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whole foods, london

opened yesterday. as its two minutes from my house, i thought i'd take a peek on my way home from work.

quick first impression: MUCH superior to waitrose and positioned between m&s and the specialty (butcher, fruit and veg, wine etc) stores: loved to see all the reislings in the wine racks, loved that neals yard dairy stocked the cheese, loved the decent looking olive oil, the salamis etc. took some pizza home for the family - good-not-great, but better than pizza express, or even da marios.

while i couldn't see the whole store (its massive), i suspect they've done it right - the neighborhood is surrounded by londons wealthy expat (european and american) population who'll happily pay a little bit more for lots better. i can't see the shop working in londons more british neighborhoods - say the grungier islington or the east end, but kensingtons a perfect launch.

if whole foods sticks to this standard, i'm thrilled. anyone else checked the place out?

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  1. I'll take a look next time I'm in that neighborhood. I'm familiar with quite a few of the U.S. stores - last one I visited was Bellevue, WA in January. Most people interviewed on the news last night didn't seem to mind the high prices saying, 'It's London, after all.' Everyone has their priorities in life... food is often a big one and Whole Foods is very good at marketing and displaying things beautifully. So what did you buy, howler?? :-)

    20 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      just bought pizza for the family; i'll go shop at 9.00 pm when no-ones around and i can miss the lines. will certainly stock up on the riesling - i havent seen spatlese quality at £10 from good prducers in a while.

      prices aren't THAT high: they are mostly at the m&s sorta range and cheaper than, say, lidgates where you routinely pay £15 for a chicken.

      1. re: howler

        o how wonderful - I had no idea. I'm very tempted to leave this computer and shoot over to the other side of town (Grungy east-ender who actually is willing to pay a little extra).
        What is their fresh food section like?
        Did they have the 20 duifferent types of granola and interesting things such as home made peanutbutter?
        Do they have the big range of wash and beauty products as well, such as ALBA etc?

        I feel a little silly asking these quesitons, but this to me is very exciting!

        1. re: loisstella

          it IS fun. as to your other questions, why not come down and check it out?

          and to defend my grungy quote: its always been the case for cities in england that their west sides were wealthier and snazzier - the wind blows from the west and carries the pollution to the east. and it didn't help london that ww2 was spectacularly cruel to the east end.

          successful stores have always been about merchandizing and location, location, location. finally, as a chowhound, you CAN'T be grungy. on the other hand, if you were a (ugh) 'foodie' ...

          1. re: howler

            I'm coming!
            Think I just managed to blag myself an early exit from the office and come down to be inspired... and let's face it, I will overspend, because allthough I love my food, you are right, they wouldn't build a whole foods in Hackney! (you never know though, i live in the - up and coming - Victoria park area and the volume of the 'creative director type' and extremely expensive baby prams seem to go up by the day)

            1. re: loisstella

              enjoy! and get some riesling!

              re: victoria park - you are of course right, its where the new, funky young stuff is. i'm always amazed that london refuses to get trendy south of the river - inexorably eastward, but not southward. i suspect its a tribeca-wanna-look industrial sort of thing. but its a bit of a hike when it comes to getting out of town, no?

              other than the green papaya, i haven't found much of interest in hackney. am i missing anything?

              1. re: howler

                Well, I guess I'm one of those 'don't go south' snobs as well (yeah, I'll live in the east -end "ghetto" but don't venture south often). and yeah, it's a track if you're coming form the West -end, but of course delightfully close from the City (tube doesn't even have to get involved)

                In our area, I really like Namo (Victoria Park road), another vietnamese place.
                We have the Empress of India which is one of the new restaurants to cater for the new people (and their many infants), and it is good. Nice fresh dishes.
                However, about 2 weeks ago, a fantastic new fish and chips place opened, right next door to the Empress. It's called 'Fishshop' or 'Fishplace' or something along those lines.
                It could be a chain, but I'm not sure.
                We picked up some fish there the other day (after I had a root canal I was in the mood for some comfort food) and the cod was deliciously moist and flaky, the batter wasn't to greasy, nice; light and crispy. The mushy peas were yummie and very fresh.
                Plus, I really liked the packaging...
                Definitelly worth visitng next time you're hanging out in the lovely park.

                There's also Frocks, which unfortunatelly is a bit hit and miss. I've had a few fantastic meals there, but my most recent visit wasn't great. I hope they just had a sick chef, not a new one who's buggering things up for them. When it's good it's very good. I'll have to go again soon, and report back to you.

                A little bit out, but still close enough to call home - the steaks and friendly service of Santa Maria at Broadway market make me very happy.
                And, on saturday, at the Braodway market, you must try the mother / daughter vegetarian Indian home cooking. It's is beautiful, fragrant, 'clean', herby. An absolute favourite!

                1. re: loisstella

                  aaah, home cooked indian vegetarian food - thats the real thing, light, transcendent, spectacularly delicious.

                  ask them what region they're from next time. the guess is gujuarathi, since there are som namy (via east africa!) here.

                  1. re: howler

                    I was so impressed.
                    The usual British / Indian cooking doesn't appeal to me very much - too creamy etc,
                    We had some similar food (to the lady at Broadway) before in Northern California (Palo Alto, Sunnydale area) where you could even get an amazing breakfast...
                    The lady at Broadway has been a real discover.! It tastes of passionate homecooking, and that is the best way.

                    1. re: loisstella

                      "The usual British / Indian cooking doesn't appeal to me very much - too creamy etc,"

                      have you not seen my various rants about this?! here's one link, almost at random:


                      1. re: howler

                        I must admit, am a complete novice when it comes to Indian, because my experience was with the "Brick Lane" type restaurant only and I wasn't often impressed.
                        The experiences in California, and this lovely lady have opened my eyes.
                        I'd love to try more and also keen to have Indian breakfast again - I've heard West London does have some places. Have you got any tips?

                        1. re: loisstella

                          They do have make your own peanut butter at Whole Foods. I saw it on the TV last night. It's oh, so goopy. :-) The produce looked fantastic and maybe it's worth the extra pences.

                    2. re: howler

                      They're called Gujarati Rasoi and they don't just do Broadway Market.


                      1. re: Howard V


                        mother and son are almost undoubtedly from east africa, fyi. its funny how they spell 'muramba', which is a marmaladish chutney both the gujjus and maharastrians make (but never with just apple). also, its always chevda (chevdo sounds parsi-ish), but 'chevd-ro'?

                        gotta check out the food - it'll be interesting to see if they've 'africanised' it a bit.

                        1. re: Howard V

                          Sorry to ask, especially if I'm asking somehting I'm obviously overlooking... Where else are they?
                          The article mentions the stall at the market only as far as I can see....

                          1. re: loisstella

                            looks like they are at exmouth mkt on fridays and saturdays. but we really should start another thread if theres more on this subject.

                      2. re: loisstella

                        It's also worth visiting The Crown, on the south side of Victoria Park. The pub, as a whole, has organic certification. The food's pretty good, nice selection of wine and Pitfield beers.

                        1. re: Howard V

                          I'm pretty sure the Crown got transformed into a tapas bar last summer....

                    3. re: loisstella

                      Hi Lois I live in Manor Park (moved from Kensington in Feb 2006) and am always on the lookout for reliable/interesting places to eat between the City (my office is in Spitalfields) and Wanstead, so any recs gratefully received, and reciprocated.

                2. re: howler

                  not sure if your riesling was store label, but let me tell you...i was a regular at the whole foods in chicago on lincoln & belmont (if anyone knows it) and became a huge fan of the whole foods store label wines. i don't know what their strategy is--if they buy the grapes and make their own or contract out with someone--but i always found that the store label wine was really inexpensive and of above average quality. but then again, i've rarely met a bottle of wine i haven't liked. :)

              2. Although I am a very regular visiter to our local WF, around here they call it "Whole Paycheck".....I can't even imagine the price of things in a market in London.

                1. Dropped into Whole Foods this morning. I left very satisfied. All of the employees were very friendly and helpful and seemed to know what they were talking about. (There also seem to be a lot of employees brought over from the US.) I'll have photos and more details on my blog on Tuesday, but here's what really impressed me...

                  1. The cheese selection and the cheese room
                  2. The baskets that you can wheel along behind you (they are dangerous, however, in the hands of five year olds)
                  3. When I checked out, one of my items wasn't on their system. They gave it to me for free and the cashier told me--and I thought this was great--that it wasn't my fault that the salad dressing wasn't in the register, so I shouldn't have to wait for them to figure out the price. He also clarified (lest you are all heading to South Ken right now to buy all the salad dressing) that they have a great system in place to correct these sorts of problems as soon as they happen so it doesn't happen again.
                  4. The prepared food in the salad bars looks truly marvelous. That being said, my Whole Foods in Chicago had a ton of salad dressings, and I only saw three out at WFSouthKen.

                  There is definitely some constructive criticism--I felt like I should have had my boarding card and passport ready as I went through the tills--but I thought it was pretty great for a grocery store. (Also, I checked out at 12 and all in all didn't wait that long.) WF is not Borough Market, but then again, nothing is.

                  Felt bad for the poor folks at M&S who had hired a guy on stilts and all sorts of young women with sashes to try to lure people in. They have a strong product...they shouldn't be afraid. (And well, a guy in stilts in never going to solve any problems.)

                  1. I spent a happy hour at Whole Foods today.

                    Overall reaction: a great addition to the high street, in particular because it carries a wide range of interesting brands and items not carried elsewhere. But I was less impressed than I thought I'd be by the layout and display.

                    Good points:
                    - Great range (which I hope will encourage other high-end supermarkets to expand their offering).
                    - Huge selection of smoked fish (oodles of different types of smoked salmon etc)
                    - Some interesting stuff in the produce section (fresh horseradish, banana flowers, palm hearts, great *proper-sized* bunches of fresh herbs)
                    - Really interesting snacks, crisps etc
                    - The fresh peanut/almond/cashew-butter bar
                    - A nice fish counter (reminding me of Andronico's in Palo Alto); although maybe a bit too much tuna and swordfish (yawn!)
                    - Some tasty-looking dry-aged beef in cold storage
                    - A zillion types of organic milk!
                    - Prices not as high as I expected
                    - Incredibly friendly and enthusiastic service throughout

                    What impressed me less:
                    - The store layout and display wasn't as classy as WFMs I remember from the US. This isn't a big deal, but I wasn't as blown away as I expected to be (examples: a lot of poor quality/small/obscure signage, making it hard to navigate)
                    - No fresh galangal or thai basil (surprising given the size of the Thai condiments section and the otherwise great produce)

                    But a great place, and good news for shoppers - not least because the other high-end supermarkets will have to up their game to compete!

                    10 Replies
                      1. re: abpstigand

                        Whole Foods is reviewed in today's Observer.

                        Clearly they aim for a select and selective customer base and have probably picked the one part of the UK where folk might reguarly cross their threshold.

                        £9.99 a kilo for non-organic cherries? In the European cherry season? Surely they are having a laugh at their customer's expense (although another Brit phrase came to mind).

                        As Sunday Times food critic Adrian Gill comments it's a "very American approach to food". I doubt whether UK supermarket chains will be quaking in their boots.


                        1. re: Brit on a Trip

                          my, my - all this from newspaper reports. just imagine how much more sure you'd be of your opinions if you actually went there (grin).

                          fyi, brits are a minority at the store - its mostly expats - so an "american approach to food" is fine. and its been so crowded that yesterday i saw they'd had to put up a line and restrict entry.

                          1. re: Brit on a Trip

                            Ocado is showing cherries at £14.51 a kilo at the moment.

                            Perhaps the Observer journalist should have done some basic research before assuming Whole Foods are idiots... :-)

                            UK supermarkets spend a fair bit of time looking at store layouts and offerings in other countries, and see the high-end US 'market' format as an attractive one. So the presence of one of the masters of the genre in a very affluent London market will if anything speed up the trend.

                            1. re: Brit on a Trip

                              Just curious... what did Gill say was the 'American approach to food?'

                                1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                  Thanks for the link. I see Gill equates American approach with 'volume.'

                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                    Yeah, I read that and thought "Hmmm". It's not something I've particularly noticed when I've visited supermarkets in the US - they don't seem to me to be too different between, say, a major Sainsbury's here, or a major Carrefour in France or Spain.

                                    I take the journo's point about mustard variety though. There was a time when I was sucker for every new, different mustard I came across in a foodie shop. Now I just have Colman's powder for scorchingly hot English; and a good Dijon and a grain.

                                    1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                      The only difference I miss between the supermarkets here vs the U.S., is the larger 'volume' amount of cake mixes, muffin mixes etc. that I had back there. I confess to being a rather lazy baker. I was surprised to see how little there is in the UK baking sections but there is good reason for it. I was the same with mustards. They can overwhelm the pantry and for no good reason. But then I just found Mrs. Bridge's Balsamic grain - it's good!

                                      1. re: zuriga1

                                        One thing I miss about grocery stores in the U.S. is that the shelves always seem to be full. Go to a grocery store in London at 7 p.m. on a Thursday and it's slim pickins! And let's say they have lemon yogurt on Monday...there's no guarantee they'll have lemon on Thursday...cherry or something else, maybe.

                                        Is it me?

                          2. I'm a Californian expat living in Shoreditch and I am so pleased WF is here. I am equally pleased that I don't live anywhere near it (for many of the same reasons that we didn't choose to live in SouthKen - just not right for us). Whole Paycheck, indeed! I like not having to make the choice of my local groceries or Whole Foods - at least not on a daily/weekly basis.

                            That said...I hear they have a good selection of own-brand stuff, and - MY FAVORITE - blue corn tortilla chips which I have been as of yet unable to find in London. We won't be going this weekend, but are planning to head over there very early in a week or so.

                            (And - off topic - but I don't nec. think that the East End would be that wrong for WF...they've done quite well South of Market in San Francisco...admittedly nearer the ballpark than deeper into the area, but...)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: KaCHing

                              The store is in High St Kensington and not South Kensington. It is a monstrous carbuncle in Ken High and thank goodness people are beginning to realiseit. there are mountains of stuff thrown out everyday and the area at the rearsmells horendous and must be a safety hazard K & C environmental take note. The sasusages and prepared dishes look extremely tired and flacid and as for the Salads and Curries....£17.00 a kilo...please !!
                              Chocolates are now old and tasteless, eggs came from a box labelled eggs !!

                              The biggest disaster is that they closed the old entrances through Barkers arcade which used to have a huge pedestrian flow and they closed the side entance as well forcing everyone to go in and out of the main entrance passing the most intimidating heavies which would not be out of place in a Nightclub plus plainclothes detectives
                              patolling the store !! Get wise guys..you are guarding dead fish and potatoes not Harrods Jewellery. The wastage in food and the cost of all these cameras and wages would not cover the cost of the odd bag of beans occasionally filched

                              1. re: cameron1

                                i take it you didn't like the place (grin)

                            2. Perhaps someone posted it and I missed it. Where is the store located?

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Withnail42

                                The only good thing is that as someone else said..it has made M & S and Waitrose raise their game for now. Spanish Jamon £16.50/100gms ouch !

                                1. re: cameron1

                                  iberico is the same price at brindisa, no? and whole foods has an enormously expensive rent bill to meet.

                                  fyi, if you want a spanish price, go to


                                  and they'll deliver it to you.

                                  i've learnt that prices in the uk are downright silly and not always from gouging. ever tried buying a cigar in london? a robusto will set you back £10 here and cost you about 5 euros in madrid.

                                  personally, i find the carping about price etc to be besides the point - no one is forcing anyone to shop there, and if people want to be silly and spend their money when they can get the identical product cheaper elsewhere, why its always been that way.

                                  have you seen the prices at lidgates?

                                  whole foods is glossy, up market and in kensington. borough market is in southwark - to do any serious shopping, you have to drive, find parking, brave the throng of tourists ... an experience i would pay to avoid.

                                  1. re: howler

                                    I'm sorry it's so late or I'd be on my way there now. Maybe I missed it, but I didn't notice anyone mentioning whether or not WFs offers fruit and veg without 4 layers of packaging. Blue corn tortilla chips.... I feel a swoon coming on.

                                2. re: Withnail42

                                  Thank you all for your you input regarding Spanish ham...My question was, however, where is the place?

                                  1. re: Withnail42

                                    Its a success, on the Whole. Well, I adore it. It even smells like America, which is quite exciting. Miss the crowds by going early or late. And it is not as expensive as legend has it. It certainly compares well with M&S and Waitrose, even on staples like flour - an incredible selection - and, yes, peanut butter, freshly made or otherwise. Who knew there were so many different (organic) brands of peanut butter? Its kind of dazzling to us Brits, hovering in the aisles, paralysed by choice. Thank you Krista for the note about the store label wine; I'm going to try it. My best tip is the delicious rose from Auxerre in Chablis. Its £9.99 in Whole Foods, but imho better than any Sancerre rose The price of crab seems to have gone up since I wrote my report, which is here, if anyone is interested...

                                    1. re: jan moir

                                      Just out of curiosity, what does America smell like? :-)

                                      1. re: zuriga1

                                        Poetic liberty. Obviously not granted! I meant - it smells like an American food store. They smell different to the ones here.

                                        1. re: jan moir

                                          I grant liberties... don't worry. It's an American tradition. :-) I really haven't noticed the smell thing, even after living in the UK for 3 years. I sometimes think American stores smell a lot like coffee for some reason. My love M&S because you can smell the bakery odors very well.

                                3. I went last Friday - I was in High St Ken anyway so... The place reminded me of so many foods (and wines) that I love. That being said, all I bought was an ice-cream - and it wasn't a patch on a number of others in London.

                                  I say reminded - they had bitter aubergines, I haven't done a thai curry in a while... They had a brand of olive oil that reminded me of a wine bar in Florence that I liked very much...

                                  They had cheese that Sainsburys sell for less than half the price...

                                  All in all, very good for picking up the spirit and thinking of ideas, then buying the produce elsewhere - or going to try and find it, I always like a food shop exploration session. Some things weren't hideously marked up but an awful lot was.

                                  As for wine, don't even get me started, if I could sell my cellar for the prices they are charginf I could retire. (Well, not quite but you get the point)

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: ali patts

                                    "As for wine, don't even get me started"

                                    no, lets. feel free to vent.

                                    1. re: howler

                                      I don't think the Evening Standard liked it very much. I think he misses the point on the rice. At least.

                                      1. re: jan moir

                                        yep, he misses the point about the rice. but the lack of knowledgeable staff is true: they have people in the cheese shop who haven't the slightest idea of what varieties you'd eat with what, when a cheese is actually ripe enough etc.

                                        also, the meats have been a disappointment. i'm puzzled by this - the bacon i bought turned out to be ordinary waitrose standard, a far cry from the wonders of wyndham house. how hard can it be to stock a decent hunk of short back or streaky sourced from the same place that the people in spitalfields, for example, get theirs? on the other hand, the box of organic free range eggs was almost indian in its tastiness, what a find.

                                        1. re: howler

                                          I have been following this site since a couple of weeks before my visit to London this past spring, and I am finding it highly amusing that this thread has been the most active and impassioned during that time. I live in a suburb of NYC and have a Whole Foods in my neighborhood for the past 2-3 years. (They have been invading Manhattan during the past year and caused quite a stir there, as well.) I assume the chain's sources for meat and produce must, at least in part, be different in the UK from in the US, so I doubt any specifics I might offer from experience in those areas would be helpful. Except: Much of their produce is higher than other chain markets, partly because much is organic, but the price can be worth it sometimes because of the quality, particularly with the fruit, which is often in better shape and much tastier. They are certainly not a bargain store in general, but I have found certain items actually competitive or cheaper; you just need to look around carefully. In my case, two items I always buy there now are St. Andre cheese (a family favorite) and extra large free range brown eggs, for some reason at a much lower cost than elsewhere (tho that same cheese was several dollars higher at a branch in California!) They also carry a good selection of fresh breads, some good coffees, and ice cream brands I like that are otherwise hard to find. I do not know, of course, how this might apply to the London store. They are not a cure-all for supermarket blues, but they can be a useful addition to your food sources.

                                          1. re: Westjanie

                                            "I have been following this site since a couple of weeks before my visit to London this past spring, and I am finding it highly amusing that this thread has been the most active and impassioned during that time."

                                            this board is 25% london restaurant discussion and 75% american tourists looking for tips. this thread gets posters from both camps ...

                                                1. re: Westjanie

                                                  I worked for a short time at Fortunoff's before moving to England. Half our staff left (young girls) to work at Whole Foods. They opened a bit late for me to get to know the store, but I've been in others since when visiting my kids. I agree that's it certainly isn't for the weekly food shop, but it's fun looking around.

                                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                                    Having heard a lot about Whole Foods and followed this blog, I decided to finally check out the store and went there a few times over the past week. Fantastic store -- unbelievable product quality/breadth, very friendly employees (highly service oriented), and it was fun place to shop! I know of no other store that compares to WF in these areas. I will be a loyal customer.

                                                    But what about the prices????? I found that the term Whole "Paycheck" is a complete misnomer. I actually took the time to compare prices/quality and there is no doubt in my mind that WF offers the best value proposition in terms of price/quality. And since when did "cheap" food become a good thing -- with WF, the food is high quality, healthy, and ethically sourced. Call me crazy but I want to know that I'm eating healthy, good food. And by the way, the WF 365 product line offers prices that I found to be extremely competitive if not lower than at other food retailers while the quality was great. This store has something for everyone.

                                                    1. re: CPT


                                                      When you say that the food is ethically sourced, could you elaborate please.

                                                      I have read that much of the fruit and vegetable stock is imported with very high "food miles". Would this just be for organics or for general produce. If true, then one would have to question the ethics, I think.

                                                      BTW, can anyone confirm for me which accreditation body WF uses for its London store. Soil Association?


                                                      1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                        Don't know if this has any application to the London store, but you might enjoy this article from the NY Times:


                                                      2. re: CPT

                                                        I've scoured London for cheap high quality oats, and WF trumps Sainsbury's Taste the Difference by something like 10p/100g.

                                                        I have yet to do the masa pricing.

                                      2. So... I went last week and o the joy of it!
                                        Bought some beautiful aged fillet steak. Was very happy to find old WF favourites like blue corntorilla chips, corn wraps, WF bathing products, "make your own" peanutbutter etc.
                                        Was also very pleased to see the lovely English Preserves jams and chutneys and there was some fabulous 'local' cheeses, had some fab sausage rolls.
                                        Service brilliant, was trying to locate some mixed fajita herbs, and someone actuallty ran me across the store to locate it and wouldn't give up till he found it. The bliss of someone helping rather than kissing their teeth when asked to do anything in shop nearly brought a trear to my eye. All groceries were packed up and carried to the car. I love it.
                                        Can't wait til my next visis (alreayd planned with a mate for next Tuesaday evening as we must sample the foods on the first floor)

                                        1. Enjoyed Whole Foods when we lived in California. It is a wonderful addition to Kensington High Street. It is thankfully a place which stays open until 10 p.m. during the week which automatically makes it different from anywhere else in Kensington. Very early town. The food is wonderfully presented but unless the store becomes a tourist destination; which it might-I would be surprised if its success derives from the business of the locals. Prices are way too high for regular groceries shopping so I can see locals filling in with odds and ends but not using it as their main grocery shopping store. The old line Kensington residents arent used to shopping in American stores, particularly ones whose prices for some items border on the obscene and the yuppie Brits are too broke after paying their mortgages to have much money for high priced food shopping. So that leaves the expats and the tourists which I can imagine will be the bulk of the regular food shoppers at Whole Foods.

                                          Also thought they should have made one of the upstairs food areas a chefs kitchen for visiting chefs to use as a food theatre with it being broadcasted to TV's hung above the entrance on the block outside the store and possibly having a TV studio at the same time to tape the chefs for on air broadcasts.

                                          The way to make Whole Foods sustainable is for it to have the image of a place to come to -where the action is. It may be able to accomplish this by being a place open late but it would have made more sense for it to adopt the aforementioned in order to sustain its 'ccolness'. Otherwise it wears off.
                                          Now if only Trader Joes expanded to England along with Inn & Out Burger and Poquito Mas-

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: An American Living in London

                                            You had to go there.... making me think about animal style - o, i want one!

                                          2. I go to Whole Foods all the time, but then that's over here. I've not been to this one, though I'm sure it's massively more expensive than the ones back home.


                                            1. from reading the posts...I can see Wholefoods is going to make their estimate of $48MM Turnover or was that Stg from the odd Peanut butter and Blue Corn Chips !!
                                              Think they have maybe 200 customers a day so some way to go guys !!
                                              What about the waste plus the ethics or lack of of the place.


                                              1. It's a funny thing this special transatlantic relationship. When Ramsay opened his first Stateside restaurant in Manhattan last year, the NYC critics lined up to crucify him and his operation. Likewise when Wholefoods recently opened their first own name store in the UK in London's Kensington, the London critics couldn't wait to start their naysaying. In both cases criticisms were predictable and excessively harsh.

                                                I held off contributing to this thread until I had had a chance to visit the store which I was finally able to do yesterday afternoon. Here are some of my thoughts in no particular order:

                                                *As with the NYC stores, definitely a place where you look forward to go shopping (provided that you miss the crowds, I always aim for post 9pm) as it's all visually pleasing, roomy and user friendly. The NYC stores play upbeat music all the time, a feature that I like, and I wasn't sure why music was only playing in some parts of the London store but not others. Disappointed to find that the main food area is subterranean, I'm a big fan of natural lighting.

                                                *Great service. I asked an [American] store manager how many product lines from their NYC stores they were carrying in London and he couldn't have been more helpful. Unfortunately his answer was not many (due to labelling, transportation etc limitations) but I was pleased to find a few brands I have grown fond of during my time in NYC including "Bone Suckin" sauces, Frontera salsas and Peanut Butter & Co products. I need to explore this further and there's a chance that new product lines will appear in the course of time I am advised.

                                                *Food quality. I'll need to do a few shops to get a better sense of this but my impression is that, as with the NYC stores, I'll end up spending my money on sauces/accompaniments, tinned items, ice creams (exceptional range in the NYC stores), chocolates, breads, cereals, drinks and general grocery/pantry/cupboard items i.e. everything apart from the fresh produce and prepared foods. That said the deli sections in the London store seem to be at a higher level than in NYC so I plan to delve deeper into these options. And I would point out that I've always preferred to buy my fruit, veg, meat, fish from specialist, local or ethnic shops for a whole host of reasons, that's just me. I would also point out that the competition Wholefoods faces here is much stronger than in NYC - most supermarket chains in NYC are pretty hopeless so WF really stands head and shoulders above the rest.

                                                *Food prices. No grumbles here, they seem par for the course for a high end London grocery store in an upscale neighbourhood. Sure there are rip offs (one of the reasons why I so rarely buy fresh produce especially fruit and veg from places like this) but as with any food store, you've got to be a bit of an old lady, do your research and get a feel for the pricing across the board. As with other places there will be keen and less keen pricing and sometimes items are priced far more reasonably than you would expect, I always use the Greek style gigantes beans in Selfridge's Food Hall as an example of this.

                                                *Other. Agree with the general view about the 1st floor food court, it's underwhelming. Some other interesting features on the 1st floor including info computer terminals, artistic displays and a wi-fi area (I think), not bad for escaping High Street Ken afternoon mayhem.

                                                *Overall, it's a welcome addition to the London grocery scene as it offers something different to existing options. It will certainly keep the main players on their toes and that can only be good for the customer. With the profits that those companies make, customers should expect the highest quality offerings from the chain grocers all the time.

                                                One final comment with respect to one of the previous posts - don't be surprised to see WF expanding into unlikely neighbourhoods. Last April, they opened their 4th Manhattan store on the EV/LES border, an area that was still virtually no-go as recently as 10-15 years back.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: oonth

                                                  I don't know if anyone's still looking at this thread but... I love whole foods in the US and live in England now. My problem is that I live in Surrey so it's hard for me to get there and get a lot of food home from there. But I worry about the English reaction to the place. We were taking a bus there and we asked the driver if it stopped at Whole Foods. An older woman (she sounded Eastern European) spent the whole trip telling us why we shouldn't shop there. They have so much stuff, it couldn't possibly be fresh. She gets her organic stuff at Marks and Spencer and it's cheaper. English people don't seem to be able to discriminate between buying a whole organic swiss chard and getting good quality, healthy PREPARED food. I want the convenience of someone else cooking stuff I actually want to eat. I don't care nearly as much about its organic pedigree or carbon footprint. Sorry - that's very American of me but that's the way I am. I see the usual jealosy and suspicion which Europeans usually have towards American goods even if they're better and cheaper. I hope Whole Foods London makes it.

                                                  1. re: relda

                                                    I live in Surrey, too, so when I get to Whole Foods (not that often), I just buy a few favorite items to bring home. Plus, everything is so overpriced and I still feel like a fool spending that much on food. Maybe that's because I'm older and have 'seen that, done that in my previous life US life. There are lots of people in London with a great deal of money, and if they want to shop there, I figure it's their perogative. I once worked next to a Whole Foods store in NY and to see the prices here just puts me into cardiac arrest.

                                                    It's not just American foods that Europeans make fun of. I don't know how long you've been here, but TV shows are constantly full of anti-American jokes. It's OK... we've made fun of the British food and people for many years, too. Human nature.....

                                                    1. re: relda

                                                      You've based the English reaction to Whole Foods on one Eastern European lady you met on a bus?

                                                      1. re: relda

                                                        Jealousy of what - Whole Foods? I'm sure most Europeans would beg to differ!

                                                        1. re: relda

                                                          yh this is totally a weird thing to say - 'better and cheaper'??? um whole foods is cheaper compared to what exactly? i think almost any food place you shopped in london would be cheaper than whole foods.

                                                          i guess the only thing i agree w/ is when you said 'that's very american of me'

                                                      2. On vacation in London for a few daysand looking for a place to grab a quick bite for lunch and stumbled upon Whole Foods. I absolutely loved it! The store has 3 floors of fresh fruit, meat, fish and prepared food. The third floor even has a D.J. mixing up the tunes.Found the prices to be very reasonable for London. Especially loved the crepe bar!! Must check it out!

                                                        1. WF like to bill themselves as a "organic" foodstore but I believe that only 20-25% of their produce is actually organic so that is why the Brits are sceptical.
                                                          In London, it was very easy to get good organic food long before WF arrived and WF found that the organic suppliers were already supplying the likes of Waitrose, M & S etc. That is why WF have had to broaden their meaning of locally produced. I believe that for the London store, "local" is anywhere within a 4 hour flight!

                                                          They have also just announced £10 million loss in their London store. I have visited a few times to buy one item or so as it is local and the store is now almost empty (even on a Saturday afternoon)

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: scooby99

                                                            That doesn't surprise me. Most people are stepping down a level when it comes to shopping (going from Waitrose to Sainsbury, for example, or Tesco to Asda or Aldi) and Whole Foods has positioned itself at the very top of the luxury market.

                                                            I haven't actually been there yet - not because I'm not interested, but because there's no compelling reason for me to schlep all the way to Kensington High Street.

                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              I'm still so naive about shopping over here. I schlepped all the way to WF one day because I needed malt syrup and thought they would probably have it there. Little did I know, it's in Holland & Barrett, 10 minutes from my house. :-) The WF stores in the States are quite different than the London version. I can see why they're losing money here.

                                                              1. re: zuriga1

                                                                That's interesting - how does shopping differ here and what's Whole Foods like in the States?

                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                  The Whole Foods stores I've been in back 'there,' have much larger frozen sections for one thing. The one near my son in Redmond seemed very large (only one floor) and perhaps more products in certain categories. I can't remember for sure, but they didn't seem to specialize as much in different cheeses and certainly not the wine selection of the London store either. I've never been an 'organic' shopper per se, so I never used to pay that much attention to what was there.

                                                                  Do you mean shopping in general, GG? The first thing that comes to mind is that everything is half the price it is here and there are a lot more cake mixes and low-calorie choices in the States. I can't believe the cost of things like corn on the cob, blueberries etc. But I can see a real difference in the lrange of low-calorie things here compared to when I arrived here 4 years ago.

                                                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                                                    The price of meat in the US is incredible - over on Home Cooking people talk about chicken for 99 cents a pound or even less. I find that extraordinary, and not necessarily in a good way.

                                                                    Re prices - you need to start shopping in Lidl! I love it for certain things, and they have very good deals on fruit and veg. I buy cherry tomatoes by the truckload.

                                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                                      We got a Lidl in our town about 18 months ago, and I go there for certain things. I love it! Their pork chops aren't bad at all, and I love the mini-biscuits (I guess they're from Germany). Blueberries and strawberries are lots less expensive, but the quality suffers. Tomatoes *are* are a great buy. My husband buys lots of apples. And the hot dogs can't be beat for 99p. I guess you and I both like to do comparison shopping. :-)

                                                                      I found a great butcher in Banstead.. 2 huge organic chickens for £10. They're a good deal but would seem like robbery in America.

                                                                      1. re: zuriga1

                                                                        But £10 isn't really $20 as we know, and I seem to remember MMRuth saying she pays around $15 for organic chicken in NYC.

                                                                        I've found the strawberries in Lidl to be very good, actually. Also a lot of the salad stuff (don't tend to buy blueberries because of the air miles and lack of taste!). And they're now doing free-range chicken (I am beyond excited about this as I don't do cheap chicken). I also love their specials - they're doing Spanish next week (think boquerones/manchego/almonds).

                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                          I;ve found a very zingy and drinkable bottle of German pinot grigio for under £3 at Lidl. I can't remember the name, but on the back of the label it says something like "outside of Italy, Germany is the largest producer of Pinot grigio." On the downside, we can't get their UHT milk to turn into decent yogurt.

                                                                          1. re: relizabeth

                                                                            I like the prosecco - the one which comes in a green bottle is much better. Aldi do a great sparkling pinot grigio and also a sparkling chardonnay which is very nice. I don't buy any other wine though - that's what France is for!

                                                                          2. re: greedygirl

                                                                            MMRuth is always reliable, so I'm sure she could pay that much in NYC. Prices there tend to be ridiculously high at times, especially in the high-rent areas. It wouldn't cost that much elsewhere.

                                                                            The Lidl strawberries I bought could have been a bit old - could explain their lack of taste. I broke down and bought blueberries at Sainsbury's today... much better than Lidl's but of course I paid a lot. I'll look for the Spanish next week... thanks. People in my town used to complain about paying for a bag at Lidl. I wonder what they say at their M&S.

                                                                2. re: greedygirl

                                                                  Exactly. I simply don't go more often because it isn't easy to get to. I've got a Waitrose 10 minutes walk from my new flat in South London, why would I trek all the way over to Kensington on the District line?

                                                              2. Generally, I'm not a fan of WH in London. However, they have a great wine department and very knowledgeable staff. They also have the largest selection of Washington State wine which is appreciated by the resident Seattle girl in London who is seeking to turn all her English friends.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: nanette

                                                                  I didn't know that Nanette. My son used to live in Woodinville, and I will surprise him next visit with a bottle of something WA!