It’s all about the provenance: the sign of a truly upmarket neighbourhood in London is a farm shop, writes Lucy Thackray
Is there anything more decadent than an hour or two spent browsing a luxury food hall? Well, yes: something altogether earthier and greener, or so say the creators of Farm Shop, which has just opened on the corner of South Audley Street.
Less a classic grocers, more a gourmet concept store, the two-storey, 400-square-foot space is the second UK farm shop from ARTFARM, the independent hospitality group behind delights from food-driven Scottish hideaway The Fife Arms to Mayfair’s own Audley Public House and Mount Street Restaurant.
Inside its cream corner-shop facade are a raft of treats from ARTFARM’s 1,000-acre Durslade Farm estate in Somerset (home to the original Farm Shop): honey made in its hives, wine from its vines and cider from its apples. There’s a “wild food” range created by the company’s resident forager, Kenny Jelfs (how do we sign up for that job?), encompassing wild horseradish chow chow and greengage and meadowsweet jam. Bottled spirits make use of discarded botanicals from other foodie ventures, while the highest-quality West Country cheeses, charcuterie and condiments fill tightly curated shelves. It’s a piece of London deeply rooted in the food and art enclave of Bruton, Somerset – the country base of ARTFARM founders Iwan and Manuela Wirth.
Welcoming the new
While Mayfair has had a long history of notable food and drink shops, it has largely struggled to hang on to them. The venerable butcher Allens of Mayfair, for example, closed its doors on Mount Street in 2015 after nearly 200 years of service. “People said, ‘Oh that’s a shame, that shows the way Mayfair is going’,” says Peter Wetherell, aka ‘The Mayfair Guru’ of Wetherell estate agency. “Which of course prompted the question: when did you last buy a steak there?” Like Allens, which offered masterclasses, Farm Shop’s butchery arm has an interactive feel – staff break down whole carcasses of high-welfare meat and make fresh sausages onsite.
Still, the new opening will need an injection of energy and customer loyalty from the neighbourhood’s locals, says Wetherell. “Less of what I call ‘lone wolf’ shoppers – someone dashing into a convenience store for one item – and more bee-like pollinators, going up and down our streets regularly.”
Embracing the good life
Other notable Mayfair purveyors of food and drink over the years included Hannells of Mayfair, a delicatessen on Davies Street which hung on for decades (replaced now by Hedonism Wines), and William Curley Patissier Chocolatier, which had a brief home in Shepherd’s Market. “The late Albert Roux always said the best place for food was Selfridges Foodhall, from where he had his food delivered,” says Wetherell. Even Farm Shop’s present building has a history of garden-fresh produce: it once contained a flower shop owned by Constance Spry, florist to the late Queen and founder of the relaunched Cordon Bleu cookery school.
Now, amid a dining boom in Mayfair, hungry locals flock to Mercato, the smart indoor food hall and bar that rejuvenated the grade I-listed St Mark’s Church. Farm Shop has added more seats with a 40-cover dining space downstairs from the shop, serving the house charcuterie and 150 wines around a stone table, brought in from Durslade Farm.
With these rural touches, Mayfair moves a little closer to its village roots, the days when there was a milking parlour on Farm Street. The opening joins a pack of provenance-led food stores in west London, such as Chelsea General Store and London Cheesemongers on Pavilion Road, and The Fat Badger in Richmond. Provenance and welfare are top of mind, and shoppers don’t mind paying a little extra in exchange for an elegant British selection. It’s a taste of the good life in the city; where neighbours sell freshly-laid eggs from their doorstep and foraged wild garlic adorns the Sunday roast.
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