in some of those a little out of our price range. However as they are outlet stores they have reduced prices for some of their stock so it is ideal for those with more expensive tastes than their wallet allows. We enjoyed the samples in Whittard, trying the hot chocolate and tea samples before purchasing caramel biscuits and chocolate covered coffee beans. The samples are help yourself, although I would suggest an adult pouring the hot chocolate as it was quite hot. The staff were friendly serving us and prompted me for an email address for further samples to take away.
We browsed the vast selection of chocolates in the Lindt store and although tempting we didn’t purchase any on this visit. We also tried shoes on in the Skechers store but ended up buying some sparkly heels in the Next clothing store for my daughter. We then decided to try out a drink in the Coco store, we opted for the tropical drink and added tapioca balls as a topping. As we hadn’t got the drinks before the server was very helpful explaining the ingredients, the additions and sweetness and ice levels that can be adapted to taste. It definitely was a different style of drink and although odd at first the jelly in the drink was quite tasty, I probably wouldn’t go for the tapioca balls again as they were quite chewy.
Our next stop was build a bear as my daughter had a gift card from Christmas she wanted to spend on outfits and luckily due to a 30% off instore sale she managed to buy 2 outfits for her teddies she got for Christmas.
By now we were a bit peckish, but knowing we had a table booked in a restaurant for 6pm we decided to head along to the restaurants and grab a lite snack. I probably would book ahead in future as a lot of the restaurants were booked and were not taking additional diners. We attempted to go to Las Iguanas who said we could have a table outside but the menu was very limited as most items were showing out of stock on the QR code we were directed to use. We ended up going to Thunderbird Fried chicken, which was more of a takeaway dining experience but was still quite tasty. It was also busy, so we managed to grab a table outside of the restaurant. We ordered loaded tater tots with a buttery garlic and cheese topping and parmesan fries and two cans of coke. They were tasty and my daughter who can be quite fussy even stole quite a few of my loaded tater tots.
By this time we were sat near the UFC event and there was a large crowd listening to the headliners on the stage. We headed back to the shops on the lower level past the restaurants and bars and spent sometime in the beauty outlet. I think this is where most of the spending happened!! Its definitely the place to go for teens and pre-teens, to buy makeup and perfumes without breaking the bank. My daughter could have collected all the nail varnishes if given the chance. Her brothers were also spoilt with new perfumes for them to try.
We then had a try of some of the new eye makeup whilst resting on the benches ready for our booking in the Selfie Factory. This I think was the highlight of my daughters day, a whole hr posing and taking photos in the 7 different areas of the selfie factory. She was in her element and the 278 photos now on my phone show the extent to which she enjoyed it. I may also have a new profile picture for myself! It would definitely be worthwhile for pre teens and teenagers, as there were groups of teenagers filming each other in the session. It can be busy depending on how many are booked into each session and although there were 2 staff at the front, there wasn’t any supervision of the areas so if coming with younger children they would need supervision. Some of the props were a little battered, for the price of the experience I would probably expect a little more upkeep in the areas. You can purchase printouts direct from your phone and props to add to your pictures if wanted. It seems like an ideal treat for birthdays or events, but would definitely need a camera/phone for each person.
My daughter managed to persuade me to head back to the build a bear store where she got a new reindeer teddy and outfit. The staff again were friendly, although they were clearly trying to upsell additions to the teddy they weren’t too pushy and still gave my daughter a nice experience when making her reindeer toy.
Our final stop was the Haute dolci restaurant, which although a smaller restaurant within the O2, it was immaculate and beautifully decorated. The seating was very comfy and although close together we couldn’t hear other tables conversations. The staff were very attentive and happy to give their recommendations for both food and drink options. My daughter chose the S’mores milkshake and was so excited when it came, the glass was so tall she had to hold it below table height so she could drink from the straw. She loved it and having a sneaky sample I agree it was very tasty with little brownie pieces floating in the thick shake and plenty of cream on top. I opted for the pinà colada mocktail, again this was very tasty but quite small. It looked very pretty in the glass, and came with a pretty red flower on top however there was a lot of ice and not enough of the lovely drink. I ordered cokes to go alongside our sides, which were parmesan and truffle fries and fire fries. The parmesan truffle fries had a lovely flavour although my daughter would have liked more cheese, I explained they weren’t meant to be cheesy fries they were meant to taste more refined..which they did. My fire loaded fries definitely lived up to their name, they were very hot! The sauce helped to cool down the chicken however I would suggest a dipping pot of sour cream would help to lessen the heat. They were both very generous portion sizes for sides, however we were saving ourselves for the amazing looking desserts. I could see main meals being served to other diners and they also looked really nice and no tiny portions. We took a little while to decide on our desserts, but my daughter finally chose The best of both croffle, which was a hybrid cinnamon waffle made with croissants, one was dipped in white chocolate and the other dipped in milk chocolate. This was served with a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I chose the pistachio stack, which was a stack of 5 fluffy pancakes, drizzled with a lovely creamy pistachio sauce, sprinkles of pistachios and dried raspberries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Both desserts looked beautifully presented and tasted amazing. They were generous sizes, we made a good effort but couldn’t finish our puddings. We finished it off by sharing a hot chocolate float, which was a creamy hot chocolate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and chocolate sauce drizzled around the sides of the glass. As we were getting ready to leave another customer had a medical emergency, which was dealt with promptly by staff and by passers. The O2 medical team and police also arrived to ensure the customer had the care needed. The restaurant staff checked in on each table to make sure everyone was ok and reassure us that the customer was ok and getting the help they needed. I would definitely head back to this restaurant again as a treat, next time I would probably just aim for one of their desserts so that I had room to eat it all. There are quite a few desserts that were ordered and taken past me that looked amazing, we will be looking to see if there are branches closer to home for treats for my older children.
As we were leaving at around 8pm you could see that it was starting to get busy again with people ready for an evening out in the bars and restaurants. It seemed to be busy everywhere, including people queueing for events, however there did not appear to be any trouble occurring and there were plenty of O2 staff and security circulating that you felt safe even in the crowds.
Once outside we headed to the parking office located at care park 1, as there were signs informing you that you could have 4 hrs free parking if spending £35 or more in the Icon Outlet shopping centre. This was a short walk from car park 3 where we had parked, there was no queue and I just needed to show my receipts as evidence of spending. I paid for the rest of my parking there and headed back to our car.
Again the journey out of London was similar to the journey in, we spent a while in the queues trying to get out of the carpark and back through the roadworks, but it is expected when driving around London to be caught up in traffic.
For future journeys I think we would try the trains as it seems like a less stressful alternative when there are no strikes in place as the stations are a short walk from the entrance to the O2.
Overall we had a fantastic day out at the O2, I wouldn’t have thought of going there for a day out without having a booking for an event as its quite a distance from Portsmouth. However you have such a range of things to do all in one place. With Hollywood Bowl, iFly, Trampolining park, football, cineworld etc that you could easily entertain families and adult groups of all ages, with the added variation of restaurants and bars to choose from. It was a great mummy and daughter treat day, but equally I could see myself coming up for a treat day with my boys or a night out with my friends.
For more information please visit the O2 website here.