Today i want to introduce you to one of my favourite places to have brunch and to shop for fresh and seasonal food when i don’t make it to a farmers market. I first met leila mcalister many years ago when i first heard about this wonderful spot by arnold circus.
How do i describe this unique eaterie to you? Well, when i first visited all those years ago, in 2003, i thought i stumbled upon someone’s home’s kitchen. It happened to have tables and chairs but i was convinced they were there only for family and friends to gather around or, maybe, you were lucky to have obtained a secret invitation. Little did i know then that i had lucked out on a gem like no other, a truly hidden treasure. Back then, it was the coolest and most laid back place i had ever known to graze the london scene and it was definitely an insider tip. Shoreditch was not really as hip as it’s today and it really felt like going to another city.
These photos were taken during the london design festival, late on a friday evening as they were closing. Thank you leila for allowing me to take these quick photos while you guys were preparing for the next day.
Leila’s shop always has interesting collaborations during the london design festival and this year was no exception. Wonderwater, a new pop up café, set up in leila’s shop where visitors were able to select items from the menu that have low, medium and high water footprints, while perusing backdrops with infographics and “surprising facts” about water consumption.
Originally there was just the one place, named leila’s shop, where you could eat and shop for some of the most exciting food products back in the days.
I love the simplicity, be it the seating, the food choice and the service. The menu hasn’t much changed since i first went all these years ago and there’s something comforting about that. All i know is that i trust leila’s knowledge, sourcing and taste of food, so in my books she knows best.
Eggs fried with sage is the signature dish, but then so is the comté cheese sandwich and polish platter of sausages, pickles, horseradish and rye. It’s this simple and great sourcing of the best possible ingredients that keep me coming back every time and it still feels like a treat, every time i return.
About 4 years ago, leila took over the adjacent shop and opened an actual grocer’s shop selling the most vibrant and wonderful food. Seasonal, you’ll find everything from english produce to more exotic mediterranean delicacies, like blood oranges and lemons from sicily and castello franco and tardivo radicchios from northern italy. Leila sells the most delicious smoked mackerel available to buy. The polish sausages and cured meats are the real deal. How do i know? Well, first of all i’m a foodie, but secondly, there is no better testimonial then buying a whole assortment for 5 polish builders, who didn’t believe i bought this here in london. Told ya!
Then there’s the best jams you’ll ever taste! I could go on and on.
My pictures don’t do the produce any justice, as most things were covered up since it was closing time. For me, shopping at leila’s is like stepping back in time and really enjoying the ‘slow movement’ treatment. The shop, based on very traditional values, has a hint of lark rise to candleford but feels utterly contemporary and that coupled with leila’s pick of the very best that is in season makes it for the ultimate shopping experience. In true fashion of the slow movement, both of leila’s treasure troves open only on wednesdays to saturdays from 10am -6pm and sundays from 10am to 5pm. Mondays and tuesdays are for replenishing fresh stock. For local deliveries and catering enquiries, get in touch with them.
I’ve come to enjoy appearing at the end of the day. What i like best? A little natter and catch-up with leila as we discuss produce and all things food related. I could listen to her for hours, for her knowledge is vast and i so admire her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for her chosen craft. In fact, i’m hoping to pop in there tomorrow late afternoon. Leila, i promise to try and come before closing time:)
Do you know leila’s shop? Have you been for brunch? If not, go and treat yourselves.
Happy weekend everyone. Don’t forget on sunday at 2am the clocks go back to 1am and we recoup the hour we lost in march when british summer time began. The drawback? Yep, we all know what that means!! See you monday.