Eat 17… is it a foodie boy band? No, something even more rare: a gourmet Spar.
Best New Food Shops: Eat 17
The award-winning, seven-year old Eat 17 Walthamstow is perhaps most famous for its bacon jam. This is a cult onion-based bacon relish, created a couple of years ago as a burger accompaniment, that has since been seen everywhere from Selfridges to the Jonathan Ross Show. Brothers Chris and Daniel O’Connor, Chris’ partner Siobhan O’Donnell and step-brother James Brundle “partnered up with Spar” — the international chain of budget supermarkets — and transformed a run-down off-licence into a food emporium. Now they’ve done it again. Eat 17 Hackney, another Spar franchise, opened in Lower Clapton around six months ago.
The Hackney branch is on the former site of the independent art deco cinema The Castle (1913-1958) and, more recently, a tatty snooker hall and nightclub. It’s a bright, airy, modern space with a plate glass frontage, and Broadway Market’s Rebel Rebel florist prettifying the entrance. A ramp — a nice touch as it makes the ground floor accessible to wheelchairs — leads you into the handsome-looking store with polished, mosaic-studded concrete floors and plenty of space between neatly stacked aisles. There’s a burger bar to the left; and upstairs, a beautiful restaurant with a 1920s New York vibe where Chris heads up the kitchen. Next to it is a large room with original features such as decorative cornicing and ceiling fans, where plans are afoot to open a boutique cinema in around a year’s time. “Will it show food-themed movies?” we ask hopefully – but it’s too early to say, and they haven’t made any decisions yet.
The ground floor shop itself is difficult to categorise: it’s a convenience store selling everyday items supplied by Spar like milk and frozen food, and a deli that stocks hard-to-find products from 150 small producers (many of them local) all rolled into one. (It’s possible to buy Spar franchises and do them up according to the owners’ whim: we know of one in north London devoted almost entirely to Sri Lankan foods.) The bacon jam here takes pride of place on its own separate rack, alongside its newer offshoots ‘bacon jammier’, bacon and chilli jam, chorizo jam, and onion jam (£2.79-£2.99). Most of these have been given one or two stars by the Great Taste Awards, Brundle proudly tells us (in an authentic E17 accent). Although the bacon jam production has now been outsourced to a small company owing to its popularity, it’s still made in small batches in the UK – something that’s important to Brundle.
Additionally, he points out that all the meat is sourced from Walthamstow, the local farmer’s market, or Download Farm; and fresh fish is bought from Billingsgate Market every morning, with a shelf life of two days maximum. The cheeses are supplied by Haringey-based Wildes Cheese among others; and fresh pastas by west London’s Fresh Pasta Company. There’s a tempting display of Stoke Newington’s Spence Bakery breads at the entrance, such as large rectangles of focaccia (£2) and multiseed loaves (£2.99); and cupcakes, muffins and other baked goods are from Kooky Bakes. A vibrant selection of fruit and veg, much of it from a company based in Spitalfields, includes red kale (£1.79), large stalks of brussels sprouts (£1.79), smoked garlic (£1.69) and ‘Hackney salad grown by the Growing Communities in Hackney’. There are organic suppliers too, who provide the likes of rajka apples (£3.29/kg) and the fabulously quirky and colourful turk’s turban squash (£2.29/kg).
Hearty snacks include Treflach Farm pies (£2.09-£2.59), Pieminster pies (£3.59), vegetarian sausages from Secret Sausages (£3.89), and Soupologie vegan soups in interesting flavours such as beetroot and pomegranate, and ‘ancient grains amaranth, flaxseed and millet’. If you’re looking for something lighter, there’s an interesting range of Cradoc’s vegetable crackers (£3.59); vegetarian and vegan Laura’s Idea salads, pancakes and tortillas (£2.69); and a selection of Goodness health food range, including lexia raisins, chia seeds, maca powder and goji berries.
Among the condiments, there are Love Pickle pickles, The Artisan Kitchen jams and marmalades, fresh pestos and dips from Purely, Havanna dulce de leche (£4.59), assorted Keen nut butters (all £3.50), and a product that’s not to be missed: Jersey black butter (£4.39). A unique speciality of Jersey, this Normandy-style preserve is delicious for breakfast with toast or freshly baked bread, and is not easily available in London. It’s made by cooking down cider with apples, spices and liquorice for several hours. There are rituals and traditions attached to making it, and you can find out more from their own or Slow Food’s websites.
Furthermore, there are refilling stations for first-press extra virgin olive oil from Crete (bottle and refill: £7.50; refill only £4.95 per 500 ml); and wines from Borough Wines (£2.50 for empty bottles, and refills £5.50/bottle). Brundle is particularly proud of the locally brewed beers, such as Jack of Clubs, a ‘ruby red ale’ from Wild Card Brewery in Walthamstow, and a selection from Hackney’s Five Points Brewing Company. A small table of speciality products for Christmas is prominently displayed at the front, including gift packs of Pink’s smoked tomato pesto and green and red chilli jellies (£12.59); Loam cucumber pickle (£3.50) made right here in Clapton; Scarlett & Mustard pumpkin seed oil (£7.99), Mamma’s Greek olive oil (£5/ £10 bottles), Via Emilia mini panettone (£4.99) and little bags of Barrett’s Ridge beer bread mix.
Prices are reasonable; and the shop has the feel of being very much a part of the local community — indeed, it’s wonderful to see a business that supports so many small, local producers. Lower Clapton has an increasingly lively culinary scene – including a street food market, a Sunday farmer’s market and the London Borough of Jam, which we told you about earlier this year – and Eat 17 already seems completely at home. Eventually, over many years, this mini-chain may expand around east London; at the moment though, says Brundle, they’re just focusing on fine-tuning the details here.
Eat 17 is at 64-66 Brooksby’s Walk, Homerton E9 6DA. Tel: 020 8521 5279. Photos provided by Eat 17.
Previously in this series
Last Updated 17 November 2014