Friday, 10 July 2009

The Spice Shop

This tiny box of a shop just off the main drag of Portobello Road is an Aladdin’s cave for any food lover, stocking countless herbs, spices and unusual flavours from across the globe.

The concept

Originating as a stall on the North End Road in the nineties to satisfy the German owner Birgit’s cravings for paprika, the next step was to open a shop on Blenheim Crescent. A staggering variety of pepper, paprika, sumac, chillies, cardamom, saffron and vanilla are just a few of the gems lining the walls alongside Birgit’s own blends, such as Ras al Hanout which contains an incredible 48 spices. The emphasis is on high quality pure spices, responsibly sourced from reputable producers. Sushi mats and wasabi appear next to nutmeg graters, mushroom essence and sunflower seeds.

Who goes

Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver have all visited seeking inspiration for new projects. Tourists and locals alike wander through the door to re-stock their cupboards or to browse and experiment with a new ingredient. As the shop’s assistant Brendan mentioned he ‘learns from the customers’ how to use the encyclopaedic range.


Their distinctive bright orange and red tins are fun, instantly recognisable and make a great gift. You’ll be hunting for Middle Eastern recipes after experiencing the intense citrusy flavour of the sumac and the chai tea mix transports you to the subcontinent. Spice blends are the best sellers but old fashioned whole spices are making a come back.

Any downsides

The shop is minute so by the time a few tourists have piled in it’s hard to manoeuvre and fully appreciate everything on the shelves. That said, the assistants couldn’t be more helpful and there’s usually buzzy music being played. Avoid visiting on a Saturday when the market will be in full swing.

What you’ll spend

Bagged spices and blends are usually under £3 for 50g. The same weight in a tin is about £5. Persian saffron can set you back as much as £8 for 1g and vanilla pods too can be quite pricey. The quality of the produce means that a little goes a lot further than equivalent supermarket varieties.

Anything else

The website has the full range available for sale online and has customers across the world. Interestingly many well-heeled Indians make large purchases via the site because the quality is superior to the often dirty, sun-dried spices for sale on their doorstep. Birgit gives cookery demonstrations over the road at Books for Cooks making use of the wealth of food knowledge she’s picked up travelling to source produce.

The Spice Shop
1 Blenheim Crescent
London W11 2EE
020 7221 4448

No comments:

Post a Comment