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Best hoods for food shopping in London

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My husband and I will be moving there shortly... and we've both never been. I anticipate we'll be cooking at home more than eating out, more so than we do in nyc, and I'm wondering what the best, expensive places for food shopping are in terms of fresh produce, fresh fish, meat, good cheese, etc.

If all the food shopping's good there, that would be great to know too. Here in my part of Brooklyn, the local groceries suck, but there are a few specialty shops that make up for the horrible meat and produce.

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  1. STAY IN BROOKLYN! DON'T MAKE MY MISTAKE!

    Ahem... I mean... Alright, I do all of my grocery shopping in Brixton and I highly reccomend it to anyone. Coming from Brooklyn, you won't regard a 30 minute bus ride as the end of the world (hell, it took me an hour to go from Dyker to Brighton for HS. Born and raised in Brooklyn though I've lived in Queens and the city too.) Brixton Market is incredible and has nearly American prices. The prices will scare you to death here. In Brixton, I can get all of my groceries for under 20 quid a week. Generally well under 20 quid. Brixton Village has two good fish mongers, a meat market inside the same indoor market gives me ridiculous deals. Given the deals and the market nature, you can hit or go below American prices sometimes.

    Oh woops I accidentally read inexpensive on your post. I'm on a ridiculously low budget (student) so I think in those terms...

    Where were you living in Brooklyn? I've been in Bensonhurst for ages now. Well, I was as my mother moved after I moved here. Not sure where I can say I live in Brooklyn until she gets a new place. The market shopping in London is vastly better. Restaurants... let's just say that a cheap meal here is what I would spend on food for an entire week of eating out in NY (and I ate lunch out daily at some excellent places.)

    For cheeses and that sort of stuff, there is actually an excellent Portugese deli in Brixton. Sausage/chorizos/Italian ones there too. A fish monger down the block from there has some screamingly fresh seafood on occassion, but they charge quite a bit more than the ones deeper into the markets.

    So yeah, go to Brixton. It's like a really really soft London version of Bed Stuy with vastly lower crime and similar silly reputations, but it delivers as far as food is concerned.

    With currency, London is about 130% more expensive than NY.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JFores

      Just a friendly reminder - the U.K. board is all about finding great food and drink in the U.K., discussion of food available in the U.S. is out of scope for this board and dilutes the focus and value of the U.K. board.

      Thanks for understanding.

    2. I also recently moved to London from the states. I only buy "staples" like dried pasta, rice, etc. from the grocery stores...although on the whole I find Sainsburys pretty good. It definitely takes some getting used to (Eggs are kept on the shelves--not the fridge!). If you plan on cooking a lot here, I'd advise buying a food scale before you move. All of the measurements are done on weight and it is a pain to convert your standard American recipes or vice versa.

      There are fabulous markets from which to buy fresh produce for much less than the stores. Wherever you end up living, there will likely be one very near to you.

      Borough Market, at the London Bridge tube, is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon or morning (or both!). http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

      Edgeware Road has good Middle Eastern shops and butchers (halal meat).

      Green's Lane has good Mediterranean selections.

      I buy all my meat from my local butcher.

      There is also a Whole Foods on High Street Kensington, although I've only been once since I've lived here.

      7 Replies
      1. re: dexters

        Oh yeah, Green Valley is an excellent Lebanese supermarket, Taj is an excellent Bengali one and Borough Market has loads of gourmet items. Taj is quite cheap, Green Valley is cheap for the area and Borough Market is EXTREMELY expensive at least in my book.

        1. re: JFores

          Justin, I find lots of things at Borough Market expensive, too. And I've lived here 4 years and am fairly used to UK prices. Money isn't a problem for us, and I splurge at times, but I refuse to pay through the nose for some items. I guess someone will take away my Chowhound badge now. I bought some French butter last week and it was £3. I didn't convert to dollars because I'd have kicked myself. When the French market comes to our town down here, the same butter is only about £1.80.

          1. re: zuriga1

            Ouch. The sort of butter you'd find in Normandy that has a light almost cheesy flavor? Yeah, converting that would hurt. They have a German sausage booth in there that, while stocking a nice variety of quality German sausages, is so outrageously expensive that I don't know how they stay in business.

            1. re: JFores

              They stay in business because many folk shopping at Borough Market have more money than sense and/or they are well-heeled folk visiting a foodie Mecca (as I was the other week). You've been here long enough to not confuse the place with real Brit life (where we shop in real markets, reasonable supermarkets and cheap ones like Lidl).

              1. re: Harters

                My husband visited the Spanish market at Borough Market (based on my gleanings from this board) and was terribly impressed (we live in NYC - and I do wish we could get French butter for 3 pounds!).

                1. re: Harters

                  John, what I always hear from people is that they didn't realize America is so much cheaper when it comes to food and other things.. movies, petrol, clothes etc. Brits just seem to accept the high prices here and pay. I'm going to start a revolution. :-) I haven't found a reasonable supermarket here, period. Lidl has some good deals (and nice pork chops), but one can't do their entire week's foodshopping in those stores.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    June

                    When it comes down to it, there's not a lot we can do about the price of goods here. For instance, most of the price of petrol is tax - assuming we want our government to spend on things (and generally as a nation we do) it has to raise income. If I ever become dictator I will abolish all indirect taxes like petrol and VAT and just sting the rich through income tax :-)

                    It used to be that foodie things were much cheaper in some of our neighbouring European countries. Not really a great difference in supermarket prices, IMO - at least in France and Spain where I travel most often.

                    I generally follow the shopping tactics Phil mentions later. Most of my meat is organic which I buy over the internet. Free range poultry comes form the supermarket. Other stuff comes from the farmers market (not a National Association one so Phil's warning applies). Veg comes from the local greengrocer. Then there's the full range of supermarkets -Sainsbury for a "main shop", goodies from Waitrose, some basics like dried pasta from Lidl. But I'm retired and have the time and interest to shop in this way, not everyone can (or can afford to)

                    John

        2. Neal's Yard and La Fromagerie are popular places to score cheese. I'd strongly recommend going for all the raw milk cheeses you can find here, since you would not be able to buy them (legally) in the US.

          1. I wouldn't say there is one particular area that is best and many areas will have speciality/high quality shops. However I am afraid money talks - expensive suburbs will generally have the shops selling the very best produce. However, they won't have diversity of more ethnically diverse neighbourhoods populated by recent immigrants so you will need to travel for more interesting/diverse ranges.

            Most people buy their food in supermarkets, and the number of these has expanded dramatically in the last 15 years causing a marked decline in the number of independent shops on the high street. However, Britain is in the grips of a foodie revolution and there are new shops opening so we are seeing the return of speciality fishmongers, or the renaissance of old established butchers.

            The supermarkets focus on different demographics so a good starting point is to base yourself within reach of the brand that suits you. Their marketing strategies vary over time, and they will battle on quality, or variety, or organic ranges, or how local the produce is, or it freshness, and of course price. Confusingly they may be positioning on a number of fronts at the same time. My quick, but incomplete synopsis of their demographics is: Waitrose, is probably the most foodie with good quality ingredients and a more interesting range than its rivals, but obviously it is the most expensive. Marks & Spencer is also at this price point, well known for its clothing it has developed a good food business, that is focussed on high quality, semi-prepared or prepared food.

            Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrisons are in the next tier, good quality, slightly higher volume and more aimed at the mainstream. These tend to price match each other, and each tries to differentiate themselves - the prize for the broadest/freshest food tends to rotate around them - for example Morrisons won the battle this Christmas. At the value end there are brands like Aldi and Lidl.

            Many neighbourhoods now have Farmers Markets, and some areas still have their traditional Saturday markets. By definition the farmers markets should only have producers and these should come from the local area (50 mile radius?), although recent scandals have exposed stall-holders who buy wholesale and pretend to be growers. As with all markets "buyer beware" is a good mantra. Lots of farms/organic producers also do box schemes, as the UK is quite small these don't have to be neighbourhood ones, so this can be a good source of seasonal food.

            Specialist shops are a little more tricky as they are so localised, you may have to travel for a great butcher, fishmonger, deli, chocolatier, cheese shop etc etc.

            I moved to the UK (from France) about 12 months ago and it has taken me a little time to understand my area (Bath in Somerset) and identify the best suppliers. For example I buy my beef from one shop, my pork/ham from the farmers market and my free range chicken from the supermarket. A lot of this was by following recommendations, a lot of trial and error ,and much sampling.

            One tip. A number of people talk about how expensive it is to live in the UK. Having lived in quite a number of countries I found the best thing to do is forget about the comparison to home (assuming you earn a UK salary). Compare the cost of shopping and eating in restaurants to your local disposable income after tax. If you keep looking back to how much things cost at "home" you may be miserable and probably miss opportunities to sample the best of local food. It can also be quite a shock when you do return "home" and find prices there have moved on over the time you were away and it is far more expensive than you expected.

            Have fun on your adventure - the worst mistake you can make is not diving in and trying lots of things - for a small island there is a lot of variety.

            1. I know I shouldn't say it, but there is a Whole Foods in Kensington now which has some nice things and a bulk bin section that I've not seen anywhere else in London. They also have a nice wine section and you can find a few American things scattered through the shelves too.

              1. If I can just put in a word for Northcote Road, SW11, which despite some recent changes still has a great cheese shop (Hamish Johnston), a couple of good organic butchers (Dove's and Hennesey's), a good bread shop (The Lighthouse Bakery) and Northcote Fisheries' stall which is also pretty reliable. Oh and more posh wine merchants than you can shake a stick at.

                1 Reply
                1. re: monkeytennis

                  Also in Northcote Road, there's a Spanish restaurant, Lola Rojo, which has a modern tapas menu. On Saturdays they do breakfast and lunch outside and good hams, fried foods, garlic mayonnaise and romesco sauce to take away.
                  Dulwich, another posh suburb, also apparently has some excellent food shops.
                  Do support local independent shops as well as supermarkets. You'll get to know the shopkeepers who are generally pretty knowledgeable. And they need all the support they can get to stem the march of the supermarkets.
                  There are a couple of excellent cheap shops in Tooting selling spices, vegetables and other ingredients for Indian cooking, and specialist Indian dessert shops.

                2. This isn't really an answer for a specific neighborhood, but reflects my learnings in the last few years of being an expat.

                  We moved here last year from France after a few years there and being in TX long before that. I kept my French tradition of not buying fruit and veg in the supermarket/mini-market and shopping in outdoor markets when possible. Luckily I can buy produce most days of the week from nearby street vendors and there is a farmer's market that we go to one day a week.

                  While I do miss a big supermarket, I don't often find myself seeking out the Tesco or Sainsbury's equivalents. I carefully shop the the Whole Foods on Kensington High St. I do buy a lot of bulk foods there, but I rarely get produce.

                  If you are into any type of ethnic cooking: thai, chinese, indian. Seek out those markets, as the prices are much better at those stores that cater to the immigrant communities. Missing the heat of jalapenos, habaneros and serranos my wife and I now seek out our chilies at asian markets.

                  For the things you really crave, bring as much as you can with, and try to get anyone visiting to bring you more. You can get decent peanut butter here - though we couldn't in France (or wouldn't pay the prices.) But we bring hot sauces, salsas and the ever important Nestle Toll House chocolate chips with us.

                  As other posters have suggested...
                  Don't think in dollars
                  Eat as much French butter and raw cheese as you can

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: AusTX

                    Habaneros are dirt cheap in Brixton. Scotch bonnets too.

                  2. Wow--what great information and tips. It's funny--I didn't even think to ask about Mexican food. I figured we wouldn't find it. But it's great to know where to get habeneros! Thanks JFores.... We're actually in Clinton Hill -- so I hear you on the Brixton/Bed-Stuy comparison. The prices do scare us, but I agree we'll have to think outside the "what it costs back home" box.

                    Will report back when we arrive, in six weeks or so....

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Brooklyn Based

                      Mexican food is non-existent here. I've met people that hadn't had a taco until I took them to Jackson Heights and they worked in a London Mexican restaurant. As far as Hispanic goes, Colombian is available and there's some good Colombian stuff (ei. Las Americas bakery.) Brixton and Elephant and Castle both have Colombian concentrations which carry many Hispanic goods and cuts of meat (ei. skirt steak for CHEAP.) Think Bed Stuy with an awesome market. Where will you be living here?

                      The eat out cuisines that you should go out of your way for are Turkish, possibly Portugese, Bengali/Indian/Pakistani HOWEVER good places are VERY VERY rare and the Bengali scene has no comparison with what you can get in Queens (Sabuj Bangla is close though.) Turkish is VERY solid and definitely better here. Maroush serves up some good Lebanese food as well. BTW, 20 pounds a person for a dinner with no alcohol is considered cheap here. Please allow your jaw to drop now.

                      Oh yeah, add Eritrean/Ethiopian to that list. Carribean too, but I haven't found anything thats on par with what you'd get on Nostrand, though. Bagels and salt (corned) beef are both VERY good at Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. I love that place and it's actually affordable.

                      OH YES! Iranian in the form of Mohsen is awesome.

                      1. re: JFores

                        I think some of these post are ludicrous generalisations!

                        JFores, what West Indian places have you been to?

                        1. re: Nii

                          A Guyanese cart (bad), Bush Man Kiosk (good), a Jamaican patty cart nearby (Sitting for too long) and a random Jamaican place on the road next to the Lambeth City Hall building because I saw a line out the door and figured it must be good. I'm obviously staying within my price range for a fast walking lunch while shopping (and I always have the nagging thought that I could get better with larger portions for 4 dollars, which isn't nice.)

                          Oh yeah I got a roti at the first, jerk chicken at the second, a regular beef patty at the third and curried goat at the last.

                          In defense of my vast and sweeping generalizations (yeah they are) I haven't had a bad Turkish, Iranian, Portugese or Eritrean/Ethiopian meal here. Mexican is an absolute joke though and I'm all ears if someone can suggest something that disproves that. Hell, I'd be interested in just buying a tortilla press. Maroush is good for Lebanese, though it's the only Lebanese I've had here. I prefer the jerk joints on Nostrand Ave from Flatbush to Bed Stuy so far and The Islands in Prospect Heights over any West African I've had yet. Oh yeah, and the Guyanese food in Ozone is awesome. Despite all of that, I've had some awful Bengali meals at some highly recced places that people on here pointed me towards.

                          Oh yeah, I like Tayyabs.

                          1. re: JFores

                            So basically, you've been to four places for Caribbean food and all in Brixton? I can think of better places as listed for you, but they're not in Brixton with the exception of one.

                            Tasty Jerk.
                            67 White horse road Croydon

                            Simmerz grill
                            Clapham South Station
                            Clapham South

                            Aunt Roses Kitchen and Bakery
                            Off Bedford hill, Balham

                            Negril
                            132 Brixton hill

                            Roti Jupa
                            12 Clapham high Street
                            Clapham North

                            Cummin up - several locations.
                            New Cross rd se13
                            New Cross - Try the cow foot and rice or the crab!

                            Pepper and Spice
                            15 Tulse Hill
                            Tulse Hill

                            Papine Jerk Centre
                            8 Lavender road
                            Battersea

                            I could go on until the cows come home. Try some of these JFores, Caribbean food is found everywhere.

                            1. re: JFores

                              What West African places have you hit??

                              You may like some of these

                              Tomi's Kitchen
                              Deptford Market
                              SE10

                              Accra Nima
                              172 Wandsworth road

                              Obalende Suya
                              43 Peckham high street
                              Peckham.

                              All these are really nice and authentic, Tomi's Kitchen is very local and serves up some seriously spicy Nigerian food.

                              1. re: Nii

                                Thanks a lot for all the places. I'll get to trying as many as I can. I'm in Battersea, Calpham and Balham pretty often so that takes care of some. I have an event coming up in New Cross as well. Nigerian sounds excellent too.

                      2. There's no point converting everything into dollars - as someone else said you just have to forget about that and think about how much disposable income you have. The exchange rate is against you at the moment anyway (although when you visit the States with your British salary you'll be quids in!).

                        Anyway, it would help if you could let us know where you are going to live. :-)

                        I'm from Brixton, and as JFores says it's excellent for food shopping. Most people tend to do the majority of their shopping in supermarkets, but I prefer to use local markets/butchers/delis. People cook at home a lot more here than in NYC (partly because they have bigger kitchens!). Most areas will have a good selection of shops, including a weekly farmer's market, so you won't have any problems finding good produce.

                        (And don't listen to JFores - he hates London!)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Yeah I do, but you have to agree with the Brixton recc. It's one of the only areas that I actually enjoy being in here (....and I think Bethnal Green might be the only other one I can think of right now...) Produce is better and usually cheaper here (mangoes are much cheaper. Some exotic stuff like durian is MUCH more expensive though. So expensive that I'm not sure how they sell.) Produce is generally better here and Brixton has NYC Chinatown-like prices. Meat is very cheap too; you can get a kilo of lamb for barely over 3 quid.

                          1. re: JFores

                            I'm not a student on a budget, though, and I am suspicious of cheap meat!

                            Brooklyn Based - it might help if you could tell us how much you normally spend on groceries.

                            To give you some idea..... for two people I get a weekly vegetable box and milk delivered from Riverford Organics (highly recommend them) - a seasonal box is about ten pounds and is more than enough for a week. A fortnightly trip to my butcher costs between ten and twenty pounds depending on what I buy. Other groceries - about thirty to forty pounds a week from local delis and Lidl or Aldi supermarket (mega cheap for some great quality products). I've recently started making my own bread, but a really good big loaf of organic sourdough is quite expensive - around £2.50.

                            And for wine - take a trip across the Channel, where a good bottle of everyday wine will set you back a mere 4 Euros. Great wine costs around 10-12 Euros. A lot cheaper than California!

                        2. We have absolutely no idea where we'll be living yet--and (I know said this already, but it's worth repeating) we've both never been. His company will put us up for a month I believe, who knows where yet. In any case... this is a bit off topic, but I would love suggestions on cool neighborhoods. I'm used to living in a neighborhood where I see the occassional drug deal, but also have access to a great farmer's market, park, and some decent food + drink options. In other words, slightly rough is ok with me so long as we have a nice place, decent food options, and access to the tube. feel free to contact me offline too!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Brooklyn Based

                            Pardon the interruption, but please do contact the OP offline as he/she suggests if you want to discuss neighborhoods generally, as such discussions are off-topic for our boards. Discussions about neighborhoods with great chow/food shopping options are fine, as long as they remain focused.

                            Thank you!

                            1. re: Brooklyn Based

                              How about Balham - it is an inner city area, right on the tube and mainline trains, and has some trendy new deli places, markets, good supemarkets and now plenty of quite good restaurants (when I first came here there was only one). E.g. Double Espresso and Pizza Bucci (very nice neighbourhood Italians), a new Morrocan, various Indians and the newish and really great Lamberts, which does that neglected cuisine, British - prices would make JFores screech though! And also plenty of fish and chip shops. Well, three. And also plenty of places to get a Full English Breakfast. And McDonalds, Starbucks and KFC for homesick Americans. Downside - property prices high, and the area has become a bit scuzzy, although everyone wants to live thee, it seems.

                              1. re: Brooklyn Based

                                I've done the London/Brooklyn flip flop several times. We've recently moved back here from Clinton Hill /more recently from the Gowanus side of 4th Ave. We were Park Slope Food Coop members, and found our grocery bill doubled- in addition to the currency conversion. We now live in Shoreditch -v. much like Williamsburg- with plans to move up towards Dalston/Stoke Newington (a bit Park Slopey) or Hackney Wick (like Bushwick) or ideally Victoria Park in the next several months. We just started getting a farm box with Growing Communities and are smitten. Broadway Market has some delicious stalls- both prepared food, like the Gujarti vegetarian chaat place, and produce. Check out http://www.lfm.org.uk/ for some of London's farmer's markets. I found the move from Kensal Green (NW10) to Clinton HIll a smooth transition. The number of both gourmet delis and violent crimes were pretty much analogous.

                              2. It's been a few years since I lived in London, but I don't think this has changed much. I really started to cook when I lived there, because food shopping was great and eating out was painfully expensive and usually disappointing.

                                Eventually, you'll start to miss your native foods. If/when that time comes, be sure to check Panzer's in St. John's Wood (on the corner of St John's Wood High Street and Circus Rd). St John's Wood is a beautiful neighborhood full of celebrities and Americans, and so the high street caters to American expats. You can buy all your Thanksgiving fixings at Panzers: cranberries, syrups for pecan pie, etc, and they have arguably some of the best bagels in the city. They also import all kinds of stuff from Fruit Roll-Ups to Kikkoman soy sauce (which, at least when I lived there, was not generally available in the UK).

                                There's also a Jewish-style deli on the same street called Harry Morgan's, when you get the urge for some New York chow. It's fantastic. But expensive (expensive neighborhood, but hey, you might see Kate moss or Paul McCartney).

                                Generally,
                                You'll notice that most of the residential areas of London have a very village-like feel to them, with their respective high streets. In neighborhoods that skew up, you'll find at least a couple of fancy food shops: small places with nice cheeses, olives, and house-made dishes and salads. Often they have delicious, fresh food made with amazing ingredients, but can be expensive even to the area residents (I used to work at one of these places).

                                Cooking at home is the best bet: green grocers are in most neighborhoods, and the English still have neighborhood butchers, which you should enjoy and get to know. Try the Danish back bacon: kicks the crap out of our greasy American stuff.

                                Most of the chain groceries are okay: what everyone else said is pretty true. I usually went to Sainsbury's or Tesco, Waitrose for posher stuff. My pet peeve was how frequently every piece of produce would be shrinkwrapped in plastic. Not sure if they still do that, but I've heard/read that organic produce is cheaper and more readily available.

                                I've also understood that CSA boxes are much more common now in London than in the states, which i think is a great development.

                                Fishmongers are in most areas, also, but the Fish Shop in Kensington is superb, if you feel like going somewhere to buy fish (it's also a restaurant, but I never ate there).

                                Portobello Rd and Notting Hill, crazy as it is, has some things to check out on top of the ridiculous supply of produce and everything else: a stall that serves Mexican/Tex-Mex (they don't distinguish the 2 by much), other good street foods (noodles, etc), and a great Spanish deli/market called Garcias. There's also the Spice Shop nearby on Blenheim Crescent for any kind of spice/herb, and that's across the street from Books for Cooks (and famously neighbored by the setting for a certain cheesy movie featuring ms roberts and hugh grant). It's an enjoyable area for food shopping, but probably not as your standard.

                                On the Whole Foods note, they also own and operate Fresh and Wild, which are smaller but still expensive as hell organic/health shops in Camden and Soho.

                                Bring your American measuring cups: very hard to find the cups in the UK. Spoons you can find, but they have a few different sizes (demis and whatnot). You will need a scale if you plan to use UK recipes, and a decent conversion chart will help you with the transition. I found a great one at Divertimenti (a nifty but pricey cookware shop) that is simply a double-sided, laminated sheet with imperial-metric conversions, weight-volume conversions for common ingredients, oven temp conversions, and even rulers on the edge.

                                Enjoy the cheap as hell French and Italian wines.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: renz

                                  For what it's worth, I feel I have to stick up for London in this debate. Several years ago I used to travel to NYC a lot and actually lived in Manhattan for a few months. I didn't have a car or know the city that well but my experience of the food was not good. Vegetables seemed to be pumped full of water and tasteless. Every time i asked for a vinagrette on my salads I always got served up a thick brown gloopy gunk.
                                  I also famously remember paying about $8 for just over a pound of tomatoes in a supermarket such as Gristede's and found food shopping very expensive. A friend who went over to live in NYC after me used to import her potatoes back from the UK as she complained US ones were tasteless. Another ex-pat friend in LA used to continually bemoan the lack of a sainsbury's or a tesco in his city.
                                  OK I was living in an expensive bit of one of the most expensive cities in the world but my experience tends to go totally against what you are saying J.Fores in regard to quality of produce - and yes, that includes restaurants as well as retailers.

                                  1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                                    Greetings DietStartsManana, I think you've gained a perspective that's difficult for less-traveled denizens of the U.S. to appreciate. Food production devolved in the U.S. to favor large scale landholdings and single-cropping, centralized processing, and long distance transport. More recently we've returned to supporting smaller producers sustaining diverse, traditional/heirloom varieties, but that was always important in many countries of W.Europe. We celebrate McD's frites which were made possible by federal dam projects in the northwest opening land for big scale potato production, where the good British(or Belgian I suspect) 'chippies' wouldn't stoop to that standard of spud. I couldn't imagine the huge hog plantations with their lagoons of waste that we take for granted here, being tolerated in England--please correct me if I'm mistaken.

                                    1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                                      I hope I didn't give the impression that I thought London had bad food offerings. I feel quite the opposite, especially when it comes to produce and also in general staples. They do can some frightening things, but you can probably say the same for Americans.

                                      Compared to Gristedes, certainly most markets in London are very reasonable in price and better in quality. But Gristedes is terrible and terribly-overpriced by Manhattan standards, fwiw.

                                      I wouldn't accept that Tesco or Sainsbury's are any better or worse than Safeway, though. Actually, in many cities Safeway can be a huge rip-off.

                                      Eating out is ridiculously overpriced in London, though, and rarely worth it. Even in nice places I'd be served brown, wilted lettuce in my salad. Or pay 8 pounds for a side plate of rocket with some parmesan shavings.

                                      1. re: renz

                                        Hallelujah Renz.

                                        Also, how do they justify the price of rice in London? It's beyond me.

                                        1. re: renz

                                          'Eating out is ridulously expensive and rarely worth it'

                                          Where were you eating? As a born and bred Londoner, London is expensive but there are dozens upon dozens of places serving great food from high end to low end. That statement is a bit general.

                                          1. re: Nii

                                            Exactly. A side order of rocket and parmesan in my local gastropub is about 3 quid. I don't think I've every paid 8 pounds for something like that.

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              Me, neither. Renz got robbed.

                                              Firstly, if it was me, it wouldnt get ordered at eight quid. Second, if I had ordered it at eight quid, it'd be the first and last time I was at that place. Eight quid was about half the price of Hrs H's three course meal the other night (in Manchester - see my "Choice" review)

                                              1. re: Harters

                                                Or else Renz is exaggerating. It would be helpful if Renz could elaborate by naming and shaming specific places that serve less than fresh salad, charge £8 for a rocket/parmesan salad or where he/she had an expensive yet disappointing meal.

                                                The kikkoman soy sauce comment is a red herring, it's been readily available for all the time that I've been London based (1989 onwards).

                                          2. re: renz

                                            I've never had brown wilted lettuce in London - is this a new culinary fad from France or somewhere?

                                            And £8 for a rocket salad - where on earth...

                                          3. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                                            I would never shop in Manhattan outside of Chinatown, Harlem or Washington Heights (excluding Schaller and Weber which has some great German specialties and Russ and Daughters for salmon, fish, Jewish specialties, etc.) Ok that's a big generalization, but it covers nearly everything. If you stick to Brooklyn things are cheap. Queens is even cheaper and quite a bit more ethnic (the most ethnic constituency in the US which is arguably the most ethnically diverse country in the world, I might add.) I was in the city daily and lunch was never above 10 dollars for two people (Chinatown), I shopped only in my nabe (Bensonhurst and Dyker) with South Asian shopping being down in Jackson Heights. Everything was about 100%-150% cheaper than London. 100% would be Brixton and 150% would be Central.

                                            AND LONDON! Living and eating in East London is also worthwhile. Taj and Banglaworld are both excellent supermarkets complete with full Bengali fish sections just like you'd have in Queens or Church Ave. If that's your thing, though. It happens to be mine.

                                          4. re: renz

                                            on the cup measurement thing, go to the Fenwicks cookware department at Brent Cross (or try some other cookware departments in other big stores or even a hardware store) and ask for a Tala Cookware measuring cup. It is about 8" high and a conical shape and has English cups, American cups, then lets you measure sugar, flour, raisins, beans and a whole bunch of other measurements and foodstuffs in pounds, ounces and kilos, fluid ounces and mls. I love mine and brought it with me to the USA when I emigrated and cannot cook without it for measuring from UK to US and vice versa.

                                          5. I do hope that unlike some of your compatriots, you'll feel more interested in trying the varied food shops and markets that London has to offer, rather than yearning for American cookies and sauces!
                                            Despite what one of your correspondents said, English bacon is much better than Danish - but only if you get it at a reliable butcher or deli. And Italian pncetta is better yet.
                                            When you take trips outside London to our beautiful (but small, for Americans) countryside, try to hit towns on market days or find a WI (Womens Institute) stall. They often have excellent home-made jams, chutneys and cakes. National Trust-owned houses and stately homes do excellent teas and alsways use local and seasonal produce.
                                            You could join Slow Food London to explore food and wine and meet other food-minded people.

                                            1. The weekly supermarket flyers have just come through the door. Thought it might be helpful for Brooklyn Based to see what current offers are. I've only included a couple or so things from the two shops and hope they are ones that easily cross the pond. Apologies to BB but you'll have to do your own metric/imperial conversion, if necessary:-

                                              From Morrisons:-

                                              Italian Shiraz or Chardonnay - £4.99
                                              Mature Cheddar - 600g - £3.75
                                              Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 500ml - £3.96 (but buy one, get one free -BOGOF)
                                              4 x 185g tin tuna - £4.39 (but BOGOF)

                                              From Sainsbury:-

                                              15 x 330ml can Stella Artois - £7.49
                                              Rump steak - £5.68 per kilo
                                              Seedless grapes - £1.99 per kilo
                                              Chicken thigh & drumsticks - £1.49 per kilo (don't buy it - go for free range!)
                                              Whole duck - £2.89 per kilo
                                              Sweet potato - 1kg - £1.88 (but BOGOF)
                                              Various pizza - 2 for £5
                                              Head of broccoli - 99p (but BOGOF)

                                              17 Replies
                                              1. re: Harters

                                                Someone once sent me a website for all the supermarkets' current BOGOF offers. It's handy for people who travel around and want bargains. I should try to dig it out.

                                                1. re: zuriga1

                                                  Possibly this?

                                                  http://www.supermarket.co.uk/

                                                  or this

                                                  http://www.madaboutbargains.co.uk/off...

                                                2. re: Harters

                                                  Perhaps also worth pointing out that, in the UK, offers are usually national (excluding the chains' mini-markets in town centres). I have it in mind in the US discounting might be store to store (or regional)?

                                                  J

                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    Yes, it almost always is. I know everyone is really hyping supermarkets here, but the markets is where to go. Supermarkets in America and England aren't THAT different (except you guys generally don't have deli sections) where as markets are true gold and should be more common in the US.

                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                      JF

                                                      Don't understand this post.

                                                      Firstly, I'm not sure who you mean is "hyping supermarkets". Certainly not members here. As you may have read above, there are more recommendations for other forms of shopping than for supermarkets. They do, however, have their place.

                                                      And, secondly, I agree that supermarkets are pretty similar in the US and Britain. What I do not understand is your suggestion that ours don't have deli sections. I cannot think of a supermarket in my area that doesn't - we have a Sainsbury, Tesco, Morrison and Waitrose all in less than 10 minutes drive).

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        Really? I can't think of one in my area that does have a deli section. By deli section, I mean cold cuts, sandwiches made to order, dried meats, cheese selection, etc in one central area.

                                                        Many of the above posts seem to be heavily leaning in the direction of supermarket shopping.

                                                        1. re: JFores

                                                          Most of my local supermarkets have fresh fish and meat counters, as well as deli and cheese counters. Most have bakery sections too.

                                                          I think people are recommending supermarkets because they're the easiest, fastest way to shop. London's 'gourmet' shops and food markets are great, but how many people do you know who can juggle market shopping with a 9-5 job?

                                                          A lot of people I know get meat, fish and organic vegetables delivered to their homes - or they go to specialist shops for them. The rest of the shopping will usually be done in a supermarket.

                                                          In other countries, it's a lot easier to shop day by day. Here, 'the weekly shop' is more common.

                                                          1. re: DollyDagger

                                                            Alright, it makes sense when the job comes into play. I juggle a similar schedule and I just use my entire Saturday free to shop in Brixton, because I personally enjoy doing that. When I'm shopping at a supermarket, it's Green Valley and I don't know if I would really call that a supermarket.

                                                            1. re: JFores

                                                              We may have been at cross-purposes with the language. In the UK, a supermarket is a large store upwards of 15,000 square feet. Perhaps there's a different definition in the US.

                                                              The example I'm familiar with, nearest to your home area, is the Wegman's chain which trades mainly in upstate New York.

                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                Never seen a Wegman's before. :)

                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                  I've heard of the Wegman chain, but there are none that I know of in the NYC area or the suburbs. They're in PA, VA, MD and upstate NY (I think the original was up there). It's interesting that such a large chain never entered the NYC area market.

                                                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                                                    The one in the Corning/Elmira area of NY is the one I know. Similar sort of size/layout/facilities to a Brit/European supermarket but if JF doesnt know them, it doesnt help my attempt at explanation. :-)

                                                                    I shall give up here and just reassure the OP that she will easily find good quality food in the UK and at reasonable prices. As mentioned earlier, eating out will be dearer, but not necessarily significantly so. It will be fun finding out - I've never had the skills or opportunity to work in a foreign country and I'm a tad envious.

                                                                    John

                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                      Ah, Corning... I've been there but not for many years. That area of NY has very good food and wineries. The OP, like the rest of us transplants, will indeed find great things to eat and cook over here. I've had a ball learning so much new information and transferring it into actual cooking. It helps to have a British partner, but I'd have loved it regardless.

                                                            2. re: JFores

                                                              Yes. I know what a deli section is! And it is commonplace for supermarkets to have them (except for the made to order sandwiches).

                                                              I suspect we shall have to disagree on our reading of the earlier posts as to whether they lean heavily towards supermarket shopping or not.

                                                              As to markets, I am all in favour of using them if they are convenient and good quality. In my town, they are neither.

                                                              To use the food stalls at my local market (which has been there for the last 748 years!), I would have a 15 minute drive (passing two supermarkets on the way); have to pay for parking and then find three small veg stalls, and a butcher of quality that I would not trust. Not going happen, is it?

                                                              However, as you will have read from other of my posts, I buy organic meat through the internet, meat and cheese from the nearby monthly farmers market, fruit and veg from the village greengrocer. Oh, yes, and tins of tomatoes, dried pasta and toilet rolls from the supermarket.

                                                              1. re: JFores

                                                                As with all cities you don't get big supermarkets in the inner city areas. If you live and shop relatively centrally in London you will be shopping is places without all the facilities and they will have a scaled back range (hence JFores, somewhat limited perspective on supermarket shopping in the UK). You need to go a bit further out to the suburbs, or to area less accessible to public transport to get a big, full featured supermarket.

                                                                Another related factor to consider when selecting a area is that supermarkets will adjust their ranges and the amount of shelf space given to products based on the demographics of the area. The more affluent the area is the better the overall range of products and product lines will be, and there will often be a broader range of quality/price points - more organic/local/free range in more affluent areas.

                                                                Few of us on Chowhound will do all our shopping at a supermarket. But due to their dominance of the food retail market in the UK they are an essential component of the shopping mix. If you cook a lot make certain the one near you is good.

                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                  I know Waitrose is the high-priced spread here, but they have pretty good selections in both Chelsea and near Gloucester Rd. Tube. And there's a very large one on the Finchley Rd as well as a big Tesco. (Finchley Central Tube)

                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                    Phil is right about the demographics.

                                                                    Just to give one example - the Sainsbury supermarket near where I used to work (inner area, industrial town), stocks a carbonated (non-mineral) water at 17p for 2 litres. It tastes fine. And it stocked a good range of "Indian" products, reflecting the ethnicity of the area.

                                                                    My home Sainsbury (reasonably well-to-do suburban area) does not stock it. Their cheapest is own brand mineral water at 47p for 2 litres. No large stock of "Indian" food, but a fair-sized kosher section

                                                                    J

                                                        2. Hi:

                                                          Please keep the replies responsive to the original poster's request.  Our goal here is to share great chow tips.   Discussions about whether London is more expensive than New York, whether the food is better in London than in New York, or whether Americans should seek out American food products in London are off topic for this board. 

                                                          Thank you.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                            One of the great things about London is that you have a massive choice of the sorts of neighbourhood you can live in and this will influence the nature of the food shopping you can do.

                                                            First thing to do is to work out where you are working and which are the best ways to get there as this will really influence where you want to live. Second thing to do is work out what lifestyle you want - busy urban, cosmopolitan suburban, or relaxed in the country - all are possible, and all have good food options. Some examples are:

                                                            West London (Chiswick/Kew/Richmond) are leafy, suburban, good schools, and with great neighbourhood food shops, good supermarkets and a pretty vibrant restaurant scene. You will need to travel for cheap ethnic markets to places like Southall or Shepherds Bush) . It is quick and easy to commute to (30 to 45 mins) Mayfair and the West End, or out to the IT corridor around Heathrow. However, it would be murder to try and get across to Canary Wharf.

                                                            You could head towards a more gritty urban area, like Brixton or the more gentrified suburbs around it like Clapham. These areas have a good mix of funky bars, and restaurants as well a the very cheap ethnic food that Jfores loves - Caribbean, Polish, Baltistani and Martian etc. These types of area are have pretty quick commuting to the city and east side of London - although 30 mins on a packed underground train can be hell.

                                                            Another possibility is to live outside London. Many people commute from the coast (Brighton), or the greenbelt (Surrey) or even further. The over-ground trains are fast (for 50 mins to Brighton) and less crowded. With this option you can live in a cosmopolitan town with a good selection of local shops etc. Brighton for example has really good restaurants, bars, and food shops (it is one of the gay centres of the UK and this always tends to improve the choice and quality). Trains arrive at stations with good links to both the west end and the city so it gives a lot of choice.

                                                            If you have lots of money you could live in central London. If you can do this head for Marylebone High Street area. This is a area with a very good specialist food shops and some good restaurants. You are also not far away from the slick food-halls of John Lewis and Selfridges in Oxford Street which are foodie heaven.

                                                            Once you refine macro lifestyle choice it becomes a lot easier to recommend the best foodie areas. For example Brighton is far better than Eastbourne for food, or Chiswick is much better than Ealing. And then we can start to talk about individual shops. The places to buy the best of British food like early spring lamb, wonderful beef for roasting, free range poultry and great game (pheasants, venison etc.), wonderfully fresh local fish, really interesting and innovative farmhouse cheese. There will also be great recommendations for good European shops, French, Italian, Spanish delis, and of course the farmers markets. Budget will be a consideration though, the best British food is a premium product and therefore it is priced accordingly.

                                                          2. go to marylebone. start at the top of the high street and wander south. If you venture on a weekend, you'll come across the cabbages and frocks market in the st. marylebone church yard. fresh cheese, olive oil, sausages, as well as prepared foods... and vintage frocks along the other side. orrery restaurant (conran group, just lost a star) is here, and they run a nice cafe on the ground floor. cozy with good sandwiches. For a casual coffee and communal tables hop into Le Pain Quotidien. the natural kitchen just opened with much fanfare-- beautiful, organic, expensive produce. cafe upstairs to enjoy things like jacket potatoes and bangers and mash. you will also come across Rococo Chocolates, one of the more famous British chocolate makers. fish works is the local fish monger and seafood restaurant. very fresh. just of the high street is moxon street--has the one of the best cheese shops in london, la fromagerie. the produce there is amazing as well. on sundays the parking lot just across la fromagerie holds a wonderful farmers market next door to la fromagerie, is the famed butcher-- the ginger pig. the sausage rolls are greasy and absolutely delicious. a few more steps down and you'll come across a decently sized Waitrose market. Divertimenti's flagship store complete with cookery school and cafe inside is also on the high street. Providores is Kiwi Chef Peter Gordon's tapas restaurant-- open all day, very tasty. A chain boulangerie called Paul is here too, but for really good bread just turn on to Blandford street and walk a little ways to the famed de gustibus breads, and have a sandwich. marylebone lane is home to le cordon blue and cucina caldesi cookery school and a slew of good restaurants. A very good fish and chips shop is The Golden Hind-- bring your own beer. Le Relais de Venise only serves steak frits, go early or be prepared to stand in queue. Further down Marylebone lane is one of the oldest stores in the area, Paul Rothe and Sons. Sells jams, sandwiches, soups. grocer and cafe. cheap and good. so charming. a few steps further takes you to Mr. Biggles Sausage shop. Yup, mr. biggles only sells sausages-- of every kind... at lunch you can get a sausage sandwich to go. then you'll find yourself on wigmore street. cross and explore the St. Christopher's Place restaurants. Find a sushi take away bar called Atari-ya. cheapest place for sushi in central london. make your way further south to oxford street and go to the food halls of Selfridges, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis (Waitrose).

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: pastryjudy

                                                              Tomoe on Marylebone Ln has really good sushi for the price in London. Nice iberico pork too.