As an internationally renowned American health and sustainability brand, Whole Foods Market needs no introduction. The first UK store opened in London seven years ago amid much fanfare. Then, after a few quiet years, the chain started expanding rapidly in 2011. This newest branch opened in Fulham last month. It’s located where the long-established Blue Elephant Thai restaurant – which has now moved to Imperial Wharf – used to be.
Like the other branches, this large, two-floor mini-supermarket (with a prep kitchen and storage area in the basement) sells hundreds of products. You’ll find snacks, condiments, pastas and pasta sauces, soft drinks, oils and vinegars, baby food, pet food, spices, biscuits and crackers, flour, baking ingredients, teas, coffees, confectionery and cereals.
Running along an entire wall are freezers containing ice creams, frozen yoghurts, pizzas and ready meals; and several chiller cabinets filled with juices, fresh pastas and dips. There are rice, grains and nuts sold by the weight. Similarly, a large freezer sells unpackaged frozen fruit and veg by the weight – a novel idea that’s already proved to be a hit with customers. Eggs can be bought singly or in bulk, and different varieties can be mixed and matched.
There are other features here that are unique to this branch. At the entrance on the right is a small all-organic coffee bar, where they use only organic coffee, tea and milk. On the counter sits a slick blue chrome coffee machine named Sophia “because it’s a classy Italian bird”. Yes, really. The ‘brew of the week’ on our visit was café la duena, with balanced sweet and chocolatey flavours, made by female farmers in Mexico and Peru.
‘Sophia’ makes ‘pour over coffee’ – a Japanese technique that was once commonplace in the 1960s, and has more recently been popularised by the Monmouth Coffee House. It gives a cleaner taste profile than the more common French press method that’s said to give an oily taste. The process involves measuring the coffee precisely, boiling the water at an exact temperature under the boiling point, brewing for a specific length of time, and pouring from a goose-neck coffee pot to release the gases in the form of bubbles. Who knew that visiting a health food shop could equip you with such geeky knowledge of international coffee brewing techniques?
And with your breakfast coffee, why not try a pastry from Balthazar bakery, attractively displayed in the windows? The store also has its own on-site bakery, so there are dozens of varieties of breads fresh from the oven, such as ‘sprouted synergy’ made from sprouted grain flour (£3), Toscano (£2), an Italian loaf with low-salt content, and cranberry and pecan sourdough (£4).
Like the other branches, there’s an impressive ‘green wet wall’ of fresh fruit and veg, grown as far as possible in the UK. We spotted some lesser-known vegetables like purple kohlrabi, puntarelle, tomatillos and black radish. There’s a greater selection of tropical fruit at this branch, such as dragon fruit and grenadilla. Newly introduced here is Whole Trade pineapple – the first fruit to benefit from the store’s mix of Whole Planet (Whole Foods Market’s own charitable foundation) and Fair Trade policies. For every purchase, the company makes a contribution directly to workers at the farm, who can fund community enhancement projects.
Tucked away at the back is an independently audited butcher that sells UK-sourced meat that meets stringent animal welfare standards. There are barbecue pork ribs, baby back spare ribs, and own-made sausages (£8.99-£9.99 per kg) in varieties like mild veal, spicy harissa lamb and garlic and herb turkey. Meat is freshly minced in-store, for instance chimichurri beef bavette (sale price of £9.99 per kg on our visit).
The seafood counter next to it sells sustainable, wild and responsibly farmed, MSC-certified fish. This includes teriyaki tuna steak (£3.09 per 100g), sweet jerk scallops (£4.09 per 100g), salmon and dill burgers (£3.99 each), and Maine jumbo cooked lobsters (£19.99 each). You can choose different spices, glazes, rubs and butters to be added to your selection.
Nearby is a pizza counter with theatrically made ‘hand-tossed pizzas’, some of which are topped with chilli-spiked ‘pink vodka sauce’. Both the pizza and the sauce have been newly introduced by their chef Todd Schiller. Freshly made calzone, focaccia and tartines are also sold at this counter. Next to it is a ‘pie bar’ selling sweet and savoury pies and tarts from Balthazar, Riverside and other bakeries.
Other features include: a small section of ‘free from’ gluten-free baked goods and snacks; a juice and smoothie bar; wine and beer sections with bottle refill service; a cheese, charcuterie and deli counter selling mostly British cheeses; a large olive bar; a tiny fridge selling matcha tea in cartons, and a ‘grind your own nut butter’ machine. There’s also a pasta bar that’s unique to this branch; plus several counters selling roasts, foot-long hot dogs and chef-prepared ingredients, Mexican dishes, sushi, organic rotisserie chicken, a variety of hot food and freshly made salads.
Notable in a ‘grab and go’ food section are new No Gii brand gluten-free products, raw desserts, and high-quality vegan cakes and puddings (£4) from a new Spanish brand, Lujuria Vegana. There are also takeaway salads, sandwiches, breakfast yoghurt pots and dips prepared in-house. And if all this becomes too much, you can chill out in the café on the top floor. Also located on this floor are a health and beauty section, and a community room with free wi-fi that can be hired for meetings and events. Who said wholesome eating and eco-friendly lifestyle were dull?
Whole Foods Market Fulham, 2-6 Fulham Broadway, London SW6 1AA. Tel: 020 7386 4350
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Note: businesses featured in this series are chosen editorially, and not as part of a promotion.