We love a visit to the ‘Big Shop’. But sometimes, it just isn’t the one. The big queues, the harsh lights, the abandoned box of Mini Milks trying their hardest to get comfortable on top of a multipack of spaghetti hoops. It can all be a bit much. That’s why we like to have some alternative options. Either as respite, or because we’re looking for a particular ingredient, or both. These speciality supermarkets are for both of those things. From super-stocked aisles of Bangladeshi spices, to freezer cabinets full of dumplings on dumplings, this list has got you covered.
Tian Tian Aldgate
The East Asian supermarket’s newest branch in Aldgate is big, shiny, and absolutely stacked. There are baked goods from Golden Gate in Chinatown, a seemingly never-ending row of freezers with dumplings, mochi, beef slices, and more. Down one end there’s a sake bar and down the other fridge full of pandan cake. It’s impossible to leave here empty-handed.
Carmel is situated pretty much opposite Grodzinskis, the kosher bakery in Stamford Hill. Carmel is a kosher supermarket that has everything you’d expect (or need) from a big shop, including home-baked cookies and other treats.
Thai Smile Supermarket
This Hammersmith supermarket is extremely well-stocked with a range of Thai and other East Asian products. There are, of course, curry pastes, tom yum bases, and an enormous selection of rices - from Thai broken rice to sushi. There are homemade bits too, like chive pancakes, locally made kimchi pots in the fridges, and desserts like flower pot coconut jelly.
The little Japanese supermarket off of the Finchley Road is a local’s favourite. As well as frozen and pantry goods, there’s a truly irresistible grab-and-go selection that ranges from homemade karaage to okonomiyaki skewers. There’s onigiri, sashimi, and nigiri, as well donburi bowls topped with eel and all sorts.
R Garcia & Sons
R. Garcia has been selling high-quality sardines and jamón on Portobello Road for over 50 years now. The Spanish supermarket and deli has an enormous range of pantry items and fresh goods, with its deli counter - filled with slices of manchego sitting in oily tubs, and enormous hunks of ham waiting to be carved - being particularly irresistible.
Bims African Food Store
A mainstay of Rye Lane, Bims has been shipped and sold a massive selection of African groceries in Peckham for decades. The selection of fresh vegetables is vast, from okra, to fufu, to uziza leaves. There’s plenty of dried goods too, like peanut paste and suya seasonings, as well as a range of Nigerian homeware products.
A frontrunner for the yet-to-be-established Best Cornershop In London awards, Italo is a little deli on Bonnington Square. In recent years it’s become known for its excellent kitchen, making stellar sandwiches, weekend lunch and dinners, and hosting an array of pop-ups. But it’s also, still, an excellent little shop. There’s a range of high quality, ‘artisanal’, store cupboard stuff, as well cheese, meats, and breads.
Vietnam Mini Market
Out of Mare Street’s mini-parade of Vietnamese shops, it’s the smallest that’s the most reliable. Its freezer selection may not be as large as its neighbours but nor are its prices. There’s a fine selection of noodles, sauces, fresh items - like tofu and morning glory - as well as your usual dumplings and the like.
TFC Palmers Green
There are a few Turkish Food Centres spread across north, south, and east London - check their website for branches to see where your closest one is - and all of them have a reliably good selection of fresh produce, meat, and home baked goods. You can also get freshly made, pre-prepared lahmacuns, trays of baklava, and tonnes more.
Panzer’s has been in St. John’s Wood since 1956. Opened by two refugees from Austria and Czechoslovakia (Mr. Panzer and Mr. Vogl respectively) it quickly became a favourite for Jewish deli goods and, since then, has established itself as a legendary delicatessen. The smoked salmon is essential (the only question is whether you go dry or oily), as are the bagels, but there’s also an excellent sushi counter these days (from Sushi Atelier), and all the other groceries you could need.
With locations in Angel, Soho, Charing Cross and Camden, this Korean supermarket mini-chain is a must if you live around north west London. Their frozen dumplings are a go-to, but don’t limit yourself to that. There’s a tonne of kimchi, fresh imported varieties of cabbage and mushroom, and a never-not-tempting hot cabinet of steamed buns and other snacks. Oh, and BTS merch of course.
Green Valley is a Lebanese food hall (with branches in Kensington and Marble Arch) that’s been around since the mid-80s. We’ve heard it’s scientifically impossible to enter here without leaving with a skip’s worth of freshly made tabbouleh, hummus, and makdous (aubergine) pickle. Ready-to-stuff-in-your-mouth stuff aside, there’s also a brilliant selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, dates, and racks on racks of Lebanese herbs and spices.
There are Brazilian centres in Hackney and Stamford Hill as well as Stockwell. All have a butcher’s counter with picanha steaks, and skinny beef and pork sausages mixed with chilli and other bits. They’re really good. You can get plenty of cupboard stuff too - beans, rice, and whatnot - and there’s a good selection of Brazilian biscuits that we tend to find hard to resist.
Sunland Caribbean Foods
This wholesalers specialise in produce grown in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. They have an excellent range of fresh fruit and veg, like ripe plantain and yam, and cupboard supplies, like pineapple cake, or tinned ackee. You can also buy or build your own box of fresh and pantry supplies.
Order via app
Part supermarket and part sushi bar, anyone who lives in the vicinity of an Atari-Ya is a very happy person. There are locations in Finchley, Golders Green, Swiss Cottage, Kingston, as well West Acton, and they stock a great choice of Japanese dried goods, seasoning and sauces. That’s not the main reason you want to come though. That would be for the fishmongers. Red prawns, fatty tuna, and scallops are all on offer, as well as other high quality fish.
The Persian deli-cum-restaurant in Peckham is a local favourite. It’s excellent for pantry supplies, like tinned sabzi and kashk-e-bademjun, as well as sweet bits like baklava or Persian candy floss.
Great Bakery & Deli
On one side of the Farringdon Road is the Great Greek Grill House - an excellent spot for a KO souvlaki lunch - and on the other side is their sibling deli and bakery. You’ll find freshly made dolmades, spanakopita, bougatsa, kataefa, and more. There’s also a tonne of dried goods straight from Greece, though you can’t order everything online.
One of London’s best known Southeast Asian supermarkets, Longdan is in Shoreditch, Hoxton, Camden, Leyton, Elephant & Castle, and Kingston. You might walk into Longdan with one thing on your shopping list, but there’s no way you’ll be walking out with less than two shopping bag’s worth of puff tofu, frozen prawns, Thai curry paste, Korean dumplings, and whatever else catches your eye. There’s a huge selection of fresh, frozen, and cupboard stuff. Don’t forget to pick up some pandan cake as well.
Something of an IYKYK spot, Giacobazzi’s has been serving up handmade pasta, caponata, cold cuts, pesto, and other Italian good stuff to Hampstead residents since the early 90s. You’re unlikely to be disappointed with anything you get here, and you’ll more than likely walk out with a smile (and possibly a bottle of something as well).
In ordinary times one of ‘our happy places’, The Japan Centre is still very much open for ordering online. Stock up on soba, udon, yakisoba, and ramen noodles. Or start making your own katsu curries at home (it’s very, very easy) with a little help from Golden Curry cubes. Or, alternatively, buy your body weight in Black Thunder chocolate bars. Possibly (or actually, probably) the best chocolate bar in the world.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Phoenicia Mediterranean Food Hall
There are few places in London with a more appealing looking spread than Phoenicia in Kentish Town. It claims to have the largest selection of Mediterranean groceries in London and, to be honest, we don’t doubt them. There’s a bazaar-type feel about the place that we love. Buckets of olives, spices, and pastries line enormous tables, and their deli counter, with a mountain of houmous, is impossible to resist.
Taj Stores, or The Taj as locals fondly call it, has been on Brick Lane since the 1980s. First and foremost it’s a Bangladeshi supermarket, with an excellent selection of spices and produce. But as it’s grown bigger so has its selection of produce, which now spans the entire world and makes it one of the best neighbourhood supermarkets around.
Maja Polish Deli Shop
The Polish mini-chain has a handful of locations dotted around the UK, including a few in west London, and one in Wood Green. Smoked hams, sausages, and tubs of sauerkraut is just a drop in the (Baltic) sea of what’s on offer here, with products from all of Central and Eastern Europe. The deli counter is particularly stocked and excellent if you’re looking to load up on potato salad and other bits for lunch.
If you haven’t had smoked cod’s roe out of a squeezy tube, then you haven’t spent enough time in Scandinavia or the Scandinavian Kitchen, for that matter. The café and deli in Fitzrovia has got cured fish galore, alongside a lovely selection of rye breads and pickles - which, combined, happen to be one of our favourite lunches.