Capital is a miracle. It’s somewhere where – if only the means existed – you could leave for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never eat in the same place twice. It’s a city of seemingly endless styles and cuisines where inspiration seems to have landed and resided from almost everywhere.
It’s not just the restaurants either. In every street grocery stores and vendors sit next to each other with creaky shelves with specialties, curiosities and essentials. They promise new flavors, new methods, new secrets that can be passed on to curious friends. Others offer ease: they are friends with simple answers when the stress starts to build up.
Finding these places isn’t always difficult, but finding a favorite can be. It’s gotten tougher, sadly, since the pandemic shut down the few that just scratched past. Those who are still leaving still need support.
As part of Standard’s Shop London’s small business campaign, here’s a choice of seven places that offer far more than your normal supermarket.
Brindisa’s steamed squid tentacles
Offer:fifteen% Discount code: EVENING STANDARD15
The Brindisa shops – I usually go to Borough Market, but there is one in Balham – are the places to go in a hurry if you’ve forgotten that people are dropping by and don’t have time to prepare. Get a handful of cheeses, charcuterie, and an instant, top notch dinner that doesn’t require cooking. When I have a little more time, I grab a pack of their steamed squid tentacles; They’re good cold, but the sky is slowly warming up in their juice before falling into a pan so hot it smokes. They come out burnished and blackened and it reminds me of vacation. At the moment I don’t need anything anymore.
Kiss the Hippo Donna Mix
Offer: 20% Discount code: ES20
Kiss the hippopotamus
I found out about Kiss the Hippo in the same way that any self-respecting journalist finds out: a packet of the stuff appeared on my desk without being asked. I remember the name irritating me a little – it makes me moody – but the coffee itself is excellent. I get it ground for an espresso machine and Donna is my go-to. It’s one of those heavy, dark coffees that taste like chocolate nuts that will wake you up on those dreary, unforgiving mornings.
Offer: 10% Discount code: ESSHOPS
I might be alone with this, but ice cream always seems like an all-weather food to me. Sure, it cools you down when it’s hot and comforts you in any weather. And after hell this year, comfort is everything. Granted, it’s steep for ice cream, but gosh, the stuff is delicious and immensely cheering. I have a thing for pistacchio and lemon sorbet; do not judge.
The Italian plate festival
Offer: 10% Discount code: THEITALIANES21
No guess what this Marylebone lot is about. In normal times, I look at the wine – they have a pleasantly vague, not nonsensical way of categorizing bottles (“intense, typical”, “pleasant”, “classic”), which turns out to be surprisingly useful – but another thing What they’re good for are plates of sausage and cheese. This is a favorite that can be brought out for afternoon snacks and lasts well into the evening even as the wine slowly fades.
Offer: 10% Discount code: Shoplondon
Nailing cocktails isn’t that hard, but it takes a bit – sloshing a few ingredients into a mug and praying isn’t the way to go (trust me – I had the hangover to prove it). After gathering tips from some of London’s best bartenders over the past few years, I usually looked for the liquor at TT Liquor: they have some hard-to-find bottles at reasonable prices, especially when it comes to bourbon. However, during the pandemic, they ran virtual cocktail classes that are fun and very thorough: just the trick for anyone looking to seriously improve their home bar game. A life of better drinking awaits you.
Make Miso Hungry’s Gyōza Kit
Offer: fifteen% Discount code: ESSHOPS
Makes miso hungry
I love this kit because I like Japanese food, but given my commercial cooking trick of drowning everything in butter, I rarely try to cook it home. With this kit you can have a simple afternoon. Getting every little package right takes time and requires just enough attention to make it feel surprisingly worthwhile. There are two to choose from – either mushrooms with yuzu ponzu and black truffle shavings or one with a rich pork filling – both delicious, and the kits make 24 that can later be frozen for simple dinners.