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Greensmiths, London SE1

May 30, 2014

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When I left ScooterCaffe yesterday after a morning coffee and made my way back up Lower Marsh towards Waterloo, I stopped frequently to look in interesting shop windows, checked out a few market stalls setting up and came across Greensmiths. It’s a wonderful food shop that pulled me irresistibly towards it: Ginger Pig meat displayed in the window, even Ginger Pig eggs; another window with a good display of fine groceries. I peeped inside.

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Ahead of me were wonderful breads; to the left more meat, huge ribs of beef, plump beautiful sausages; a doorway at the back led enticingly to who knew what gastronomic wonders. Camera at the ready, I stepped inside. The butcher was friendly; I told him I wrote a food blog and asked if I could take some photos. Of course, he said, and soon we were into a conversation about his 45-day aged beef as he showed me the ribs close up, then a beautiful piece of fillet. There was a wonderful pride in his voice as he told me about his produce and the care and attention with which it is prepared.

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The butcher counter was a Ginger Pig shop. Ginger Pig is one of the most respected butchers in the country. I first discovered it in Borough Market a few years ago when my daughter was living in Southwark and that was her local market; we’d always make a visit to the Ginger Pig stall. Ginger Pig has been going for more than 20 years now and there are 6 shops in London. The name itself is a mark of excellence and restaurants will often quote it as a source of their meat. The butcher told me he often get packs of meat ready for people to pick up on their way home from work – they’re open until 8.00pm Mon-Fri and from 8am – 6pm on Saturday, closed on Sunday. If you commuted to Waterloo it would be worth a little diversion a couple of times a week to buy food here, I thought.

I should look at the rest of the shop, the butcher told me, there was plenty more to see. He explained that there were 5 specialist counters bringing a full range of the best food available to one shop. And so I wandered on and found it a veritable warren of gorgeous foodstuffs; through doorways, down narrow stairs; so many levels and so many wonderful things to find.

Greensmiths calls itself ‘a local supermarket with the quality and service of an old-fashioned high street’. It reminded me a little of going shopping with my Gran when I was very little (she looked after me while my mum worked and I could have been only 3 or 4). Supermarkets, as in self-service shops, were new and there weren’t many around. I can clearly remember going into Sainsbury’s when you still had to go to different counters to buy different types of food: meat, cheese, general groceries. Nowadays, supermarkets have re-introduced specialist counters to give the impression of excellence and individual service, but when I was little that’s all there was. It was the real thing!

The bread that I’d seen through the door comes from The Old Post Office Bakery in Clapham, which has an excellent reputation. This artisan baker prides itself on having a strong sense of community and they are constantly experimenting with their range of breads, pastries and cakes.

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Following an arrow (you can see in the photo above) I went through a doorway into a cafe – Antica Coffee has its origins in Trieste, Italy. They blend their own range of delicious coffees. From the counter I could see a few steps leading up into a cafe where you could sit down. I wasn’t ready for another coffee but definitely want to go back to try it out some time.

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Meanwhile, I followed more steps down into a greengrocery area.

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There were some wonderful things here, all beautifully laid out so you could see exactly what was on offer and what you were buying. Solstice is based in the famous Covent Garden Market supplying and sourcing top quality fruit and vegetables. It’s run by a former top chef with a passion for seasonal goods.

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There were also some special things here: fantastic, dark heritage carrots; different kinds of beetroot – golden and candy; a jar of gorgeous-looking candied peel. There were bunches of fresh herbs, kept fresh in jars of water; all kinds of fruit and vegetables you could possibly want to buy and more you’d never thought of but would love! More stairs beckoned and I slowly descended further into the basement, passing a glass wall behind which chefs were busy at work creating dishes to sell and for the cafe.

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At the bottom it opened out into a grocery area with cereals, herbs, pasta, jars and bottles – any kind of grocery you might be looking for. Behind these shelves hid more, full with bottles of wine, intriguing beers and flavoured gins – sloe, raspberry and damson – from Waterloo Wine Co.

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I made my way upstairs again, promising myself another visit. I was only at the start of my day out, heading next to the National Portrait Gallery for the David Bailey retrospective; it wasn’t a good time to buy a load of groceries and wine! I had a nice chat with the guy at the coffee counter. Everyone was so friendly. What a great place to shop this must be and Greensmiths certainly have the best quality food you can buy. All the outlets, from Ginger Pig, the bakery, the greengrocers and everything else was excellent. And you can even have a coffee or snack while you’re there doing your shopping. This must definitely be worth a special visit for anyone who works nearby, uses Waterloo station or lives in the area. Or even Single Gourmet Travellers on a day trip from Twickenham!

For more information about Greensmiths visit their website: www.greensmithsfood.co.uk

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