Some of you know that I live in Islington, near Angel. There are many reasons I love my ‘hood, but with the opening of the new Waitrose at Angel station last Thursday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain why Angel is a dream for grocery shopping.
I mean, Waitrose is nice to have (though what’s up with the congested cash register situation and the closing at 9 pm?), but it’s far from the only game in town around these parts. For example, we already have a trusty M&S and an enormous Sainsbury’s bookending the Waitrose. Then there are two Tescos (one at Islington Green, and the other at Highbury & Islington station), a Budgens and a Sainsbury Local in the “middle” bit of Upper Street, and that’s just the big-chain supermarkets.
For 10kg bags of jasmine, basmati or sushi rice, as well as rice sticks, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and other Asian pantry basics, there’s the small, tidy and unfailingly-friendly Thai-An just behind the Sainsbury’s.
I get my ripe-and-ready-to-eat avocados, enormous bags of nuts, and cheap, huge bunches of herbs at the Chapel Market (which looks seedy and lowbrow at the Liverpool Road end, but gets more interesting, food-wise, the further back you go).
The otherwise charmless N1 Centre hosts outdoor French and Italian food markets every other weekend, which can be handy if you’re craving a crepe or cannoli, though of course the goods there are no match for the fresh pastas and classic Italian biscuits at Monte’s Italian Deli off Upper Street on Canonbury Road.
Jon and I happily queue up on Saturdays at the Steve Hatt Fishmonger, where the prices are high, but the quality is unbelievable. I’ve even thought about learning to be a sushi chef so I can really appreciate the beautiful freshness of their inventory. As the weather gets warmer, we can’t think of anything more mouthwatering than throwing a few of Steve Hatt’s king prawns on the grill.
For super-high-quality butters, eggs, well-chosen charcuterie, cheeses and olive oil you can buy in bulk (just bring your own container), we hop over to the Barnsbury Grocer on Liverpool Road.
And last but not least, Jon and I live for the Islington Farmer’s Market. While nothing will ever replace the variety, color and excitement of Borough Market, Jon and I are always pleased by what we find at our local market on Sundays behind Islington Town Hall. We always hit the goat cheese guy (the garlicky one is the best, imho) and the Perry Court Farm guys all the way in the back (they’re generally the cheapest of the bunch). We pick up our eggs from the meat guys across the way from the egg-specialist lady (bc the meat guys sell their eggs for only £1.50 per half-dozen and the egg lady charges £2 . . . we seem to be the only ones who’ve noticed?), and we love the buffalo-milk cheese guy who sets up near Kingcup Farms. When we’re feeling really flush, we buy fruit from the ubiquitous Chegworth Valley people and pork goodies from Downland Produce peeps.
So, Waitrose, welcome to the neighborhood. But you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Now, here’s the gauntlet throwdown: if you think your nabe can compete with Angel Islington for food-shopping greatness, drop a comment below explaining why.