Food and Drink, London
Whole Foods is a huge, gourmet food supermarket located in the gorgeous old Barkers building on Kensington High Street. Laid out over three floors, this is a foodie's heaven.
The 'Market Hall' is on the lower ground floor, and here you can browse amongst the displays of beautifully arranged fruit and veg; make up your own muesli; buy a slab of mouth-watering looking air-dried beef; purchase the ingredients for that seafood platter; and stock up on those grocery items that you can't seem to find anywhere else.
What to buy: On the ground floor is the 'Provision Hall', where you enter to the smell of freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes. Continue on, and the smell will be replaced by the odour from the large cheese section - follow this scent and you will come across the charcuterie, and more importantly the wine bar where you can sample some meats and cheese and a glass/bottle of some of the large range of wines on offer in the store. On this level you will also find around 28 checkouts, which were nice and queue-free when we visited.
On the first floor is a posh food hall, where you can eat food that you have purchased on the lower floors, or sit at one of the food bars and enjoy a meal. We had some very tasty sushi at Genji Express, though are already talking about returning to try out the oyster bar, or one of the other tempting options.
I have to confess that I loved Whole Foods. Ok, it isn't cheap, but for someone like me who would much rather browse in a supermarket than a clothing store, this is about as good as it gets.
What to pay: Not cheap - bring the credit card
Central London is not the best place to buy fresh vegetables or family sized bag of snacks and huge bottles of soft drinks. In fact, some of the small corner grocery stores look so filthy that I have to check the best before date for each and every product I'm purchasing.
Fortunately, there is a solution on Peter Street, central Soho. Somerfield has been operating a mid-size supermarket there for years, and they will cater all needs a hotel dweller might have. The location is excellent as you can pick the stuff on your way from a restaurant -- even double so, if you are living in one of the fancy design hotels in the area.
As an additional bonus, there is a good fruit market next to the store. You just have to be there during morning or midday, as the market closes in the afternoon.
A specialty store featuring vintage style candies, some homemade.
It's on Columbia Road, NE part of the city, where the famous Sunday Flower Market takes place (see my "off the beaten path" tip on the market).
Twinings are one of Englands most famous tea producers and their products are known to be always of a high quality.
This shop is a paradise for tea lovers as every Twinnings brand is on sale here. There is also a hugh range of tea memorablia too for sale.
The shop is over 300 years old and is the perfect place to buy a tea lover a gift.
The shop also has a range of coffees and hot chocolate and at the back of the shop there is a small museum dedicated to the history of Twinnings and its products.
Whittard tea has fine high quality teas, more expensive than most Twinings.
They also sell tea pots & mugs. Sometimes you can even find a souvenior tea pot set, or tea leaves packaged as souveniors selling there.
Free samples are given out there all the time.
What to buy: tea of course !
Try Earl grey , Assam and the Ceylon
What to pay: More than Twinnings, double of that
So Wholefoods has made it to London! It really didn't surprise me to discover a Wholefood market in the Camden neighborhood. Wholefoods - like other markets - offer a good alternative for visitors to London who are looking a pack a picnic or purchase some take-away food that is good for you. Yes, it's pretty expensive, but they have good quality.
May 2009 update, my husband almost cried when we passed the closed Woolworth's on Portobello Road, we asked a policeman and he said they were all closed in England! We did manage to find Love Hearts at a Supermarket and some of the others at a confectionery
We always make a point to stop at Woolworth's while in London, there's one on Portobello Road that we always stop at to stock up on David's favorite candies that we can't find in the US. The cashiers must think we are daft when we plunk down dozens of rolls of Love Hearts and Refreshers (both fizzy Smartie type candies) and multiple boxes of Kinder Eggs.
The Refreshers I've found in Chicago at an Irish store but I've never seen Love Hearts here and Kinder Eggs are actually banned in the US because apparently our children are not smart enough not to swallow the little pieces locked securely inside the plastic egg. I often find it a challenge to get those damn eggs open but apparently the FDA thinks my 2 year old nephew will have no problem.
What to buy: In addition to unique candy, you can also purchase inexpensive water or soda and sometimes they have inexpensive children's tshirts that you can bring back as gifts.
People have been buying libations at this store since 1698. It has the atmosphere akin to one of Dickens' novels.
There is an old pair of scales embossed with "The Coffee Mill" which have been used to weigh patrons since the mid 1700's. Some historical figures who have stepped up to the scales include:
Lord Byron, The Duke of York, Aga Khan, and William Pitt. The list continues to be added to down to this day.
The Tesco supermarkets are convenient stores with fresh food and drinks.
Also the non-food section affers many articles. Furthermore the stores offer other services (banking & postal).
Thes are the center London locations:
22-25 Bedford St
40 Bernard St
2-4 Dean St
10-16 Goodge St
17-25 Regent St
170-176 St. John St
Amsterdam or London. For smelly cheeses it doesn't matter.
Just within a week when we smelled the Amsterdam Kaaskamer shop in the 9 Little Streets, we came across Neil's Yard Diary Cheese shop with farm cheeses from the British Isles.
I can stand the fragrance, but I was dragged along by my wife.
Still, I like to recommend the shop if you are looking for some alternative cheeses.
Mo-Sa: 10AM - 7PM
What to buy: CHEESE!
Tesco has some fantastic food items that you can buy and they are really very affordable. I like buying from them as the stores are always nice and clean and the fresh produce is really fresh. They have a lot of own brand items for sale and the quality of these items are really good.
What to pay: I found them very affordable
This is a cool little shop in Covent Gardens where you can rely on the owner's expertise to find a whiskey that is just right for you. Inside the shop, you might be greeted by Reni (sp?), a friendly grey schnauzer.
The place is arranged like an old curio shop, with whiskeys lovingly displayed from floor to ceiling. The shop specializes in Cadenhead's whiskey, but carries many other brands.
What to buy: Unless you really know your whiskey, the best thing to do is tell the shopkeeper how much you want to spend and what you like to drink.
For example, I said I wanted to spend 30 pounds, and that I enjoyed Powers and Bushmills whiskey, but also like grappa and top shelf tequilas. This got me a bottle of Cadenhead's Classic Campbeltown, a pure malt scotch whiskey with significant peat flavor and a hint of the ocean near which it was distilled.
What to pay: Anywhere from 25 pounds and up to 2500! You can get a good scotch whiskey for around 30-45 pounds.
After having read about the Grocer on Elgin, when I spied it whilst taking a casual wander along Portobello Road a detour was in order. The grocer specialises in ready made meals, and although we didn't buy any on this visit, they did sound/look good and decent value considering the location.
There was also a small selection of grocery items and fruit and veg, but the thing that excited us the most was the selection of Australian products available - always exciting for us ex-pats! Not one, but three flavours of Tim Tams, chocolate bars, Vita Wheats, Nutra Grain and more.
What to buy: We stocked up on a few "essentials" and now know where to shop next time we get a craving that only a Caramel Tim Tam with satisfy.
A fairly small but welcoming facility - although it does have a cafe you can also buy bakery products to take away.
Opening Hours are:
Monday - Friday 08.00 - 20.00
Saturday 12.00 - 19.00
What to buy: Cinnamon Buns
Shop and cafe with a Scandinavian twist - always busy and pleasant atmsophere. The shop opening hours are:
Monday - Friday 08.00 - 19.00
Saturday 10.00 - 18.00
Sunday 10.00 - 16.00
What to buy: Scandinavian foodstuffs - from coffee to cheese and everything in between.