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Sep 6, 2010 04:08 PM

Food shopping while visiting London

My husband and I will be visiting London (from the US) for the very first time. We're renting a flat that has a kitchen and would like to prepare our own breakfasts and lunches. We will dine out in the evenings.

Any suggestions for some high quality London markets? The Tower Hill tube station is the closest to the flat. We're fine with walking 1-2 miles or carrying the groceries a short distance on the tube. We usually shop at the SF Ferry Building farmers' market and Whole Foods. And even though London has Whole Foods it would be nice to shop places that would give us a more "London experience". We're mainly looking for fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, deli meats, and cheese.

Do Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Tesco fit the bill or not? What are the can't miss farmers' markets?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Search Borough Market and see why this will be the best choice for you. It's a 15-20 min walk up the river from you.

    1. marks & spencer and waitrose are the more upmarket supermarkets. the nicest central london waitrose is in the basement of john lewis department store on oxford street and the biggest m&s is also on oxford street (between bond st tube and marble arch tube).

      borough market is definitely worth a look and if you have a sunday free head up to marylebone farmers market and also visit the foodie shops in marylebone - le fromagerie(overpriced deli/cheese shop and cafe, worth a browse but i tend not to buy), the ginger pig (best sausage rolls) and rococco chocolate are all good. there is a little (independent?) supermarket/health food shop on marylebone high street as well.

      konditor & cook is a good cake shop which also sells nice savoury snacks - they are scattered around london.

      1. As an ex-San Franciscan, I think your average Waitrose beats the pants off of Whole Foods. Waitrose also will carry many fruits/vegetables/dairy/meats/fish etc. that you will not find as easily in the US. It is where I get my regular supply of Ossau Iraty cheese - my favorite.

        Most of the farmers markets are on the weekends.
        Here is the link to see what they have and where they are:

        We mostly cook at home. We live in Bloomsbury so many of our favorite places are near here:

        Mckanna's meats on Theobald's road for almost any cut of meat. They'll sell you duck confit for cheaper than those guys at Borough market. Great place also for pigeon, quail, rabbit, etc.
        Neals Yard Dairy in Covent Garden and Borough Market for cheeese.
        Steve Hatt in Islington for fish.
        Get local roasted coffee from Square Mile or Monmouth. Monmouth is at Borough Market and in Covent Garden. (My favorite place to pick up bags of Square Mile is at the Espresso Room on Great Ormond St.
        )For Italian food (pasta,sausages, prosciutto etc.), you can go to I Camisa or Lina in Soho. Also, sometimes Gazzano's in Clerkenwell.
        For French goods, such as foie gras, Comptoir Gascon in Clerkenwell is a better value than anything in Harrod's food hall.
        For fresh bread, baguettes are baked all day at Waitrose, but we also get them at Le Pain Quotidien or Euphorium
        Our favorite vegetables are probably from the guys at the Islington Farmer's markets. It depends what is in season. We also get deliveries from Abel & Cole.

        1. @CTownFeedR -

          The landlady who is renting the flat did mention that the flat is fairly close to the Borough Market so we will definitely check that out. From what I've read, the BM is pretty touristy, but so is SF's Ferry Building and Seattle's Pike Place Market. I love both those markets and the touristy nature of them doesn't diminish the quality of the food sold.

          @abbyd -

          Thanks for letting me know which location of M&S and Waitrose is the nicest in London. The Marylebone farmers’ market sounds like a good start to our Sunday morning. Time Out London says that Marylebone is for "mums and Waitrose types". Not sure if I would be considered a "Waitrose type" but I'm looking forward to seeing Waitrose and finding out.

          @r.vacapinta -

          Thanks for your ex-San Franciscan's perspective on Whole Foods vs Waitrose. Waitrose sounds like foodie shopping heaven! Bloomsbury is not too far from where we'll be staying. I will definitely do some research on those places you listed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: marysf

            I think the Waitrose in St Katherine's Dock will be the closest to where you are.

            1. re: marysf

              If you go to the Borough Market at about 11 or noon on a Friday, it's really not that crowded. The stalls seem to open earlier than the announced noon opening, and I've never had trouble navigating around. I wouldn't call the BM touristy... just sometimes filled with a lot of tourists. :-)

              Whole Foods in London is not quite like the American stores, so you might want to compare them just for fun. It has a lot of things not seen in the States.

            2. Yes, the Waitrose at St. Katherine's Dock is very close to where you will be. It's not their most exciting store, but it's quite big and usually not at all crowded, which makes it a very pleasant shopping experience, compared to most other London supermarkets. I prefer it to Marks & Spencer because M&S has such a heavy emphasis on prepared and processed fresh foods (pre-cut, washed, peeled, portioned, etc.)

              We used to live nearby and I don't think there is much in walking distance, apart from Borough Market. Your best bet is to get on the train and take r.vacapinta's suggestions. You might want to try the small deli at Pont de la Tour, a restaurant in the Shad Thames development just across the river from where you will be staying. Pont has a shop that offers limited groceries, but very some nice cheeses, cured meats, breads and pastries, and a small selection of organic/local veggies. They have a bakery on site for the restaurant, and the bread is sold in the shop. It tends to run out by the end of the day, however, so go early.

              To do the farmers markets, you will need to plan ahead a bit, as they are only on certain days of the week. Borough Market is wonderful, with a huge array of gourmet goodies, but it will not be quite like the Ferry Building market in that produce is less the star, and what produce you do find there is not organic. There is only one stall that sells exclusively organic produce, and you will find that much of it comes from outside the UK. (The growing climate in the UK is not as versatile as California's.) But it's a good place for meat and fish and all the other accoutrements. While the main market days are Thurs-Sat, when all the vendors are present, you can actually go any day and still find many of the shops/stalls open. Thursday is probably the best day to go, given the ratio of lesser crowds to most vendors. Saturday is madness. There's so many people that it's actually hard to get any real shopping done.