Farmers’ Markets can be found from Islington to Twickenham. Islington was the first, but others followed on quickly, all areas of London can be found sprouting markets where you can be sure of the story of your purchase.

Farmers’ Markets enable local producers to sell their goods directly to consumers. This means: fresher food; a better understanding between producer and consumer; high quality produce at an affordable price; and a fairer income for producers. Theyy promote a more sustainable society by reducing ‘food miles’, assisting in the sale and marketing of food produced to high environmental and welfare standards, and by reconnecting consumers with the farming community that surrounds and serves them.

Many Londoners now attend farmers’ markets in order to shop, sample, eat and have a wander round. Exploring your local market is certainly more relaxing than attempting Harrods Food Hall on the weekend.

However, if the local farmers’ market doesn’t do the trick, and you are in need of a more specific kind of ingredient there are shops hidden away in London. From the African continent to China, and the very best in Italian or indeed British food, Leslie Geddes Browne guides us though the more appetising shopping institutions for the most gorgeous food in London.

Foodies’ Shops: Capital Food Secrets

There is, of course, no such thing as a truly undiscovered food shop. Such a mythical animal would go out of business if it had no customers. But there are plenty of good food shops in the capital which are outside the usual foodie remit of the sumptuous halls of Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, and the gastro-porn fantasies of Villandry, Mortimer & Bennett, Carluccio’s growing empire and Borough Market, which has risen from a once-a-month event in 1998 to one of London’s biggest attractions.

The most obvious example of ‘secret’ shops are those used almost exclusively by London’s different ethnic groups. These may be totally unknown or at least totally unvisited by the British population. Visible but not much visited is Chinatown, based round Gerrard Street, whose Old Peking style gateway can be seen by thousands of theatregoers in Shaftesbury Avenue. Here, concentrated in a few yards down a narrow street, are busy stores which sell everything you need for the hot wok (wok included).

Fresh and dried fish, poultry, meat and specials such as fresh bean curd and wonton skins jostle with rows of sesame oils, soy sauces, fragrant rice and rice-grain crockery. Racks outside are daily loaded with the freshest of vegetables, from great bundles of garlic chives to bok choi and galangal. These emporia have branched into ingredients for all far-eastern cookery, so you will also find Japanese noodles and daikon, Thai basil and coconut milk, Indonesian prawn crackers and lemongrass. (Tawana in Chepstow Road is also excellent for Thai food.)

Because of an obsession with fresh vegetables (something we could copy), Chinatown does not really come alive until about 11am, before which crates are still being unloaded. Nor do the Chinese owners care much about attracting European visitors – labelling is often in Chinese only. But Chinatown is a wonderful place to shop and a great experience. Jenny Linford, who has written the definitive guide to our food shops (Food Lovers’ London 2003, Metro Publications, £7.99) recommends New Loon Moon (020-7734 3887) in Gerrard Street as consistently good.

Golborne Road, W10, is the place to go for North African and Middle Eastern food. On sunny afternoons, it can even look like Morocco, with food spilling out onto the pavements and Moroccans sipping mint tea in glasses outside the cafés. In Le Maroc and Le Marrakech you will find cous cous and preserved lemons, ras-al-hanout and zahtar spices, together with pine-nuts, olives, couscousières and tea glasses, all at prices which should make the supermarkets shame-faced.

This somewhat seedy street is also home to Lisboa (020- 8969 1052), where you can find Portuguese specialities such as salt cod and, of course, port, and the Golborne Fisheries, full of exotic fish and tingling fresh lobsters and prawns. Here, too, is the French Bakery, selling tempting pastries, croissants and bread. A small foodie heaven beyond the Westway flyover.

For Spanish food, you can- not do better than Brindisa in Exmouth Market (020-7713 1666), a small backwater off Farringdon Road, which has been considerably enlivened by the arrival of Moro, the cult Moorish/Spanish restaurant. Brindisa will sell you Moro: The Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark, and most of the ingredients to use in the recipes. I love this shop (which has an offshoot in Borough Market) for its enticing stock of beautiful tins of tuna and anchovies, its packs of almonds, smoked sharp and sweet paprika and pine nuts, sweet olive-oil cakes and succulent jamon serrano waiting to be hand cut. It is also light, airy and extremely friendly.

This is the case, too, with my local deli, Monte’s in Canonbury Lane (020-7354 4335), Islington, a smart Italian store where Giulia makes her own lasagne and meat balls and cuts the finest pancetta and parma ham you can find. The shop has a tempting selection of olives, olive oils and vinegars and, when my hens are in the mood, some of my own free-range eggs (just to declare an interest).

Another favourite Italian is I Camisa in Old Compton Street (020-7437 7610). It is one of Mrs Linford’s favour- ites too: ‘Gaby seems to know all his customers-and I take my son there for sugared almonds. Without this kind of shop, London would be poorer.’ I Camisa, for me, is the place I got my first commission as a freelancer. An editor I knew came to queue behind me (there is always a queue) and within minutes I was working on Royal Academicians and their gardens.

Mrs Linford worries that traditional, family shops may be on the way out. ‘In the period I have been writing Food Lovers’ London-13 years- these shops have been driven out because the rents are so high. I feel protective towards them.’ She cites the Indian Spice Shop in Drummond Street (020-7916 1831), as the perfect example, an eclectic mix of Indian spices and English corner shop (‘Really good value, lovely poppadums’), and the Ambala Sweet Centre in the same street.

A more obvious tragedy is Leadenhall Market which, a decade or so ago, was filled with busy, open market stalls selling to crowds of City customers everything from broccoli to bamboo plants. Today it has succumbed to the high street plague of chains such as Gap, Body Shop and the like. Only two stalls seem to remain: Ashdown, an extremely good fishmonger with a fine collection of smoked as well as fresh fish, and Butcher & Edmonds (020-7623 5946) which has excellent meat and a good selection of game.

Between the two, however, is an aching gap. Another butcher, S. Ashby Ltd, closed the shutters last month after 53 years and went to Bermondsey. A notice in the window says: ‘The reason we had to make this decision is due to unaffordable overheads and a steady decline in trade . . . Patrick Thomas, Jon Ashby and Staff.’ Better news is the arrival in the same lane of O & Co, one of a small chain specialising in olive oils and Mediterranean herbs and spices.

Of course, food shops, like any others, open and close and areas go up and down. One that is definitely coming up is round Marylebone, where, I am told, the landlords are deliberately targeting food shops as tenants. La Fromagerie of Highbury recently opened at Moxon Street, joining Villandry in Great Portland Street and Divertimenti in Wigmore Street. It certainly makes sense-shoppers will be keener to visit several stores together.

In this plethora of stores keen to satisfy our hunger for international cuisine there is a missing link. You will not find a shop specialising in British food in the foodie boroughs of Islington or Notting Hill; nor any devoted British section in Selfridges or Harvey Nichols (although both promote our food from time to time).

The only British specialist food shop in London is in Brushfield Street, a short walk from Liverpool Street Station- or at least that is what the owners, Ian Thomas and his wife, Safia, believe. It is called A. Gold (020-7247 2487), after a Jewish Hungarian mil- liner who worked there in the 1880s (the sign is listed and cannot be changed). This lovely little haven stocks Bury Black Pudding and Sillfield Farm air-dried ham; it has Scottish black buns and Banbury cakes; there are cheeses such as Sharpham and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire.

This is the place, too, for Uncle Joe’s sour apples, aniseed balls and acid drops, together with Farrah’s Toffee and Toffee Shop Fudge. British food is as good as any other -it is just that we refuse to recognise the fact.

Farmers’ Markets in London

Blackheath

Certified

Location: Blackheath Rail Station Car Park, SE3

Town: Blackheath

Sunday Weekly

10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Ealing

Certified

Location: Leeland Road, West Ealing W13

Town: Ealing

Saturday Weekly

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Islington

Certified

Location: Essex Road, N1, (opposite Islington Green)

Town: Islington

Sunday Weekly

10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Marylebone

Certified

Location: Cramer Street car park, just off Marylebone High St W1

Town: Marylebone W1

Every Sunday. Nearest tubes: Baker St & Bond St

10 am to 2 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Notting Hill

Certified

Location: Car park off Kensington Place, corner Ken. Church St W8

Town: Notting Hill

Saturday Weekly

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Peckham

Certified

Location: Peckham Square, Peckham High St, SE15

Town: Peckham

Sunday Weekly

9:30 am to 1:30 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Pimlico Road

Certified

Location: Orange Square, corner Pimlico Rd & Ebury St SW1

Town: Pimlico

Saturday Weekly

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Richmond

Location: Heron Square, off Hill Street

Town: London

Saturday Weekly

11 am to 3 pm

Contact: Nina Dimond-Brown

Tel: 020 8878 5132

Stoke Newington

Certified

Location: William Patten School, Stoke Newington Church Street

Town: Stoke Newington N16 0NX

Saturday Weekly

10:00 am to 2:30 pm

Contact: Kerry Rankine

Tel: 0207 5027588

email: grow.communities@btinternet.com

web:www.growingcommunities.org

Swiss Cottage

Location: Car park of the O2 Centre, Finchley Rd, near Homebase NW3

Town: Swiss Cottage

Wednesday Weekly

10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Twickenham

Certified

Location: Holly Road car park, Holly Road, off King St, TW1

Town: Twickenham

Saturday Weekly

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

Wimbledon Park

Certified

Location: Wimbledon Park First School, Havana Rd, SW19

Town: Wimbledon

Saturday Weekly

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Contact: Cheryl Cohen

Tel: 0207 833 0338

email: info@lfm.org.uk

web:www.lfm.org.uk

For more information on farmers’ markets in London or anywhere in the country, log on towww.farmersmarkets.net

/
.