There’s little better pleasure in life than browsing shelves in a delicatessen – ducking under cured hams, eyeing up the brie wheels, debating which chutney (of fifty-seven choices) to pick and filling a tote (no Bag’s for Life, please) with plump, midnight purple aubergines and ruby-stemmed rhubarb. While the downtrodden among us languor in the darkened aisles of local supermarkets plucking mildly mature cheddar from a shelf of flavourless dairy lumps, a luckily few boroughs in the capital have the honour of hosting shops stacked to the rafters with tantalising produce that’s sure to improve your dinner-party offering…
After a recent rave review, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a white and red-clad seat at this bohemian Vauxhall establishment. Do try – plates of homemade pasta, pumpkin curry, pistachio soup and ripe peaches drizzled with honey offer neighbourhood kitchen fare at its best – but there’s more to Italo than its daily-changing six-dish menu. Swing by out of lunch hours for a lazy afternoon browse of top-notch deli offerings. Sling tall jars of Mutti passata, Rummo pasta bags and a tin or two of elegantly packaged amaretti in your tote bag to enjoy similar simple pleasures of top Italian food at home.
13 Bonnington Square SW8 1TE
De Beauvoir Deli, Hackney
Despite its east London location, there’s something soothingly farmhouse-like about this Hackney deli. Perhaps it’s the sturdy central table, pulleymaid laden with culinary artefacts and floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked high and higgledy-piggledy. Head inside and there’s always a cup of Monmouth coffee at arm’s reach making De Beauvoir feels like a friendly neighbour’s kitchen – if your neighbour happens to bake spectacular sausage rolls. Freshly made bread and scotch eggs join the baked goods at the centre of this deli, while an antipasti counter takes up the far wall. Take a strong bag with you, because there’s an expansive range of jar-packaged goods (including the small but mighty Les Nicois tapenades that add a wallop of flavour to a slice of sourdough) and De Beauvoir’s very own pickle range. Make sure to visit at Christmas too, when panettoni are strung up like baubles above your head.
98 Southgate Road N1 3JD
General Store, Peckham
Pining puritans wishing with nostalgia for the days of good old-fashioned grocery stores might have their interest piqued by the straight-forward title of this Peckham establishment. There’s no razzmatazz at the General Store. You get what it says on the tin, but the tin probably won’t be the bog-standard baked beans they might be hoping for. Instead, the Londoners behind this slick establishment have finest the idea of a local grocer, offering the basics of bread, coffee, fruit and vegetables, wine and beer but emphasising the quality, and locality, of the goods (with prices a touch steeper than your local mini mart). Stop by for some ground coffee and a buttery croissant on the weekend and you’ll leave with a bulging bag of caramelised pastel de nata, a bunch of dazzling rhubarb stems and some good old-fashioned beeswax candles you probably have nowhere to put in your house.
174 Bellenden Road SE15 4BW
Melrose and Morgan, Hampstead
White walls, bare bulbs, clean lines – and seriously sexy label design – makes the dapper Hampstead branch of Melrose and Morgan a foraging round for gourmet galivants living Heath-side. Opened in 2004, the original M&M offers an easy win when looking for late in the day dinner party extras (think seeded spelt squares and Tunworth wheels for the cheese-board and Charbonnel sea salt caramel truffles for afters) but also serves up a mean deli menu of simple dishes cooked with plenty of opulence. Expect super-sized egg mayo sarnies (elegantly wrapped in white paper), soft-boiled eggs with jamon iberico-wrapped soldiers and piedmontese peppers stuffed full of olives, feta and tomatoes. Bowlfuls of freshly baked pastries suspended over pistachio sprinkled lemon drizzle cakes make for some suitably sweet eye-candy, as well.
New Oriel Hall, Oriel Place NW3 1QN
Honey & Spice, Fitzrovia
Tucked into a quiet Fitzrovia street, not a minute from Warren Street Station, find your way to this brightly lit little deli by spying the canary yellow chairs parked outside its shop front. Ottolenghi alumni Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich opened it alongside their restaurant, Honey & Co. aiming to bring the same incredible Middle Eastern produce into Londoner’s homes. Pick up winter’s best bulging pomegranates and plump figs, fulfil all your cardamom-laced coffee needs and find spices galore – from wild cardamom and sumac to Baharat, zaatar and whole mahleb. This is more Levantine souk in miniature than market stall: alongside the food expect beautiful homeware and kitchen trinkets sourced from afar. Egyptian falafel scoops await your basket, alongside delicate pottery from London creatives. But it’s not just grocery goods: their baked offerings are somewhat legendary within the area. Don’t leave without buying a couple of cherry Fitzrovia buns (make ours a baker’s dozen).
52 Warren Street W1T 5NJ
Lina Stores, Soho
Garbed in its kitsch minty-green best with striped awnings and 50s-style swing doors, Soho’s most famous Italian deli has made a name for itself in recently years, thanks to an eat-in menu of cheese-lashed carbohydrates that has become suitably continental comfort food for London’s metropolitan crowd in turbulent times. Stop off at their deli, though, and you won’t need to fight the crowds for ten minutes’ of table space. With freshly made pumpkin tortellini, handmade pappardelle and perfectly pinched yolk-yellow ravioli behind the counter, you can make your own crowd-pleasing platters at home, with help from the antipasti cabinet brimming with Italian cured meats and the jovial packages of italy’s favourite culinary products lining the tiled walls.
18 Brewer Street W1F 0SH