Cockney Rhyming Slang. Translation: a look at shops.
These modern days, the Internet is where many people now choose to do their shopping.
But at the other end of the spectrum, we are lucky to enjoy two types of trader who remind us of more romantic times: firstly, we have witnessed an emergent shop culture that places emphasis on small producers, real relationships with suppliers and, above all, quality.
Though sometimes we might have to pay a premium for this ‘luxury’, we can be sure of the proprietor’s promise.
And secondly, there are those who have endured through to the twenty-first century simply because of the reliability of their service and their customers’ on going faith in their product.
This is one of London’s best food shops for many reasons – it is at once a delicatessen, butcher, wine and grocery store.
The Quality Chop House restaurant, to which the shop is annexed, is in the top tier of London’s British restaurants.
As such, the shop is stocked with some of the best bits from the restaurant menu –the famous confit potatoes, the foie gras and chicken liver pâté – as well as things that aren’t, including some of London’s finest sausage rolls and pork pies.
From the refrigerated counter choose the finest British and French cheeses, from the dry store, a tin of Cantabrian anchovies or bar of unrivalled rye crumb, or milk and sea salt chocolate from the Pump Street Bakery.
Quality is the constant here: from Clarence Court eggs and Ivy House Farm milk to Workshop coffee and Hansen & Lydersen smoked salmon.
If that isn’t enough, from the butcher’s counter can be bought the best value, conscientiously sourced meat in the city, and the wine selection is curated by co-owner Will Lander (son of lauded wine writer Jancis Robinson), meaning fine and uncommon varieties are usually available.
They even stock premium Zalto wine glasses and handsome ceramics, should you be on the look out for something inedible.
Prepare to be awed.
Prepare to see things you’ve never heard of and prepare to learn about the depth and breadth of Indian cuisine.
For it is in the spicing – whether the seasoning for meat or fish, or the blending for sauce bases or the studding of carbohydrates – that we can begin to understand the secrets and complexities of India’s magical cooking.
In short, this place has everything.
Piled high, nearly every spice, grain or condiment is available in sizes suitable either for domestic cooking or commercial kitchens.
Their imports are unlikely to be overlooked by their neighbours: Drummond Streetis one of London’s richest destinations for traditional Indian food, where most of the restaurants are exclusively vegetarian (itself a reliable indicator of authenticity).
In most home kitchens in Britain there is likely to be a jar of stale ground cumin, some out-of-date fennel seeds and some nondescript curry powder.
The truth is, as with other cuisines, the quality and provenance of ingredients has a great bearing on the cook’s finished product.
Keralan Tellicherry black peppercorns, fresh curry leaves, Kashmiri chillies and dagarful are just some of the wonderful, game-changing products so difficult to find anywhere else in the city.
Visiting the Indian Spice Shop will greatly improve your chances of cooking proper sub continental food at home.
It’s easy to forget that places like Lina Stores still exist: shops with such character, so resplendent in national heritage, it is a reminder of how people once shopped for specialty ingredients.
Lina Stores harks back to the 1940s and 1950s when Soho became the epicentre of London’s Italian immigrant community.
Gratefully, and because of their enduring appeal, a number of the institutions from that time remain. Alongside Lina Stores, Bar Italia and I Camisa & Son are the most famous, and all three are just a stone’s throw from each other.
In a gorgeous pastel palette, Lina Stores is an almost theatrical iteration of an Italian delicatessen, but its real charm, appeal and sourcing of select ingredients has made it a favourite not just of enthusiasts, but also of London’s professionals, including one of its premier Italian chefs – Giorgio Locatelli – who reminisces about the shop in his seminal book, Made In Italy.
As well as the myriad beauties inside – cured meats, panettone, pasta, passata and cheese – the shop’s front signage, although an update of the original, is a delight to behold. As much of the old Soho faces redevelopment, this is an iconic reminder of the area’s all-embracing heyday.
In the age of foodie fads, shops like The Winery on Clifton Road is a cherished bastion of yesteryear – a more decadent example catering to ye olde epicure.
Dark wood cabinets and a fireplace seem to beckon a haze of cigar smoke and call for impromptu lock-ins. These wine merchants specialise in unsung varieties– chiefly German Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) and Rieslings from Austria, the Rheingau and the Alsace.
In spite of the wine making excellence in these regions, their comparative lack of attention means keener pricing against equivalent examples from France or other more established brands from the New World.
That’s not to say that The Winery don’t also stock wines from more familiar regions – a whole wall is dedicated to France – but why not explore what is clearly a passion of the owners?
They also host monthly wine tasting event sin store, presenting an opportunity to familiarise yourself with their many intriguing and beguiling varieties. If you can’t make one of those, the affable and approachable staffs are always on hand to help you make an informed choice.