Almost no one takes my word when I say the best food shopping in Europe can be found in the United Kingdom. You have to go to Britain and discover it for yourself. The British understand sustainable agriculture and organic food better than any other European people and better than Americans. I am amazed at the quality and variety of food to be found even in mainstream — albeit up-market — supermarkets like Waitrose. It’s only there that you’ll understand how well the British have mastered the mass production of tasty, healthy take-out food.
But shopping on a small scale remains the single most appealing aspect of food culture in London. Farmers’ markets in Marylebone and Church St. make me wonder why our farmers’ markets at home don’t offer a similar variety of fresh cheeses, pork, lamb, and vegetables. Borough Market, a huge open-air food hall open on Friday afternoons and all day Saturdays, located on the south bank between London Bridge and Southwark, fits anyone’s idea of a fantasy food market: acres of tables covered with oysters, breads, cheeses, vegetables, and prepared food with samples available everywhere. The mushroom stall alone makes the visit worthwhile. It’s a foodie’s Disneyland.
The neighborhood of Soho mixes old respected food shops like the Italian grocer, Lina Stores Ltd., with sex shops, cafés, and jazz clubs. When I accompany Ann here for veal-stuffed ravioli, polenta, cured meats, and parmesan, the Italian owners always bring an ameretto biscotto around to the front of the counter for one-year-old Ava. Lina’s is by no means the only Italian grocer in Soho, but Ann has to come to prefer it to the others.
You’ll find Lina & Co. on Brewer St. near Wardour St.