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Food on the Hill – More than a Deli

October 25, 2011

Food on the Hill

Food on the Hill and The Village Butcher next door were opened in March 2010 by A Cena. The deli is now owned and run by Andrew Kennedy and the butcher by Matt Jenkins but they maintain close links with their ‘sister’ restaurant.

Entering Food on the Hill is a delightful assault on the senses for the gourmet – or indeed anyone interested in top quality food. In front of you as you walk in is a wonderful array of the day’s specials – food cooked on the premises and within view by their head chef, Paul Hughes: maybe a paella, meatballs in tomato sauce, roasted vegetables, delicious little Spanish tortillas; sticky barbecued chicken wings that just ask to be picked up and eaten. It all looks fabulous; it smells fantastic – and it really is very, very good. Everything is freshly prepared by Paul who turns up early each morning to start cooking. Buying ready-to-eat food here is a far cry from even the best supermarket meals. It’s more akin to a traiteur in France or tavolo caldo in Italy, which, Paul explained was all about the chef cooking food in small batches ready for anyone who comes in and wants to buy some lunch or supper.

Paul told me that both in the deli and the butcher the provenance of all the food is of great importance to them. Their chickens, for instance, come from Packington’s who, according to their own website, are ‘dedicated to rearing a free range bird of rare distinction’; a rump steak will have been hung for at least 28 days. Apart from the food cooked by Paul, there are shelves full of best quality olive oils, various vinegars, pasta, organic vegetables and fruit, a variety of olives and lots of other things you would expect to find in any good delicatessen.

Food on the Hill is open from 9am – 7pm. People wander in in the evening, said Andrew, on their way home from work to find something good for supper; parents picking up kids from the nearby local schools will also come in to buy food for the evening. If you fancy something special to eat but also want to stay in, then this is the place to come to buy a meal of top-restaurant quality to eat at home. And, if you don’t live too far away, and are ordering more than just a pot of olives, they will even deliver for free – you can check what’s on the menu by either phoning or looking at the deli’s website/blog: http://www.thefoodonthehill.tumblr.com. They also prepare food for dinner parties if booked in advance and do parties and food for all kinds of other events.

What makes Food on the Hill stand out above other delis though, according to Andrew, is Paul Hughes. Paul is a chef with a stunningly impressive history: he was chef at Langan’s Brasserie when it first opened, having been poached from the Royal Lancaster Hotel near Hyde Park. From there became head chef at St John’s; was the first chef at Putney Bridge; was in charge of the fine dining room and cafe at the Waterstone’s in Piccadilly when it took over the spot once inhabited by Simpson’s, in a venture with Richard Corrigan. After that, he spent eight years at Ginger Pig where he made sausages, pates, terrines and pies, before coming to A Cena/Food on the Hill.

Paul Hughes in kitchen at Food on the Hill

Charcuterie is what Paul is best known for. In Food on the Hill you can buy amazing pies and sausages and pates made by him. Jonathan Meades, for 15 years food critic for The Times, has called Paul, ‘Lone God Of Retail Entrails’ and described ‘his true forte’ being ‘the virtually extinct English dishes … I have rarely tasted such delicious black puddings, never tasted such faggots and haslet. And as for his raised pies!’ When I said to Paul as we were talking that I used to love haslet as a kid he promptly went and cut me a couple of slices. Even before I tasted it I could see the difference between his haslet and any you might find in a supermarket. It looked like meat! As I put it to my mouth, it smelled wonderful – and as for the taste, well I’m with Jonathan Meads, I’ve never tasted haslet like it.

Paul talked of his passion for cooking; everything he prepares is cooked with love and care. Most of the food at the deli is Mediterranean in style, like lasagnes and paella, but there are also fishcakes and sometimes Lancashire Hotpots. Paul said he occasionally likes to introduce some surprises too and cooks, perhaps, an Indonesian Beef Rendang.

So, you may be thinking, that all sounds wonderful but how much does it cost? You may imagine it’s expensive. But Andrew talked about how they are very careful with their pricing and while some things might be more expensive than the supermarket, other things won’t be. Paul pointed out that you can buy exactly the amount you want. How often have you looked at a pre-packaged meal in the supermarket labelled as feeding two and knowing there’s no way your hungry partner or child is going to agree with that. And the choice for single people is limited when it comes to ready meals. But at Food on the Hill you can buy just as much as you want. When I bought some excellent stewing beef in The Village Butcher at the weekend I was surprised by how reasonable it was and am certain I might well have paid more in my usual supermarket – and for meat not nearly so good.

All the lucky locals around Friar Stile Road and Richmond Hill have got something really special in having Food on the Hill right on their doorstep. If I lived within walking distance, I’m sure I’d be popping in every day! But now that I’ve found it I also know it’s worth a special trip for both what’s on offer at the deli and also the butcher. After a walk in Richmond Park a couple of weeks ago with my daughter, I took her to the deli to buy some food for lunch – amazing little tortillas and some beetroot, chilli and orange salad. It was absolutely delicious. So, whether you’re a self-proclaimed gourmet or simply like good food, it’s without doubt worth a special trip up the hill.

Update November 2015: Sadly I’ve heard that Food on the Hill has now closed down.

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