When I arrived in London many years ago, olive oil wasn't sold in supermarkets, but in small bottles in the pharmacy to de-wax your ears. The real thing could be found only in Italian shops in Soho in the West End, where you could also find proper Italian cheese, tinned tomatoes and pasta, etc. Pumpkins in season, sweet potatoes and squash were confined to the West Indian stalls in Brixton & Portobello Road markets. "Ice cream" wasn't made with cream but with artificial ingredients that left an unpleasant slimy taste on your tongue - despite the abundance of double cream, that rich, British invention at once thick and custardy and entirely delicious.
But the times were already a'changing. Terence Conran (not yet "Sir") was introducing a casual, new modern lifestyle in his Habitat shops while Elizabeth David had introduced aromatic Mediterranean cooking to a population just escaped from post-war rationing.
Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century and we are in a completely different world - one with an abundance of wonderful food stores and suppliers that would stagger the Londoners who first embraced Conran and David.
Let's start with the butcher and follow with the independent bakeries, fishmongers, cheese shops, deli's, farmer's markets and useful and/or enticing ethnic food stores of every kind. Not to forget the excellent supermarkets and food departments in the big stores. All contribute to a good cook's larder.
NOTE: this is a work in progress; new/more shops will be added as I have time/make great new discoveries.
The new breed of butcher offers top quality/organic meat & poultry, not just well cut but often ready to cook. Note: if you are watching the pennies, eat vegetables more and meat less, but when you do, enjoy the best.
Moen South London's luxury butcher/deli in the heart of Clapham, with top quality meat, poultry, charcuterie and ready to cook dishes, plus a helpful selection of fresh and packaged foods.
Dove & Son Ltd A long established (since 1889) quality family butcher in the heart of Battersea's prime shopping street. Famous for its traditional meat pies, but also offers soups, casseroles, stock, curries, etc. SADLY JUST CLOSED DUE TO RATE RISE.
William Rose In the heart of East Dulwich, a popular source for quality meat and poultry plus a selection of ready to cook dishes.
Dugard & Daughters A top quality butcher/deli perfectly placed near Herne Hill station, with ready to cook dishes plus good charcuterie, cheese and packaged foods.
Flock & Herd Opened by young former team members at the Ginger Pig (see below) and top restaurants, this is an ambitious new butcher with quality meat and poultry on Bellenden Road in Peckham.
Lidgates London's deluxe butcher, famous for its top quality meats & poultry of every kind. Their pies and sausages are superb. A destination for food lovers.
Provenance Notting Hill's newest quality butcher with an enthusiastic young team and beautiful displays, very helpful, with ready to cook dishes, charcuterie, etc. Delivers in nearby areas.
Allens of Mayfair This is one of those beautiful traditional butchers, here since 1830, with its original Victorian decor, billed by Delia Smith as "one of the best places to buy game in the British Isles." Order online or by phone.
Ginger Pig This, the first real celebrity butcher, first opened at Borough Market in south London, but now has a clutch of 6 shops with prime quality meat and poultry scattered in key spots in north and south London.
The Parson's Nose A group of three, traditional family owned butchers in Fulham, Putney and Kensington with the kudos of a "best butcher" praise from Antonio Carlucci!
The Chelsea Fishmonger A fishmonger has been here for more than 100 years (when I first came to London, I shopped here). The current owner, Rex Goldsmith, has been in the trade since he was 13, and prides himself of offering the highest quality fish and shellfish.
Moxons A group of excellent fish shops in key spots north and south of the river, with a selection of ready to heat dishes made in their own kitchen.
Blackbird Bakery Eamonn Sweeney learned his baking skills in Martha's Vineyard in the US and returned to London to open his first shop in Herne Hill in 2005. Now there are 5 (soon to be 6) shops in South London, everything luscious, organic and made in its own ovens.
Patisserie Jade A fine French bakery in Blackheath Village - with a new addition at 145 Lordship Lane in East Dulwich. Prime French patisserie (and breads) transported to London - what a find!!!!!
Mrs. Cupcake London's first entirely vegan bakery tucked nicely in the heart of Brixton market. Open seven days a week, you can find lots of wheat/gluten free goodies as well. And they deliver!
Poilane In years past, I would hand carry Poilane bread from Paris to London before the first shop opened here. Now there are two, in Chelsea & Belgravia, both offering their delicious sourdough bread and simple cakes and cookies.
La Patisserie des Reves First central London shop for this Paris based patisserie which presents its cakes as if they were precious jewels - which, of course, they are (to eat). A must see!
Princi The first London spot for this delightful Milanese bakery and cafe. In the centre of London's Soho, and open almost all hours, it is perfect to take home (and satisfy a craving for) cannoli Siciliani, cannoncini, or other sumptuous Italian pastries. Pizza too.
Peggy Porchen A celebrity baker in Belgravia, with a starry client list, producing beautifully decorated cakes for every day and special occasions, ready made and bespoke.
Primrose Bakery A sweet little shop in Primrose Hill (where else?) for cupcakes & cakes - and also in Covent Garden.
Hummingbird Bakery First opened on Portobello Road in 2005 to bring the authentic taste of American home baking to London. Now there are 5 more shops scattered north of the river, each with its cakes & breads baked on site.
Baker & Spice Both bakery and deli, with fresh pastries, bread and cakes daily, plus a full range of ready made foods and salads (and jams) to eat in or take home. In Chelsea, Belgravia and Maida Vale.
Cocomaya Specializing in fine chocolates and artisan baked goods, a visit here is a proper treat, whether in Chelsea, the West End or the shops in Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.
Maitre Choux Spectacular eclairs in seemingly endless, delicious variety. A South Kensington must on your shopping list.
Konditor & Cook The first shop opened in Waterloo in 1996 and there are now 5 scattered north and south of the river, all offering traditional and deliciously exceptional cakes and pastries.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred A spectacular, chandelier lit fairy tale of a shop for historic, delicious French brioche, cakes and pastries transported from Paris (where it has 5 shops) to London's South Kensington and Battersea. Definitely a destination!
Biscuiteers Possibly the most tempting shop in London ! And that may be an understatement. A "biscuit boutique" in Notting Hill & Northcote Road, Clapham, with enchantingly decorated biscuits sold individually or in boxes - a gift for any reason you can think of. And even if you can't think of a reason. Plus biscuit decorating classes.
Mimosa A long established family run deli in Herne Hill (and now also in Vauxhall) with ready to eat dishes, cheese, charcuterie and - a great bonus - excellent in house patisserie and chocolates (good desserts are hard to find outside the very centre of London). There is also a "too tired to cook" range and catering if you are having a party. (Note: home made preserved lemons if you need them.)
Italo A tiny deli and cafe tucked away in Bonnington Square behind the Vauxhall Cross roundabout and worth following the maze to find it. With Gelupo gelatis, Rococo chocolates and other top quality products, along with cheese, baked pasta dishes, fresh ravioli (delivered mid week) and proper Sicilian cannolis on the weekends. Yum.
The Cheese Block 69 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8EP - An excellent, long established and very popular deli with a focus on cheese and charcuterie. Wonderful home made Indian snacks. Sadly no website.
Franklins Sister shop to the long popular restaurant on the nearby corner in East Dulwich - cheese, charcuterie, organic vegetables and carefully selected packaged food for people (and dogs).
Romeo Jones A tiny cafe & deli with quality ready made dishes in the heart of Dulwich Village.
Brindisa Sensational shops for Spanish food and ingredients in Borough Market and Brixton's Atlantic Avenue. Plus wonderfully helpful staff.
Salon An artisan food store (with restaurant upstairs) in the heart of Brixton Market offering British made cheeses, crackers, beers, chutneys and charcuterie. Fresh baked goods are made every day to eat in or take away.
Perspolis Calling itself "Persia in Peckham", this bright yellow shop is filled with fresh nuts, oils, and other foods you need to make Iranian and other middle eastern dishes. The pastries are delicious!
The Butcher & Grill A unique and extremely useful combination of butcher shop, delicatessen, patisserie and bistro style restaurant tucked just west of Battersea Park on Parkgate Road.
Hamish Johnston A wonderful, designation deli on Battersea's prime shopping street focused on its selection of cheeses, but excellent for artisan honeys, jams, beers, crackers, pasta, charcuterie, etc.
MaxFarlane's A small but excellent deli in the heart of Clapham's Abbeville Road (with a Ginger Pig across the way). High quality cheese is a specialty, but there is a wide range of charcuterie, organic Scottish salmon, artisan pate's, pesto. hummus, vegetables, etc. A bonus: beautiful cakes in a special cold box, artisan breads, sandwiches and soup.
Sally Clark A Kensington destination for wonderful breads, cakes, pastries, quiches, cheese, jams, soups, pates and other delectables. A treasure.
Lina Stores A classic Soho Italian delicatessen, filled with cheese, fresh pasta (including its own ravioli) and everything else you might expect to find in Milan or Rome.
Daylsford Organic Luxe shops in Notting Hill and Pimlico with in-house butcher and patisserie, cheese, own brand jams, chutneys and ready to heat soups and stews, all delicious.
La Piccola A rout of three very useful Italian delis in Holland Park, Kensington and Maida Vale, with good Italian products and freshly made meals to take home.
Valentina A good Italian deli (and restaurant) in Notting Hill (with several more in London suburbs) with an excellent selection of good Italian made dried pastas, olive oils, biscuits, wine, charcuterie, cheese and some ready made food.
Bahar Patisserie Officially a patisserie, and there is a generous selection of Middle eastern pastries, but what you want here at this excellent Iranian shop, one of a group of three, including Reza, on Kensington High Street is the incredible selection of nuts and other natural nibbles, plus the exotic selection of fruits and vegetables spilling over the displays just outsides the door.
La Bottega A group of four Italian delis/cafes scattered across London - on Monmouth Street, Pont Street, Old Brompton Road and Lower Sloane Street.
A.Gold Opened in Spittalfield as "a village shop in the city" to celebrate small producers and "the unusual, the nostalgic, and individuals with a passion for food." The website is a particular delight, with details of their lovely producers.
Melrose & Morgan First opened in Primrose Hill is 2004, now also in Hampstead, both with excellent freshly made pies, soups, cakes and pastries for a quick supper plus quality ingredients to cook at home.
Phoenica Mediterranean Food Hall A wonderfully sprawling shop on Kentish Town Road with a wide selection of food from Italy, Greece, Turkey and the Lebanon. Note: one of the widest selections of dried pasta in London. Also fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, cheese.
The Chin Chin Labs The first liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour in Europe with classic and innovative flavours in Camden Lock.
Ruby Violet Kentish Town spot for handmade, imaginatively flavoured ice creams and sorbets named for the original Ruby Violet who loved ice cream.
Amorina A French company offering Italian ice creams, granitas, chocolates and other sweet things with shops in Covent Garden, Soho and Chelsea.
Gelupo A wonderful little gelateria right across the street from its parent restaurant, Bocca di Lupo, with a constant changing array of imaginative favours (mint green tea, vanilla and saffron),
Oddono's Gelati Award winning Italian ice creams and sorbets plus ice cream cakes in key spots around London. Classic and constantly changing favours.
Nardulli Italian gelato just by Clapham Common with interesting, off-beat flavours, plus waffles, etc.
All of the delicatessens listed have good cheese selections as part of their stock. Below are specialist cheese shops.
The Borough Cheese Company sells just one cheese, the French mountain cheese, Comte. And it is wonderful.
Paxton & Whitfield London's oldest and most famous cheese shop on Jermyn Street, a delight to visit - just the smell as you walk in is exceptional. Here, too, superb traditional pork pies - definitely a treat!
Rippon Cheese An amazing selection of cheeses from all over the world, carefully matured and stored in the heart of Pimlico. Very knowledgable staff, happy to advise on what is best for your meal.
La Fromagerie Two shops, in Marylebone and Highbury, both with walk in cheese rooms, spectacular selections, and a rand of fresh and packaged produces, including their own jams/chutneys and a daily menu of ready made dishes to take away.
Neal's Yard Dairy Has been selling British artisanal cheeses since the 1970's and continues to offer a mouthwatering selection from its original Covent Garden shop and in Borough Market and Bermondsey. A must on any list.
Spa Terminus Over the past couple of years, this Saturday market has become a prime spot for artisanal products - from yoghurt, cheeses & butter through charcuterie, olive oils and beer - along with exceptional vegetables, fruit, special cakes and pastries.
Borough Market Key to know is that there are two parts to this sprawling market - one mainly for ready to eat food and the other primarily for produce. The selections of British and imported cheeses and charcuterie are sensational. Note: Wednesday through Friday are the best days to shop - Saturdays are just too crowded.
Herne Hill Farmer's Market A small, Sunday food and crafts market (10am-4pm) by the British Rail station which is getting better all the time. Excellent cheeses, charcuterie, breads, vegetables, etc.
North Cross Road Market A small but very useful market on Saturdays just off Lordship Lane in East Dulwich. A must is Pasta di Grazia, the best take home fresh ravioli in London, in my view. Also excellent cheese from Mootown, brownies and cakes at The South-East Cakery.
Oval Farmers Market Tucked in the grounds of the lovely St Mark's Church on Saturdays, with fruit and vegetables from Kent, rare breed meats, organic breads, traditionally made cheese, etc.
Brixton Farmer's Market A small Sunday market with fresh produce.
Pimlico Road Farmers Market The market I shop at most Saturday mornings on the corner of Pimlico Road and Ebury Street with David Jennings' East Anglian seafood, Chegworth Valley Fresh fruit and vegetables, Tilly's fresh eggs (and Moreton mushrooms), Downland Pigs, etc. A delight.
Partridge's Farmer's Market, Duke of York Square, and our second favourite for Saturday shopping, with more than 70 stalls ranging from fresh tea blends to made in London artisan cheese, fresh pasta and ready made dishes to take away. Nick's Fine cakes are a special treat, as are Cutter & Squidge's "bisques" - a followup to macaroons.
Marylebone Farmers Market A lively Sunday market behind Marylebone High Street.
Note: these are all independent chocolate/sweet makers.
Rococo Founded in 1983 by Chantal Cody - who has been awarded an OBE for her contribution to chocolates! Plus many Gold Medals in The Academy of Chocolate awards. There are three London shops (Marylebone, Belgravia and Chelsea) offering a wide range of imaginatively favoured and packaged chocolates plus a chocolate school. PLUS! Delicious ice lollies from The Ice Kitchen, developed and produced by Claudia Roden's grandchildren (what a heritage). PLUS Rococo's own range of ingredients to use in your own sweet/cake/ice cream making.
William Curley Awarded Britain's Best Chocolatier Award four times by The Academy of Chocolate, most handy for us is the flagship boutique in Belgravia (right by our favourite Farmer's Market). With spectacular patisserie and ice creams (eat in or take home) as well as chocolates, you can find them also in the original Richmond boutique and in Harrods. A must is the five course dessert bar available on weekends only!
Paul. a. Young His move from head pastry chef at Marco Pierre White's Quo Vadis and Criterion restaurants to Gold Award winning chocolatier (The Academy of Chocolate), TV personality and author - "Adventures With Chocolate" - has put Paul's handmade chocolates a must on any list.
Montezuma's Founded in Brighton in 2000 (where we first tasted it), now with a shop in Shoredtitch's Brushfield Street, these are truly exceptional artisanal chocolates, imaginative and fun.
Said Italian chocolates from Rome with a London shop in Broadwick Street, behind Liberty.
Anges de Sucre A tiny sweet shop on Holland Street, just off Kensington Church Street, filled with hand made, wonderfully flavoured marshmallows plus macaroons and other sweet things. Former investment banker Reshmi Bennett, a Londoner of Indian origin, was brought up in Kuwait and lived in Paris, so no wonder her confections mix European and Indian influences. A delight.
Dark Sugars chocolate boutique on Brick Lane in Shoreditch has a spectacular selection of giant chunks of milk or dark chocolate, coco dusted truffles and miniature chocolate confections almost too beautiful to eat. A discovery!
Hope and Greenwood Opened on Northcross Road in East Dulwich (now closed) in 2004, this traditional sweet shop is English childhood nostalgia at its best and most delightful. The shop in Covent Garden is a must see, and there is also one in Japan, a series of books ("Life is Sweet," "Sweets Made Simple"), and a collection of home accessories and a must see tv series are new.
Mast This Brooklyn based brand is chocolate as art, with "collections" of individual flavours deliciously, beautifully wrapped.