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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Killian Fox

Right up your street: favourite local shops in the UK, chosen by chefs and food writers

George Jones (left) and Nick Kelleher at IJ Mellis Cheesemonger, Morningside, Edinburgh.
George Jones (left) and Nick Kelleher at IJ Mellis Cheesemonger, Morningside, Edinburgh. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Observer

IJ Mellis Cheesemonger, Edinburgh

Chosen by James Murray, head chef, Timberyard, Edinburgh

“It’s the smell of it I love,” says James Murray about IJ Mellis, the Edinburgh cheesemonger he’s been frequenting since moving back to Scotland seven years ago. “The big focus is on British cheese but they also sell charcuterie and interesting groceries, and in the summer it’s full of local strawberries. The shop smells alive – like a really good shop you’d find in Spain or France.”

Murray, who is head chef at Timberyard, usually goes to the shop on Morningside Road, but there are two other branches in Edinburgh, as well as shops in Glasgow and St Andrews. The business was started by cheesemaker Iain Mellis, who opened his first outlet on Victoria Street in 1993. “The retail expansion happened quite quickly in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” says his son, Rory, who now looks after wholesale. At first they focused on British cheese. “We had to know that it was either family-run or that we knew the source of the milk,” says Rory. They have expanded over the years, taking in cheeses from other European countries, as well as a range of store-cupboard items, but their philosophy remains the same.
330 Morningside Rd, Edinburgh EH10 4QJ

North Acomb Farm Shop, Stocksfield, Northumberland

Chosen by Alex Nietosvuori, chef and co-owner, Hjem, Hexham

North Acomb is run by Robin and Caroline Baty, who set it up in 1978 as an outlet for surplus eggs and milk from their 250-acre farm in the Tyne Valley. It grew into a proper shop, though “not a fancy deli or anything”, stresses Robin. “We don’t pretend to be anything we’re not.” For Robin, it’s satisfying to sell the produce from his animals – including 120 head of Aberdeen Angus cows, as well as pigs and sheep – directly to the public. Chef Alex Nietosvuori, whose restaurant Hjem is 15 minutes up the road, is a regular. “The car park is surrounded by cows and pigs, and in the shop you can get any part of the animal you want because they butcher everything themselves,” he says. “They have a lovely cheese counter, churn their own butter, but my favourite thing to buy there are the sausages, made in-house along with pies and cakes.”
Stocksfield, Northumberland NE43 7UF

Moore on the Quay, Derry

Chosen by Phelim O’Hagan, chef-owner, Artis, Derry

After 12 years running fish shops in London, Brendan Moore returned home to Derry in late 2019. “I wasn’t planning to get back into fish,” he tells me, but then Covid hit and he ended up buying a refrigerated van and selling fish on the quay. Moore was worried locals wouldn’t be interested. “Half my family wouldn’t even look at fish,” he says, “but people have been very receptive.” Chef Phelim O’Hagan, who buys for his Michelin-starred restaurant Artis, says the van “has really upped how much Derry people eat seafood. It shows in the restaurant: people are getting more adventurous.”

Four mornings a week, Moore drives 20 miles to the port in Greencastle in Co Donegal and picks up fish from the boats. “I know exactly what boat it’s been caught on, how long the fishing trip has been.” He keeps fish whole as long as possible and portions to order. “It’s not a bad office,” he says of his new location on the banks of the River Foyle. “I’m pretty happy with how it’s all turned out.”
N124 Strand Rd, Derry BT48 7NS

KRK Grocers & Halal Butchers, Glasgow

Chosen by Julie Lin, chef and co-owner, Gaga Kitchen, Glasgow

Last November, Julie Lin posted an appreciation of the Asian and Middle Eastern supermarket KRK to her Instagram, explaining that she had been shopping at the Glasgow institution for 15 years, attracted by great, hard-to-find ingredients and its sense of community. The post was inundated with positive responses. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, everyone adores this shop,’” says Lin. “They have a fresh butchery section, so many veggies you wouldn’t see elsewhere, like Chinese aubergine, and the dried goods are amazing. It’s one of my favourite places in Glasgow.”
Originally opened in 1979 by three brothers whose initials made up the shop’s name, KRK was taken over in 2011 by business partners Shaukat Ali and Muksood Anjam Salim. “We’re frequented by people from a lot of different ethnic backgrounds, and we have a huge student population around here, so it means that we have to carry a diverse range,” says Salim. If you’re looking for a kilo bag of turmeric powder, or chicken thighs cut a certain way, or the very best cinnamon bark, KRK can take care of it. “We’re kept on our toes regarding, ‘Do you have this? Do you have that?’” says Salim. “It’s ever evolving.”
284-288 Woodlands Rd, Glasgow G3 6NE

Lovingly Artisan, Kendal

Chosen by Nina Matsunaga, chef-owner, The Black Bull, Sedburgh

The impression that chef Nina Matsunaga gives of Aidan Monks, owner of the Lovingly Artisan bakery in the Lake District, is that he’s almost fanatically obsessed with sourdough. “He’s been voted best artisan baker in the UK twice running, and when you talk to him you can see that he thinks about bread and flour pretty much all the time,” says Matsunaga, who is a regular at the Kendal branch.
This impression is borne out when speaking to Monks, who within seconds of picking up the phone is stressing the importance of close relationships with millers and wheat farmers. He and his wife Catherine Connor started the bakery in 2009 in a tiny garage outside Oxenholme station. Now they have a shop at Altrincham Market, as well as the bakery in Kendal, a bread truck and an online shop shipping nationwide. They sell pastries but Monks emphasises they’re a “very bread-focused bakery” – they bake about 19 different sourdoughs in their enormous wood-fired oven in Kendal. “We work stupidly hard but we absolutely love it,” says Monks.
Plumgarth’s Lakeland Food Park, Kendal LA8 8Q

The Goods Shed, Canterbury

Chosen by Dan Smith, chef and co-owner, The Fordwich Arms and The Bridge Arms, near Canterbury

In 2002, Susanna Sait opened an ambitious food venture after three years restoring an old Victorian shed next to Canterbury West train station.“We set it out a bit like an old high street,” she says. “You walk in and on the left is the fishmonger, next to him is a butchery, and so on. In the middle, we have a long spine of all the local fruit and vegetables. On the mezzanine level is the restaurant that overlooks the market.”

“It’s got everything you want,” says chef Dan Smith who runs two Michelin-starred pubs nearby. “There’s also a dry goods shop, and a cheesemonger, a wine shop, a bakery, a coffee shop, a cocktail bar. It feels like a mini food festival in there.” As if all that’s not enough, Sait bought a small farm a few years ago and is “now trying to grow the things that we can’t source from local farmers” – including quince, figs and unusual varieties of heritage wheat – “to expand the range of produce available”.
Station Rd West, Canterbury CT2 8AN

Catch of the Day, Kingsbridge, Devon

Chosen by Jane Baxter, chef and co-owner, Wild Artichokes, Kingsbridge

With its small shop front on Fore Street in Kingsbridge, Catch of the Day may look like an ordinary fishmonger but according to chef Jane Baxter, whose restaurant Wild Artichokes is on the next street over, it’s anything but. “Their wild fish is sustainably caught. They have a smoker at the back where they smoke salmon, prawns, mackerel and cod’s roe. And they have a great relationship with the community. You always have a good laugh and their knowledge is vast.”

A fishmonger since the 1950s, the premises came under new management from Emma and Darren Carter in 2009. Emma was the first woman in the UK to skipper a fishing trawler, while Darren started out aged 16 as a filleter on Plymouth’s quays. “It’s got to be sustainable and local,” says Emma of their daily catch. And in the smokehouse “we don’t use chemicals or dyes – everything has to be naturally done”. The work is demanding, says Emma, “and when the boats can’t get out for days or weeks, it’s very stressful. But I love it.”
54 Fore St, Kingsbridge TQ7 1NY

Littlewoods Butchers, Stockport

Chosen by Joe Otway, chef and co-owner, Higher Ground, Manchester

“I always say that Dickens would recognise a lot of what we do,” says Marcus Wilson, owner of Littlewoods butchers in Stockport. “We’ve stuck with what the shop’s done since it was built in 1898, which is using small local farms, native-breed beef, independent abattoirs and whole-carcass butchery.” The shop has been in Wilson’s family since 1964 and he worked there as a teenager before taking it over 20 years ago.

Now, as well as selling some of the finest cuts in Greater Manchester to an appreciative public – including less obvious meats such as hogget and wild boar – Wilson is on a mission to teach his craft to local chefs. One beneficiary is Joe Otway, who became a Littlewoods regular five years ago. “Marcus has taught me a lot,” Otway says. “He takes time out of his day to go to restaurants and teach chefs the fundamentals of butchery. He’s always willing to go the extra mile. He’s a true Manchester food hero.”
5 School Ln, Heaton Chapel, Stockport SK4 5DE

Neal’s Yard Dairy, London SE1

Chosen by Cynthia Shanmugalingam, chef-owner, Rambutan, London

Cynthia Shanmugalingam has been going to the Borough Market branch of Neal’s Yard Dairy since she moved to London 20 years ago. Now, by happy coincidence, the chef-owner of Rambutan, around the corner on Stoney Street, lives above the shop and can pop down in her pyjamas if she fancies top of the range British cheese – or butter, eggs, bread, pastries or jam. “It’s what you want from your corner shop,” she says. “It feels like you’re stepping into another era.”

The dairy was founded by Randolph Hodgson, who opened his first shop in Covent Garden in 1979 and spent the next four decades helping to revive British farmhouse cheesemaking, which had fallen into decline since the second world war. The Borough branch opened in the mid-1990s. Shanmugalingam appreciates the “knowledgeable and unintimidating” customer service at the shop, and this is something that Estelle Reynolds, Neal’s Yard’s head of retail, works hard to maintain. “Being able to connect customers with people who are producing food feels like worthwhile work,” she says.
Borough Market branch, 8 Park St, London SE1 9AB

Anji Orient, London N1

Chosen by Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Invitation to a Banquet

“I came across it during the pandemic,” says Fuchsia Dunlop of this bountiful east Asian grocery shop in Angel. “I’d been cut off from Chinatown for months and I was really missing Chinese ingredients.” On a trip to Chapel Market, she stumbled upon Anji Orient. “It was this vision of wondrous Chinese produce. As well as the obvious pak choi, choi sum and water spinach, they’ll have things like yellow chives, celtuce and chrysanthemum greens. It’s run by a really nice couple.”

The couple in question is Sharon Kuek and her husband Feng Lin, who hail from Malaysia and China’s Fujian province respectively. “We spent time talking with customers to find out what they really want,” says Kuek. Early each morning they’re at the vegetable market in Leytonstone, tracking down the best – and hardest to find – fresh produce. “I enjoy it when customers say, ‘We’re so happy you found this,’” says Kuek.
19 Baron St, Islington N1 9ET

Culinaris, Cambridge

Chosen by Bee Wilson, author of The Secret of Cooking

“I think of it as a fairyland of deliciousness,” says food writer Bee Wilson about Culinaris, a grocery shop and deli in Cambridge selling “extraordinary cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate, the best pasta, olive oil, beautiful things like bergamots and more”.

What emerges from talking to founder and co-owner Zoltan Bogathy, who opened Culinaris in 2015 after running a similar outlet in Budapest, is how deeply his team researches each of the 3,000 or so products they stock. “Every single product has been tasted and tested and researched,” he says. For Wilson, this is evident in the enthusiasm of the staff. “Even if you’re just going and buying one wedge of cheese, they will want to talk to you in such detail,” she says. This is an integral part of Bogathy’s approach. “We have an unlimited tasting policy,” he says. “If you want to taste something, let’s discover.”
90a Mill Rd, Cambridge CB1 2BD

Oeno Maris, London N1

Chosen by Uyen Luu, author of Recipes from My Vietnamese Kitchen

“This isn’t your typical fishmonger,” says Sarah Miller, who owns Oeno Maris in north-east London with her partner Dan Murphy. She’s got a point. As well as selling carefully sourced fresh seafood, she also stocks Japanese provisions and a small selection of low-intervention wines and sakes. Thursday to Saturday, you can sit in for a glass or several and eat oysters and sashimi straight from the counter. Miller runs the wine side of things while Murphy, a certified master fishmonger who ran Fin & Flounder in Broadway Market for a decade, heads up the fish counter.

“I go there as a treat,” says Uyen Luu, who’s been a fan since they opened in January 2023. “It’s a lovely space, Dan is always behind the counter. If I want to do sashimi for my supper club dinners, or just for a treat, I’ll spend the money just to get his advice – and he always gives me the best bits. I really like supporting them.”

105 Newington Green Rd, London N1 4QY

The Butchery, London SE23

Chosen by Melissa Thompson, author of Motherland

The first time that food writer Melissa Thompson went to The Butchery in Forest Hill, south-east London, she bought a chicken. “I remember seeing £17 being entered into the till and going, oh my god, it’s really expensive.” Her parents and brother took to calling it “the la-di-da butcher” but Thompson wasn’t put off. “That £17 chicken was one of the best chickens I’ve ever eaten in my life, and it was massive – it fed us for days.”

The shop was opened in 2012 by Nathan Mills and Ruth Siwinski as a whole-carcass butcher and they ran it for more than a decade before selling up last year and moving back to Australia. The name remains the same, and Thompson is still a loyal customer, but the business is now owned by east London butchers Hill & Szrok. “Nathan taught us how to do whole-carcass butchery – I felt like he was the only one who was doing it properly,” says Hill & Szrok co-founder Luca Mathiszig-Lee. “And then we took on his business – it’s a circle-of-life story.”
49 London Rd, London SE23 3TY

London Starnight, London E8

Chosen by Abby Lee, chef-owner, Mambow, London

For chef Abby Lee of Mambow, London Starnight is “the place I visit the most – for the range of south-east Asian herbs and vegetables, for the frozen seafood that I use as a base for curries at home, for the desserts and savoury snacks. When I discovered it a few years ago, it made me feel much more at home.”

Lee, who grew up in Malaysia and Singapore, is not the first to feel a sense of home at the Hackney supermarket. Set up by Vietnamese expats Nghia Mary Dao and Hung Trinh in the early 1990s, it began as a video shop renting drama serials on VHS to the local Vietnamese community before transitioning to food retail. “It started from the heart of the community,” says the couple’s daughter, Helen, who helps her parents with aspects of the business, including liaising with Anglophone journalists. “We brought over what we felt was home to people who were so far away from home.”

As well as hard-to-find greens and dried goods, they sold Buddhist altars and votive papers to burn for deceased loved ones. The shop recently moved to a smaller premises a few doors down, but Helen says the range of food has broadened to satisfy a new generation of customers, like Lee, seeking Korean, Malaysian and other Asian cuisines.
199 Mare Street, London E8 3QE

Haxby Bakehouse, Haxby, York

Chosen by Neil Bentinck, chef-owner, Skosh, York

Long before sourdough became ubiquitous, Phil Clayton and his wife Tina were experimenting with it at their bakery on the outskirts of York. “I did a brief bread course and then taught myself to bake,” says Phil. “I’ve not stopped since.”

They opened their first outlet in an old health-food store in Haxby in 2008; now they’ve expanded to two adjacent units in the Clifton Moor industrial estate, where Skosh chef Neil Bentinck picks up his bread. “The breads will be some of the best you’ve ever tried,” says Bentinck. “Phil does amazing croissants with great lamination. He uses seasonal produce, like rhubarb and wild garlic, in his pastries and focaccias. It’s top-notch stuff.”

The original premises, overseen by Tina, functions more as a deli. “I think she quite liked having a shop that wasn’t covered in flour,” jokes Phil. But he has no desire to expand further. “I don’t ever want the bakery to spiral out of control. I still enjoy baking and I’d much rather be doing that than running a massive company.”
Ryedale Court, The Village, Haxby YO32 3SA

Wally’s Delicatessen, Cardiff

Chosen by James Sommerin, chef-owner, Home, Penarth

“An Aladdin’s cave,” is how chef James Sommerin describes Wally’s Delicatessen in Cardiff. “Cheese, wine, dry goods, charcuterie, honey … you name it, they stock it. They have food from all over the world but their Welsh products – cheeses and beers and so on – are particularly good. Whenever I’m in Cardiff, I pop in and have a mooch around and see what’s new.”

Wally’s was founded by Walter Salamon, who was three when his family fled Austria for south Wales to escape the Nazis. He worked at his father’s deli on Cardiff’s Bridge Street, and when that closed he set up his own in 1981 (his son, Steven, is now in charge). “I’ve seen a lot of changes,” says manager David Richards, who joined the shop on a youth training scheme, aged 16, months after it opened. “We started in a little unit in the Royal Arcade and then expanded to a store room next door, and then took over the cafe upstairs.” The range has expanded dramatically too. “When we first started, we only stocked two cheeses – jarlsberg and cambozola; now we stock dozens.” The Aladdin’s cave description fits. “It’s an eclectic range of different foods from different countries and regions,” says Richards. “We’re a properly international shop.”
38-46 Royal Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AE

• This article was amended on 24 April 2024 to remove an incorrect reference to Culinaris being “Hungarian owned” and to clarify that Zoltan Bogathy is its founder and co-owner.

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