Mar 17, 2009
The fastest way to get the real taste of the city you are in is to eat. Not just in its cafes and restaurants, but right across the board, munching your way through its specialty delis, cheese rooms, bakers and providores.
In London, that means heading off to farmers’ markets piled high with autumn’s crispest apples or spring’s purple sprouting broccoli; browsing through grand food halls where you can spend your inheritance on smoked salmon and exquisite chocolates; and discovering new-wave designer food stores that specialise in everything from scones to Spanish tuna.
England is a nation of shopkeepers – and its food shops are among the best in the world. The real joy of exploring them is that you get to see a side of London that only Londoners know – from Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite cheese shop to Nigella Lawson’s butcher – and you see the sights at the same time. The food halls are museums in their own right, artisan chocolatiers more fun than art galleries, and street markets your best chance to engage with the locals. Here are my hard-won tips, whether you are putting together a brunch in your rented apartment, buying gifts for your hosts, packing a great picnic or just wanting to capture the flavour of the city in the most delicious possible way.
A bit on the side
If you are planning a side trip to Paris on the Eurostar, consider goingearly to the beautiful St Pancras Station at King’s Cross, wherethe range of shops and eateries has increased greatly since its international platform opened last year. Breakfast at Paul bakery or Le Pain Quotidien, lunch on freshly opened oysters at St Pancras Grand bistro, or pause for a glass of something bubbly at Europe’s longest Champagne bar on level one, right next to the sleek Eurostar itself. Need an on-board picnic? Pick up a freshly made pork pie and piccalilli, 2.95 ($6.60), and a pack of British-cheddar-and-onion potato crisps from Peyton and Byrne’s “very British bakery”.
Delis & providores
Berry Bros & Rudd
3 St James’s Street, St James’s.
+44 870 900 4300.
The Wonder Bar
Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, Marylebone.
800 123 400 (Toll free UK only).
Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly, Mayfair.
+44 20 7734 8040.
87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge.
+44 20 7730 1234.
Bakers, cake shops & patisseries
287 Upper Street, Islington.
+44 20 7288 1454.
135 Wardour Street, Soho.
+44 20 7478 8880.
Gifts for foodies
Books for Cooks
4 Blenheim Crescent, NottingHill.
+44 20 7221 1992.
Few & Far
242 Brompton Road, South Kensington.
+44 20 7225 7070.
321 Kings Road, Chelsea.
+44 20 7352 5857.
Summerill & Bishop
100 Portland Road, Holland Park.
+44 20 7221 4566.
Source: Qantas The Australian Way April 2009