Food and Drink, London
This shop first opened in 1887 specialising in coffee and teas from all over the world. It's reputed worldwide as one of the leading suppliers of coffee and tea. There is a wide range of choices of over 200 coffees and teas from many countries.
There is a nice authentic atmosphere in the shop when I browsed around with its original interior features and a traditional shop layout. The shop also does takeaway coffee at reasonable prices. I like to pop by to purchase either an espresso or cappuccino which was only 1.00 gbp or 1.20 gbp respectively (May 2014) which is cheap for central London! I look forward to another espresso or cappuccino on a return visit!
What to buy: Coffee, teas and confectionery. They also sell coffee makers.
What to pay: Varies.
The English are famous for drinking tea, especially for breakfast and in the afternoon.
So if you are looking for something "Very English" to buy, just go to a supermarket and get yourself some English Breakfast tea. It is usually a blend of several black teas derived from several countries like India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, China etc.
I discovered Ben's Cookies during my wanders on Oxford Street on one of my recent London trips (March 2014). A wide range of cookies (16 flavours in total) are sold. I specially loved the triple chocolate chunk and dark chocolate chunk ones and these are always prepared with locally sourced ingredients and freshly made on the premises. Cookies are charged by the weight and a cookie costs an average of 1.30 - 1.50 gbp (March 2014). I visited the Oxford Street (East) Branch. There are branches in London, Bath, Brighton, Oxford and also in the Middle East and Asia.
What to buy: Cookies!
What to pay: Cookies are charged by the weight and a cookie costs an average of 1.30 - 1.50 gbp (March 2014)
An incredible independent chocolatarie, founded in Brighton, with incredible sculpture themed celebration cakes. The chocolate, confectionery and celebration cakes are very expensive.
There's a cafe upstairs offering a variety of chocolate themed goodies and cakes with a wide range of choice of drinks. I just opted for their dark chocolate truffle milkshake as I wasn't hungry and absolutely adored it. It cost me 3.00 gbp (March 2014). I love to revisit the cafe on a future London trip to try one of their sweet treats listed on the menu.
What to buy: Chocolate, confectionery and celebration cakes.
What to pay: Expensive
On my wanders I came across Hummingbird Bakery (Wardour Street branch) and made a mental note to visit because of the recommendations and the shop with its cupcakes and cakes displays looked very attractive.
When I got to visit (January 2014) I've treated myself to a couple of cup cakes (including a gift for my friend who craved for a cup cake earlier in the week). The cup cakes aren't cheap but worth it for the quality of baking and the presentation of them in the bakery as well as them being individually boxed for the customers. The cupcakes I pruchased were 'Vanilla Base' Cupcake (2.00 gbp) and 'Hummingbird' Cupcake (3.25 gbp).
The Hummingbird Bakery offers American Style baked goodies including cakes, brownies, pies and cheesecakes as well as cup cakes. There is also a small cafe inside the shop where you can have a drink with your chosen baked treat.
On my 2nd visit (February 2014) I indulged in a slice of their 'Rainbow' cake. The portion was very generous though expensive (5.40 gbp) and it went nicely with a cup of coffee which I enjoyed in their cafe.
What to buy: Cupcakes, cakes, brownies, pies and cheesecakes.
What to pay: Pay from 2.00 gbp to 6.00 gbp for a cupcake to a cake portion (January 2014)
This place sells bread. Read bread. Made from dough, kneaded, allowed to rise, baked. It's okay bread. Not nearly as good as the Breadstore in Bristol....but at least it is edible. What is truly shocking is that i think this is the nearest bakery to where I live, and int's a twenty minute bike ride. Each way. If I was witless enough to try and do the journey in a car I expect it would take over half an hour. And the bike ride takes me past at least two defunct bakeries, one now appartments and the other also ceoverted to another use.
Well, I'm sure that there is a bread shop of sorts the other side of the river, but I have neither the means nor the inclination to shop in the sort of food-as-hobby chi-chi horror that I would find in Chelsea.
This is a great little place that I use quite a lot. It is essentially a seafood wholesalers, but they will also sell to the general public. I know that many of the local pubs and restaurants source seafood there,. which is of good quality and competitively priced.
Unfortunately, you have to buy commercial sized packs. I do this and then freeze them.
I realise this tip may be of most use to London residents, English day trippers or long-term visitors, but if you are in those categories, it's a good place.
Update August 2013
Readers of my pages will know that I like to keep them as up to date as possible. This was one of the eatliest tips I wrote on Virtual Tourist (June 2005) and there was no website available for Barney's so I am adding it here.
Regrettably, since I originally wrote this tip one of Barney's best customers, the iconic Tubby Isaacs seafood stall in Aldgate, has closed down. Barney's seems to flouris though, as it has done for so many years.
Open seven days a week 0500 - 1330.
What to buy: Any sort of fish and shellfish you can possibly imagine.
What to pay: Comparable to or cheaper than supermarkets and much better quality.
If you are searching for health food Holland and Barrett can be found in most high streets or shopping malls.(there are 700 outlets). Alfred Barrett and William Holland started the business in 1870 but back then it was a grocery and clothing store. The business changed hands several times but it was a 100 years later in 1970 before they concentrated on health foods. Nowadays the business is owned by the Carlisle Group and Holland and Barrett have marketed their own brand of vitamin and mineral supplements.
Toward the end of our 2nd full day in London back in 2008 but before dinner we wandered over to the South Thames. Near the London Bridge we happened upon this shop with all sorts of treats in the windows telling us to come on in.
As I'm writing this tip 4+ years after the fact, but having just found the menu and the items we circled that we bought I figured I had better write this now before I lose the menu again.
We bought a couple of different treats for a snack later on. These I have listed below.
The picture I have shows the shop in the background with me writing notes in my travel journal (upgraded to writing notes in my iPad on our 2012 trip)
What to buy: Cakes, little snacks, breakfast goods.
In our case we purchased the following:
Whisky Orange Bombe
Bramley Apple Pie (just a piece)
What to pay: Anywhere from 1 to 140 pounds depending on what you buy.
Whole Foods market has got excellent vegetarian and vegan food. This store has saved me when in London and living in a hotel not being able to cook. As I am allergic to certain types of food, so I cannot eat in restaurants so this store and the stores in Chinatown are lifesavers. They sell the best vegan spinach pankaces and calzones I have ever tasted. The calzone is out of this world (in my opinion). It is made by the firm "Laura's Idea" (see my photo). You can buy ready made food like this or warm food in The Whole Foods market. I just love this store, but it is expensive - which is a pity as vegetarian food doesn't have to be overly priced like this.
There are 5 Whole Foods market stores, but the ones where I go are in Soho and Camden Town (49 Parkway).
This store used to be called Fresh and wild.
Now (2012) the store which used to be in Brewer street in Soho has moved around the corner into a much bigger place in Glasshouse street, in the same building where Regent Palace street used to be located. That hotel had to be torn down due to asbestos and a new building was built there looking almost exactly like the old hotel.
What to buy: Health-food.
What to pay: A lot, health-food seems to be getting more and more expensive. So I buy only necessities there, like the vegan calzone and the vegan spinach pancakes. For other stuff I go to the Japanese store opposite this store and to Chinatown.
I just love the old fashioned sweet shops with the sweets in big containers that the clerk weighs out and puts in cute little bags. "How many grams would you like?" the clerk asked me, I shrugged since as an American I don't think in grams and instead just encouraged her to add until it looked like it was enough. Of course it's not since I can't get the same flavors in the US, my favorites are clove balls and cola cubes which I can't get and fizzy cola gummies which I can.
The Mrs. Kibbles location off Oxford Street is a little hard to find, the entrance to
St. Christopher's Place looks like an alleyway but it's full of restaurants and shops.
Earlier in the week, I found another sweet shop in the east end called Yummy Yummy at 32 New Road, we didn't have a chance to get back there before I left but they also had sweets for sale in the big jars.
True coffee lovers will love this shop. Not only is it packed to the rafters with more varieties of coffee (and tea, it must be said) than you thought possible, there are coffee makers galore as well as a whole raft of coffee-friendly accessories and sweet treats to tempt you. There's even a little coffee bar dispensing cappucinos and lattes at 1.20p each and espressos , single and double at just a pound! (Beat that Starbucks!). You'll have to stand or take your coffee with you but that just means you can try as you buy.
The shop is wonderfully old-fashioned, the original wooden counter and shelves still in situ, and the smell is divine.
What to buy: Real coffee's the name of the game - some 50 single origin varieties from all around the coffee-growing world, plus blends, Fair Trade coffees, spiced,flavoured and rare - even the extraordinary Weasel coffee from Vietnam (the beans are collected and roasted after being eaten and regurgitated by the animal - definitely an acquired taste!) - are all on sale here.
Add 160 teas, exotic sweetmeats from the MiddleEast, South America and Europe and you know you're in the hands of people who really know and love their product. A real Soho institution, they've been selling coffee here for 121 years now - long may they continue.
What to pay: Coffee prices start at about 3GBP for 250 grams of a standard blend and soar to 17GBP for the same amount of Jamaican Blue Mountain.
If you're feeling adventurous - weasel coffee will set you back 15GBP for just 60 grams.
The English are well known for their great love of tea, it is almost a national obsession, but it was not always so. In the early 18th century coffee was the preferred hot beverage but a man called Thomas Twining, a lifelong tea man, decided to start selling it from his coffee shop in the Strand. It proved popular and by the 1750's had overtaken coffee as the preferred drink. Twinings is still in the Strand and still selling tea, although what the founder would have thought of , say blackcurrant, ginseng and vanilla is anyones guess.
one onteresting fact about Twinings is that it has used the same logo since 1787 making it the oldest commercial logo in continuous use.
Open Monday to Friday, from 8.30am to 7.30pm
Saturday from 10am to 5pm
Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Nearest tybe is Temple.
What to buy: Tea, obviously. There is probably not a blend in the world you cannot get here.
What to pay: No more expensive than buying in the supermarket and a great experience.
Currently being addicted to cupcakes, when I read about the Buttercup Cake Shop in Kensington I added it straight to my to-do list. A couple of weeks later I came up with the ingenious plan of taking my sister and her BF to Whole Foods, but beforehand suggested we head to Buttercup for morning tea, as it is not a good idea to visit Whole Foods on an empty stomach!
Buttercup is hidden away, a few blocks back from Kensington High Street. It is a small shop with only a couple of tables, and a small display cabinet of delicious looking cupcakes. There is a good range of flavours - the friendly American owner has bought over some American recipes, and added a few British concoctions as well. You can eat in (with a cuppa) or take away, and they also offer delivery.
What to buy: Between the three of us we sampled four cupcakes - the Mocca, Banoffee, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and the St George's Day special - which was a vanilla cupcake with red and white icing. My sister and her BF liked the Banoffee best, while my favourite was the Chocolate Peanut Butter - yum!
This narrow building has been in the Twining family for over 300 years, since 1706, when tea was a newer import from exotic lands in Asia. Now you can go in and have a look at the broad selection of teas the company offers, and of course buy some too. They also have mugs, biscuits and other assorted items for sale, as well as some historical displays about the company and the tea trade.
It's worth a quick look if you are in The City.
What to buy: Can you guess?