Food and Drink, London
Red carpets, chandeleirs, topiary...not bad for grocery shopping, right? Even though you'll pay more for most tea, coffee, and biscuits on the main-floor food section here, it's worth it for the experience (and the tea is the best I've found in London)!
What to buy: Loose and bagged teas, the Fortnum brand thin mints, local preserves and honey, gourmet pastries and deli foods.
What to pay: More than average, but not outlandish.
Upper Street is great for a mid-range meal, particularly if you can't decide what to have. Almost every cultures food is available here somewhere; just walk a while and you'll find something to entice, plus plenty of bars. It's very lively on a weekend, and great for people-watching. Up by Highbury & Islington station you'll find the Highbury Garage where there's often a good line-up of rock bands.
What to buy: Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, Italian, i could go on...even humble English fish & chips is available here, although the very cheapest generally isn't special. There's a crepe van by Highbury & Islington station which I can't resist after a night of drinking.
What to pay: There's the whole range here, but no super expensive gourmet places
A great place to find goodies for yourself, to give to your host/hostess, to bring back to mom/dad/sister/grandmother. Everything in this shop, it seems, is a delight to the sense: not just taste and smell, but sight as well.
What to buy: I love the silver coated chocolates and the rose pastilles. They also have these chocolate wafers that are delicious and easy to wrap.
What to pay: As much, or as little, as you'd like. Depending on your sweet tooth, of course.
On the Strand, leading west out of the City of London, is a deep narrow shop that's been around for 300 years. It's one of the oldest shops in London and it sells and specializes in tea. Every kind of tea you can imagine. Yes they do sell coffee too and also teapots and cups and other tea paraphernalia. It's a fascinating shop.
What to buy: Tea!
What to pay: Various prices depending on the blends.
I love Chinatowns. This is the place to go to buy all Asian ingredients for cooking - from souces, pastes, fresh vegetables and fruits. You can even smell durian from far away :)
What to buy: Fruits, vegetables, noodles, asian cooking ingredients ...
What to pay: resonable prices
Small but packed with all you need in order to brew a good tea. Of course, the main ingredient is water, so that really depends upon your own skills... but good tea leaves help a lot in achieving satisfactory results. They can also offer you tea pots, filters, mantlecloth, cups, mugs and whatever else you may think of.
What to buy: There are so many different kinds of teas you may get lost.
This is a great shop with a huge selection of cookbooks and knowledgable staff. Not only that but there is a test kitchen / dining area where they cook things up from the books (popular recipes are compiled into their own books4cooks books) and sell at a very reasonable price. They also offer cooking courses and demonstrations.
This is a little shop on The Strand opposite the high court. It's been there for over 200 years...
You can buy tea and coffee to your hearts' content.
What to buy: Earl grey tea or herbal infusions...
What to pay: Just a few pounds.
If you're finding London is eating its way through your wallet quicker than expected, do try the supermarkets. They have excellent selections of salads and pre-prepared fruits. Also ready meals - Marks and Spencers is the best, but also a bit more expensive.AND they have a good selection of wines and beers at retail prices .. BIG saving on pubs and restaurants.
What to pay: £3-£4 for a meal. £4 - £6 for a nice bottle of wine. And lots are now have screw cap tops so you don't need a corkscrew!
Lovely old-fashioned cheese shop. Also sells pies, ham and some exotic groceries, but cheese is the major stock in trade. Knowledgable staff will tell you what's ripe for eating now and what needs to be kept for how long. Free samples on offer, and of course you can taste before you buy.
There is a branch in Bath and perhaps other UK towns.
What to buy: Cheese of course. Unlike Monty Python's cheese shop, if you can name it they probably have it. Some of the soft French cheeses are so rank they could probably walk out of the shop on their own - but they taste divine!
What to pay: Name your price. It's easy to get carried away though, so be careful.
Good butchers are pearls beyond price and David Lidgate is the doyen of them all. The best reason I know for not being vegetarian - all meat sold here is organic and humanely reared. Not cheap, but the quality is worth it.
Aside for culture vultures. George Eliot, the 19th century English novelist, lived around here at one point in her life. Lidgates was established in 1850, so Ms Eliot almost certainly knew of its existence. Those who have read Middlemarch, or at least seen it on the telly, will know that the doctor's name was Lydgate, and it is a very George Eliot joke to name her doctor after the local butcher...
What to buy: Buy succulent pies and pasties for your picnic in Holland Park across the road. Or a rack of pork ribs, which I've always found to be especially good value, for your dinner guests.
What to pay: As much as you want to pay.
Lovely Spanish delicatessen, which complements the fruit & veg market outside. The local Spanish community come here to buy chorizos, olives and all the trappings of their cuisine.
What to buy: The olives stuffed with anchovies may be a cliché but they are the stuff on which dreams are made.
The best chocolates in the world may be in Belgium, but for chocolate as a work of art this eccentric shop can't be beaten! The white chocolates topped with coffee beans called "Venus's Nipples", as seen in the film Amadeus, are supplied from here.
What to buy: Venus's Nipples
What to pay: Try not to think about it! GBP 9.00 for a small (225g) selection, and upwards from there.
This is as far away from the mass produced, pre-packaged supermarket 'cheese' as you can get. Neal's source only the best quality cheese from independent producers around the country.
In addition to cheese they also sell real British apples and pears. More expensive than the supermarket of course but worth it for the taste.
What to buy: Cheese and apples.
What to pay: A little more than usual.
Almost next door to Bar Italia, A. Angelucci is a specialty coffee bean shop made famous in a track from the first Dire Straits album - Wild West End. They only sell the raw product but if you want to sample the coffee go along to Bar Italia and ask for a Mokital, Angelucci's secret coffee blend.
Wild West End by Dire Straits
"Stepping out to Angelucci's for my coffee beans
Checking out the movies and the magazines
Waitress she watches me crossing from the barocco bar
I'm getting a pickup for my steel guitar
I saw you walking out shaftesbury avenue
Excuse me talking I wanna marry you
This is seventh heaven street to me
Don't be so proud
You're just another angel in the crowd
And I'm walking in the wild west end
Walking with your wild best friend
And my conductress on the number nineteen
She was a homey
Pink toenails and hands all dirty with money
Greasy hair easy smile
Made me feel nineteen for a while
And I went down to chinatown
In the backroom it's man's world
All the money go down
Duck inside the doorway gotta duck duck to eat
Right now fells alright now
You and me we can't beat
And a gogo dancing girl yes I saw her
The deejay he say here's Mandy for ya
I feel alright to see her
But she's paid to do that stuff
She's dancing high I move on by
The close ups can get rough
When you're walking in the wild west end"
What to buy: Coffee beans - whole or ground.