London's Best Unsung Food Shops

Helen Graves
By Helen Graves Last edited 18 months ago
London's Best Unsung Food Shops

We're so lucky to be able to explore the cuisines of the world, all in one city. This list reflects that.

The African shops on Rye Lane sell many cheap and interesting vegetables.

Kalinka, Queensway

It's fair to say that London isn't overflowing with Russian delis. Interestingly, most people we mention Kalinka to haven't heard of it before, which is a shame, because it's stocked with many treats from Russia, of course, but also Eastern Europe. We once managed to track down a Georgian cheese here we couldn't locate anywhere else in London. And there's a wide selection of imported cheeses, other dairy products like kefir (fermented milk) and cured meats. There's lots of dried and tinned fish, plus of course, a range of caviar. One of the notable features of this shop, however is the vodka selection; we were once offered the chance to purchase a bottle in the shape of a Kalashnikov, so we did. Grenades are also available.

Kalinka, 35 Queensway, W2 4QJ  

A selection of products at Kalinka.

Your local Turkish shop

Many corners of London are home to the wonder that is the local Turkish food shop. Yes, chains like Turkish Food Centre do a great job, but it's often the little independent places that are the real gems. We love how these places often do the full spectrum of Turkish groceries but then have a cheeky little sideline, such as Korkmaz Food Centre on Holloway Road — a classic Turkish supermarket with lots of pickles, 10kg bags of bulgur wheat, 20 different types of halloumi, etc., but also a neat sideline in health foods like almond butter and milk substitutes. Another favourite is Turkish Food Express in Catford; open 24 hours it has one of the most brilliant/weird booze selections in south London including Buddha shaped bottles of Lucky beer, Amazon Beer from brazil, Point brewery's pale ale, Cooper's Ale from Australia and beer from Japan's Nest brewery.

Many Turkish ingredients are for sale in London's food shops.

La Chatica, Elephant

Actually, this whole little strip of shops and cafés is well worth a look if you're in the area which is home to a South American community. Stride past the café section at La Chatica and you will find guava paste, dulce de leche, enriched dough breads and a whole lotta things made from corn. We can't say we rate the café much, but the point about this area is that it's worth exploring: underneath each little archway is another shop or café to poke about in — there's a butcher with a South American focus and a place that serves ice cream sundaes with grated cheese in the bottom. Go forth and discover.

La Chatica, 2 Elephant Road, SE17 1LB

The shop at La Chatica

Diwan Damas Deli, Edgware Road

This Syrian deli is, apparently, very authentic, with a loyal customer base who go there for a taste of home. Although very popular with locals, it seems that many people in the wider London area don't know it exists. Huge trays of sweets dominate, with the smell of syrup, butter, orange blossom hanging heavy in the air. Puddings are made with syrup-soaked noodles and set milk, flecked green with pistachios. In fact, nuts are sprinkled everywhere you look. Although this is a temple to Syrian sweets, make sure to try one of their savoury cheese and filo pies — they're addictive.

Diwan Damas Deli, 121 Edgware Road, W2 2HX

Ice cream at Diwan Damas.

African food shops, Rye Lane

There's been lots of redevelopment in Peckham with many new shops and restaurants opening up in the past few years, so it's good to see the African food shops on Rye Lane still trading. They're all the same, essentially, but if you're unfamiliar with African ingredients then a walk among them will fascinate you — from yams and sugarcane to the packets of spice mix for making suya or melon seed soup. There are many bargains to be had here. We once bought 12 red peppers for £1.

We'd also like to give a shout out to the Vietnamese/South East Asian shop at the top of Rye Lane, purely for the fact that they play banging techno at 9am.

Gennaro Delicatessen in Lewisham.

Gennaro Delicatessen, Lewisham

Italian delis are all over London but this one in Lewisham has a loyal customer base. Owner Antonio Nigro has created a tiny part of Italy in an unlikely area, filled with swinging panettone, rows of biscuits and preserves, wine, tinned tomatoes, cheeses, cured meats, everything you'd expect from the best Italian deli. One of the best things about Gennaro's, however, is the spirit of the experience; you feel a real part of the community shopping here, and we think their success is due in large part to their warmth and friendliness. Finally, don't miss the panino with mortadella and provolone.

Gennaro Delicatessen, 23 Lewis Grove, SE13 6BG

Your local Polish shop

The local Polish food shop holds many treasures, such as dumplings (pierogi), great selections of preserves and of course, many different vodkas. A great example is Delight, a Polski sklep near Tooting overground, which came recommended to us on the back of its brilliant range of vodka and dumplings, "I’ve never seen so many pierogi" said one reader. "The selection of cured meats is incredible!" said another. Never be afraid to try something new.

Last Updated 01 March 2017