Tom Parker Bowles, a country boy at heart, knows where to seek out London’s most cleverly sourced country produce. From farmers markets to farm shops, he knows the capital’s best spots for a taste of the country
Rus in Urbe: that beguiling taste of the bucolic, deep in the urban sprawl; a glimpse of a fawn in Richmond Park; the trill of the Serpentine moorhen; those artfully faded Victoria Park tweeds…
OK, so the last one is a strictly east London affair, but whether it’s a short cut across St James’s Square, or a snatched sandwich under some shady bower, we’re never far from our own small patch of urban green.
And the upmarket London farm shop is, I suppose, an extension of our rural love. Sure, farmers’ markets can now be found scattered, like corn seeds, across the capital and can be pretty good. But, too often, I find them a triumph of hope over experience. Having grown up in the country, though, where the most exciting shop for miles around was the place that sold work boots, fertiliser and pig feed, an upmarket farm shop will always rock my boat.
Having grown up in the country, though, where the most exciting shop for miles around was the place that sold work boots, fertiliser and pig feed, an upmarket farm shop will always rock my boat
Sure, it can be civilised, wandering the many proper markets of our great city (Portobello, Broadway, and parts of Borough too). Buying asparagus in May, strawberries in June, and fat, fecund pears as the autumn draws in. But I’m fundamentally indolent, and often simply can’t be shagged to tramp up and down the street, as the heavens open and my sustainable paper bag softens and splits.
So off to the farm shop I trot. To places like Chegworth Valley on Kensington Church Street. This Kentish farm is an apple master, and their juices are sublime. FARM:shop in Dalston goes one step further, and serves lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, mushrooms and more, grown in their onsite hydroponic food lab. And they’ve just raised the research funding towards a prototype rooftop urban farm – 3,000 square metres of farm – potentially able to produce over 200 tonnes of vegetables, mushrooms, even fish. A delectably utopian vision.
When it comes to meat, we’re spoilt for choice. The Ginger Pig, in various locations, Sheepdrove in Maida Vale, and Daylesford, perhaps the daddy of them all. People moan that it’s expensive, but good, ethically produced food will always cost more. It’s only when we realise the long-term cost of cheap food that the British food revolution will truly begin.
Oh yeah, I hear you cry, not everyone can afford to spend £12 on a chicken. But that one chicken gives you three meals
Oh yeah, I hear you cry, not everyone can afford to spend £12 on a chicken. But that one chicken gives you three meals – roast, leftover sandwiches and stock. And it actually tastes of chicken. This, of course, is true not just of Daylesford meat, but any decent farmer, anywhere. Daylesford, though, also produces one of the world’s great cheddars, and their own Double Gloucester too. There’s no need to go to the country. When the country can come to us.
e5 Bakehouse, Hackney This spot is one of east London’s favourite artisan bakery and coffee shops. They adore sourdough and the baking traditions of our ancestors. You can even learn these methods yourself on their weekly bread course.
Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace E8 3PH; 020 8986 9600; e5bakehouse.com
The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell This is rustic dining with a sophisticated spin. The menu is full of freshly grown produce and experimental dishes that are creatively whipped up behind the scenes. Don’t miss out on their idyllic country afternoon tea!
47-48 St John’s Square EC1V 4JJ; 020 7553 9210; themodernpantry.co.uk
Bumblebee, Holloway With a vegetable shop, deli, bakery and nut shop all under one roof, you could almost do your entire supermarket run here. Committed to improving the environment, this gem is one for the organic and eco-friendly foodies.
33 Brecknock Road, Holloway N7 0BT; 020 7284 1314; bumblebee.london
MacFarlane’s Deli, Clapham MacFarlane’s, the most discerning of delis, has a counter filled with both pasteurised and unpasteurised fine cheese, and a delectable selection of cured meats, charcuterie, pâtés, fresh pesto and homemade houmous.
48 Abbeville Road, Clapham SW4 9NF; 020 8673 5373; macfarlanesdeli.co.uk
Bayley & Sage, Fulham Stock up on the best of the seasons at Bayley & Sage in Fulham, Parson’s Green and Wimbledon. The fresh fish, wine and baked goods on offer are just as delicious as the fruit and veg. Don’t miss the juicy Ventoux cherries.
60 High Street, Wimbledon SW19 5EE; 020 8946 9904; bayley-sage.co.uk
Hamish Johnston, Battersea Hamish Johnston has been supplying artisan cheese to Battersea and south London for twenty years and stock a wonderful variety, whether your preference is for creamy Stilton, fresh goats’ cheese or gooey Camembert.
48 Northcote Road, Battersea SW11 1PA; 020 7738 0741; hamishjohnston.com
Ellis Fine Foods, Twickenham Based just outside of Twickenham, Ellis Fine Foods have been bringing a taste of the countryside to London for over 20 years now. They supply some of the best meat and produce around.
99 High Street, Twickenham TW2 7LD; 020 8894 9919; ellisfinefoods.co.uk
The Food Market, Chiswick We couldn’t pick our best for country foods without mentioning what’s an integral part of the shopping week for many in W4. Every week you’ll find around 25 top producers from around the country, offering fine food and top recipe tips too,
Handmade Food, Blackheath Vibrant salads, freshly cooked quiches and wonderful cakes – Handmade Food does exactly what it says on the tin. Freshly prepped food is available to eat in or take away and the shelves are packed with products from independent suppliers, from local honey and foraged fruit jams to biodynamic wines.
40 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath SE3 0BD; handmadefood.com
Franklins, East Dulwich Franklins is a local institution, with a restaurant and farm shop just over the road from each other. You’ll find seasonal fruit and vegetables from Kent, English cheeses including award-winning Winterdale, Norbury blue and Crockhamdale, Barrington Park Estate eggs and Ellie’s Dairy goats milk from Kent.
155 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich SE22 8HX; franklinsrestaurant.com