Melrose and Morgan grocery shop and kitchen is celebrating a decade in business in 2014 and the co-founders have published a new book that will inspire and make the likes of Christmas not so stressful
Who hasn’t faced up to cooking Christmas dinner with more than a degree of trepidation? Thankfully, the likes of Ian James exist, one of the co-founders of Primrose Hill food retailer Melrose and Morgan, who is only too happy to demystify all things cooking and shopping – something he has been doing for over a decade now.
‘It was back in 2000, when Borough Market just started to take off,’ Ian says on the initial inspiration behind Melrose and Morgan. ‘We’d spend a lot of our Saturdays down there shopping, talking to the different suppliers and saw that there was this amazing array of food and quality, and that it was an interesting way to shop. But by the time Wednesday came around again, all of that food had been cooked and eaten already and you had to go back to Tesco. I thought to myself: “There’s an opportunity to create something that provides the same quality of food direct from producers, but seven days a week”.’ So it came to be that, ten years ago, both he and Nick Selby (sadly missing today thanks to a winter cold) brought quality to a corner of Gloucester Avenue by opening Melrose and Morgan.
Today, Melrose and Morgan marks a hub for community members not only in Primrose Hill, but also down the road in Hampstead, serving everyone with freshly produced goods. ‘Sixty per cent of the food we sell, we make,’ Ian says. ‘And that’s everything from cakes, cookies and pies to soups and cheese.’ Melrose and Morgan the ultimate one-stop-shop. ‘People come for their morning coffee and then back for lunch and then once more to pick up ingredients for dinner,’ Ian smiles. ‘We put ourselves in the middle of the business. We gained a real loyal customer base that we got to know.’
Since its opening in 2004, the Melrose and Morgan duo – who named the company after their mothers’ maiden names – have continuously worked together on a compilation of ideas, which has now evolved into Ian and Nick’s guide, Good Food For Your Table. ‘It’s based on a lot of the questions our customers would come in and ask,’ Ian explains. ‘As time has gone by, we’ve collected a wealth of knowledge and information. It took us a bit of time, but it felt like now was the right time.’ After accumulating the knowledge that they did at Melrose and Morgan, Good Food For Your Table is deemed a most appropriate celebration for their decade of success.
Unlike the abundance of cookbooks housed on your shelves, this one teaches you beyond simply what’s for dinner tonight. ‘We’re not chefs – we’re grocers,’ Ian adds. ‘The book is fun, quirky and simple. It’s a handbook, or a compendium. It has some recipes, but it’s not a cookbook.’ Instead of flipping through the pages to find how to make dinner, it teaches you about the ingredients. It goes back to basics – and then some. ‘It’s basically how to shop and how to fill your cupboard,’ Ian says. ‘There are some quick and easy ideas on how to create things from staple foods. There’s history and facts and what to look for.’ Above all, it answers those pressing questions you are too timid to ask.
Now, to Christmas: how can Melrose and Morgan help? ‘We sell turkey, we sell geese, puddings, cakes… We really go to town at Christmas!’ Ian smiles. When asked about what tips he can offer, Ian jokes: ‘Be prepared.’ Well, I am doing exactly that as this year Melrose and Morgan have decided to make their famous Christmas pudding with English quinces – a real limited edition. ‘It’s one of those things you don’t find in the supermarkets. If you’re coming here, you’re going to get something different.’ Now that’s worth celebrating.
Good Food For Your Table: A Grocer’s Guide is out now – see more about that and Melrose and Morgan itself at melroseandmorgan.com