February 04, 2020

Independent Food Shops in Canterbury, Kent

Independent Shops in Canterbury Kent

Having a rethink about what you eat, where you shop, who are you are? I can’t help you with the latter, but here’s a list of really excellent people and places in Canterbury if you’re lucky enough to live here. Let’s start in my little village of Chartham.

The Wonky Parsnip - Cockering Road 

The Wonky Parsnip sits to the side of the River Stour over here in Chartham and specialises in growing the weird and the wonderful in terms of fruit, veg, herbs and edible flowers. Onsite you will find a small red shed filled with different things from day to day that you can pay for via an honesty box. They also run a flexible veg box scheme (£6, £10, £15 plus a £2.50 delivery charge). Order online, by email (thewonkyparsnip@gmail.com) or on the phone (07876251376). Most exciting indeed is the promise of a smashing events calendar this year - expect farm tours, masterclasses, and partnerships with the local vineyard and pub - not forgetting their ever popular seasonal plant sales. 

Chartham Vineyard - Burnt House Farm 

Slip off the A28 into Chartham and take the first left into the rugged wood and brick barnyard and you’ll find the vineyard shop open on Saturdays between 10 am and 2pm. They offer five different wines to taste (and a lovely black dog to say hello to): Pinot Gris 2018, Bacchus 2018 (my fave), Rose du Noir 2017, Blanc du Blancs 2017 and Pinot Noir 2018. If they’re shut, hit up Alan’s village shop and he keeps a small stash, and pop for some lovely fresh eggs from the lady across the street while you’re at it. If you’re the energetic, intrepid type, it’s good to note that every harvest the vineyard calls for volunteers to pick the yield. 

Forager - Bolts Hill Road 

Technically you can’t buy directly from these guys (although I’m sure they’d sort you out if you were pining for some wild sorrel)  BUT what you can do is head to one of their foraging courses to find out where to pick the goods for yourself in and around Kent. Their spring events calendar is booking up quickly, so don’t dawdle. They have also just launched online courses if you don’t fancy leaving your armchair. 

The Goods Shed - Station Road West

Where do I even begin with this utter dream of a place? Somebody commented recently on IG that they weren’t vegan or a vegetarian or a flexitarian or whatever, but that they were a ‘Goodsshedatarian’ and I am fully on board with this. The best way to tell you about the place is to break it down by section as it’s basically a giant Victorian railway building transformed into a food hall, farmers market and restaurant. As we’re talking shopping, I’ll side step the Wild Goose (small plates, cocktails), Gill’s (coffee, light lunch), Johnny Sandwich (sandwiches, duh) and the restaurant (local, seasonal dishes only) and go straight to the vendors.

First up we have the fishmongers - one of the only fresh fishmongers around for a fair few miles.They pick up the local and/or British catch every morning so we’re talking seriously fresh sea fish, river fish, shellfish and crustaceans. Next comes the local-farm-only, nose-to-tail butchery that offers everything from the whole beast, including offal. If you’re going to eat meat, this is the meat you’re going to want to be eating: supporting local farmers, small abattoirs and encouraging a demand for meat that not only tastes better but improves husbandry, the local economy and the lives of both the farmer and the animals.

There's Docker who are crazy about everything yeast - beer and sourdough bread. Their shelves are lined with their own small batch beers, as well as a carefully selected and rotating range of other excellent independent brands. Their bread is freshly baked each day at their shipping container in Folkestone. Often, they will play with a seasonal-style loaf (like pumpkin at Halloween). There’s an array of drinks on tap, too. I’m fully addicted to the Nightingale Cider, made in Tenterden. 

You can’t miss the fruit and veg stall, heaped high with seasonal produce only from less than four miles away, collected every morning at 6am. It’s so fresh, it doesn’t even need refrigerating and can make it from farm to table in less than a day. There’s no packaging either, though you might find a paper poem or two stashed among the apples from a secret writer. Fill up here on scoops of your pulses and grains, too. 

Murrays General Stores is great for oils and vinegars that you can refill as and when you please, plus a selection of premium brands and goods for the larder. Enzo’s Bakery is a simple, Italian affair, wafting the scent of freshly baked things through the air throughout the day - breads, cakes, pastries, sugary doughnuts, as well as pizza by the slice. Patriana’s sits just alongside and it’s a small stand so be sure not to miss it as I think it’s pretty much the only cured meat deli in the city, offering amazing meats imported from Europe, as well as cheese - I’m mad about jamon iberico so this is really where it’s at - five slices for a little treat please, Patrick. You’ll probably need a bottle of wine so Press Wine Services can help you out here with beautiful wines from independent importers and producers who focus on quality over quantity. There’s a great selection that represents Kent and many beyond. 

Finally, there’s the Cheesemakers who, as you guessed it, hand make lots of different cheeses (almost all of them unpasteurised) from their dairies at Dargate and Hastingleigh. On a typical day, there will be almost 40 different cheeses on offer. It is also the place for the only unpasteurised butter in Kent. 

Jacks Veg -  Online

That Jack takes his organic veg very seriously you know, which is fair enough given what a labour of love it really is. His ethical, holistic approach is key to maintain flavour and nutrition, and he can also proudly say that the farm is single-use-plastic free. He offers veg boxes delivered from £7.50 as well as chicken eggs, gourmet mushrooms and more. 

Wholefoods - Iron Lane 

While you can also pick up some fruit and veg here, it really is the dry goods on offer that I like to head here for: nuts, seeds, grains, pulses and more, as well as toiletries and household products that are natural. They also have a really gorgeous mushroom pate in a squidgy tube that’s wonderful on toasted Docker sourdough. 

Unboxed - St Peter’s Street

Does what it says on the tin, there are no boxes here, no siree. To be fair, there are probably boxes around but they aren’t made out of plastic, which is the whole point. Head here for refills on lots of your regular groceries: fruit, veg and nuts, pasta, rice and grains, oils, vinegars and spices, dried foods, cleaning products, and teas and coffees. 

Madame Oiseau - Northgate

You know what? I’m not sure I know another chocolate shop like Madame Oiseau. Tiny little counters where everything is made by hand. Filled creams, chocolate-covered candied peel, beautiful flavoured ganache and painted seasonal chocolate pumpkins, santas, farmyard animals, eggs and more. This place is just a delight. 

The Cheese Shop - Kings Street

Can one ever have enough cheese? NO SIR. In which case, if you’re on the other side of the city from the Goods Shed, the Cheese Shop maketh a very fine alternative indeed and they’re a bit different in the sense that they also have a continental selection, offer ‘cheese’ cakes for weddings, and there’s a bar with a few stools if you absolutely need to tuck in right there and then. 

Also of note if you’re going to break free from local and seasonal, but still independent:

Garden of England - St Dunstans

A fab little grocer’s that’s filled with spices, herbs and seasonings, as well as goat meat and fruit/veg - the latter isn’t seasonal or local but sometimes we all need ginger and chilli. 

Kukki - Station Road West

A Korean speciality shop, this place is where you want to head for noodles, fresh Asian produce, pickled veg and more. 

ThaisRus - Lower Bridge Street 

Surprisingly ample inside, this shop is really good for more obscure Asian ingredients like Indonesian ‘candlenuts’ and more. 

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