Thursday, January 25, 2007

Eating at the Arsenal

The Emirates Stadium

It’s not often that you find yourself being hugged by a complete stranger. It’s rarer still that you find yourself being hugged by a whole group of strangers whilst they shout with joy. Rare as it may be that’s where I found myself last Sunday in Arsenal’s new stadium, watching them grab an injury time victory over Man United, care of Thierry Henry. The Emirates Stadium is something quite special; it’s a genuinely beautiful football stadium. It’s modern, gleaming yet still atmospheric and inclusive, even when there are 60,000 odd of you in there. Like all great stadiums you still feel close to the action and acoustics for the crowd are something of a marvel, the singing and shouting reverberates like a wave throughout the space. The food is pretty good too.

This is not to say that I am not loyal. AFC Wimbledon’s ground, the Kingsmeadow, is as fine a football ground as you’ll find. The happy few thousand fans make a hell of a din and often is the time that I’ve sat in the far bigger grounds of London clubs and shaken my head in disbelief at how lifeless they seem in comparison, despite the fact they hold ten times as many fans. When the Wimbledon faithful are in full voice it brings a tear to my eye and yes, there have been moments of sheer epiphany and the hugging of strangers plus a couple of blokes with a barbecue knocking out burgers.

The Emirates is something a bit special though. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Gunners, plus, it’s always a happy day when Manchester United lose, so I didn’t feel that disloyal.

The tickets I’d managed to get hold of where for the Club level of access, which means glass doors, carpets and swipe cards instead of the more familiar turnstiles and concrete. The Club level has eight bar/ restaurants ranging from a “fine dining” three course menu at seventy quid a head to some pretty good sliced salt beef sandwiches with roast potatoes and pickles (they should be at seven quid a pop though!) and the inevitable pies, with baked beans no less. Some acceptable bagels were on offer as well as a free drink at half time if you could handle the scrum. No Wagon Wheels though. For a long time I was convinced the only place you could get a Wagon Wheel was at football grounds, until they re-launched them a few years ago and made them half the size (or I doubled in size). I’m not sure how I feel about fine dining in a football ground though; it seems a gentrification too far. I’ll endeavour to get some more tickets and try it out, though it seems unlikely that there would be any hugging of strangers over the amuse bouche as Henry headers in a peach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll get down to Kingsmeadow this week for the visit of Harrow. We need our suppporters at this time.