Best New Food Shops: Abasto

By Sejal Sukhadwala Last edited 114 months ago
Best New Food Shops: Abasto

Part of the Malevo Group which also owns acclaimed Argentinian restaurants Casa Malevo — located just down the road, and Zoilo in Marylebone — this Argentinian butcher, grocer and wine merchant opened in early summer. It’s somewhat incongruously located in Connaught Village off Edgware Road, surrounded by Middle Eastern restaurants, several olive trees and a private garden “accessible only to key holders.” Owner Diego Jacquet, the chef-patron of the two restaurants, started importing beef from Argentina a few years ago as he couldn’t find the same quality elsewhere – and Abasto is one of the very few places in London to sell Argentine beef. The shop is named after Buenos Aires’ famous fruit and veg market, close to where Jacquet was born.

The spacious, minimally decorated store has a café at the back to one side; and to the other, an open staff office that can be hired as events space for private functions. Over to the right, there’s a chiller filled with top-quality, ready-packed Argentinian meats, including beef tenderloin, rib eye, sirloin, flank steak and heart of rump. There are burgers, chorizo and own-made sausages, too; and lamb chops and chicken are supplied by the revered O’Shea’s butcher. By the entrance, near plate glass windows overlooking the street, you’ll find large bags of barbecue charcoal.

Nearby is another fridge filled with various sized packets of charcuterie — much of it from Brindisa — including lomo (£1.50), longaniza (£1.80), serrano (£5.25), salchichón with peppercorns (£9.95), salchichón de vic (£2.30), morcilla with onions (£9.95) and jamon iberico de bellota (£20.95). Cheeses from around Europe, especially Spain and Italy, also take pride of place next to the meats; and the selection includes picos blue (£2.34/100g), rosemary villarejo (£3.45/100g) and the renowned monte enebro (£3.72/100g). To eat with the cheeses, there’s quince paste as well as lesser-known Argentinian sweet potato paste (£5.95).

Abasto's plain cream walls are lined with shelves laden with organic handmade jams, including attractive jars of Chiaverini & Co confettura; plus good quality everyday groceries like honeys, ketchup, mayo, pickles and mustard. A basket of pumpkins from Natoora sits invitingly on one of the many attractive wooden sideboards; while others display jars of piquillo peppers, Abasto’s own-made granola (£3.50) and olive oil biscuits (£3.25). Perhaps most surprising in this decadent environment is a small health food range at the back, encompassing gluten-free crackers, biscuits, pasta, organic ‘superfood chocolate’, and almond milk.

A towering display in the centre of the shop shows off large jars of dulce de leche, retro-design tins of Ortiz tuna (£3.55), and olive oils by Nunez de Prado and Aubocassa. There are also little packs of sun-dried tomatoes and dried porcini mushrooms, tins of datterini tomatoes and Cornish sea salt. A small selection of herbs and spices include chic rectangular tins of La Chinata pimento picante and dulce (both £2.45) and Brindisa saffron; plus there are prettily packaged bags of bomba, carnaroli, arborio and calasparra rice for making paella and risotto. Dried beans like cannellini and borlotti sit alongside jars of classic El Navarrico garbanzos and alubia blancas (£3.75). The selection of wine vinegars, ranging from white balsamic, to pedro jimenez sherry vinegar (£13.95), is particularly strong.

By the payment counter at the back are yerba mate, a green herbal tea “drunk according to a specific social ritual”, says the manager Leonardo Tognetti; plus Ice Cream Union ice creams and bright yellow boxes of Havanna alfajores (£11.95), considered to be the best in Argentina. Fresh versions of these round cookies with assorted sweet fillings in the centre (£1.95 each) are also found to the left of the shop, alongside other baked goods and fresh foods from the kitchen of Casa Malevo. The range includes breakfast pastries, brownies, assorted empanadas, salads, sandwiches, soup of the week, tart of the week, and breads such as pain de mie (£1.70) and Herefordshire sourdough (£4.25).

There’s an excellent selection of wines priced £8 - £70, mostly from Argentina, but also from from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. The large variety of Malbecs from different parts of Argentina is particularly noteworthy; and Tognetti explains how the altitude, climate, region and so on affect the taste of each. He produces a magnum bottle of Luigi Bosca Gala 1 (£39.95), a Malbec blend whose novelty size makes it ideal for a gift.

In a fridge at the back, there are soft drinks, too: fresh juices, own-label cedron (a variety of lemon verbena indigenous to Argentina) and peppermint iced teas. Abasto also sells its own stout, red and blonde ales, produced in collaboration with the Argentinian-owned Moncada microbrewery in Notting Hill. These sit alongside nibbles such as anchovy-stuffed manzanilla olives, marinated sweet peppers and pepinillos (pickled gherkins). In front of the drinks section is a small range of fresh fruit and veg from Natoora.

Many of these products are used in the Malevo Group’s own restaurant kitchens; and leftover food is donated to West London Day Centre, a local charity that works with the homeless. The shop hosts two tastings a month, one related to wine and the other to food. Coming up next are charcuterie tasting (18 October, 5-7pm, free), and Argentinian wine tasting (20 October, 7-8.30pm, £10 redeemable against purchase).

Abasto, 55-57 Connaught Street, W2 2BB. Tel: 020 7262 5267. Photos were kindly supplied by Abasto.

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Note: businesses featured in this series are chosen editorially, and not as part of a promotion.

Last Updated 16 October 2014