Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The M&S test

If spending money locally is a virtue, then yesterday I was good.

The total amount I spent in Brockley shops was £21.64, split between three different food shops.

Yesterday evening I set Brockley’s shops the ‘M&S Test’, a crucial method to extricate well-off people’s money. I’ll explain what I mean.

There is an M&S store at London Bridge station, which sells tired commuters packaged evening meals. Either they are completely packaged, with one range of these labelled ‘gastropub’, or they are key meat cuts so that you need only add vegetables, which either the customer has at home or can buy at M&S.

For this form of convenience – the convenience of eating quickly, well and not getting a takeaway – M&S is able to charge high prices. Good cuts of meat or quality fish can easily cost more than £5, and I spent £7 on a pair of individual meat pies the other week.

This may sound expensive, but the total cost of that meal was substantially less than if I had ordered out for a take-away, or gone out for a meal.

But back to the test, of finding a premium, easy-to-cook meal locally, plus good-quality alcohol, without reverting to a supermarket or a take-away.

The alcohol part was easy. I got off the train at Crofton Park and went to Mr Lawrence's (review to follow) and bought a selection of real ales (the wine selection is even better, but again I was on a beer mission). Without wishing to pre-empt the review, if local shops are to be supported, then shops like Mr Lawrence's are the type that we should go to – quality products, good service and competitive prices.

Because it was late (7pm) I had more doubts about the food part but tried out Dandelion Blue. It worked out, and I bought some nice cheese, pasta and some sauce. M&S test passed. But only just, with some worries beforehand that the meal I was to cook would end up being newsagent cheese and that meal-equivalent stuff out of a tin.

This is one problem with local shops – unless you know them, and know their stock, then they can seem very off-putting. When I was in Dandelion Blue someone came up to the door, looking rather frightened, clearly not knowing if he should come in. Eventually he did come in, and ended up buying some ice cream.

But I recognised that man's doubt - I am yet to go into Dandelion Blue's near competitor Degustation for lack of knowing why I would want to go there. That said, I am an active local now, so must pluck up the courage.


Bea said...

Tom - you should try Degustation - it's very good. They mainly sell French produce. In particular, bread (but English bread too), cheese, ham, pate, wine and champagne & a variety of French cakes / biscuits.

Also - a good place to buy local is "The Shop on the Hill" on Harefield Road next to Ecosium. They do a great range of organic produce (including organic meat) and excellent fresh vegetables.

b. said...

I highly recommend Degustation for cheese and wines - both very well priced and I am always impressed with the friendliness of the staff and my purchase. . . just be sure to have cash - their register is non existent so the card machine obviously doesnt work.