I’m continuing my series on Locality where I showcase businesses, makers and creators who are focused on providing a unique service within their local community. A few weeks back, I had the chance to meet this letterpress printing studio.
This week, I talk to The Hampstead Butcher & Providore, a purveyor of premium meats, artisan produce, fine wines and crafts beers, servicing the north London community. With a recently opened shop in neighbouring West Hampstead and plans to open more locations in North London, there is obvious demand for quality local butchers.
Walk inside this shop in the morning and you will be greeted with a hive of activity. The head butcher is busily preparing meat to fulfil their customer orders. There is an array of freshly prepared foods for the time-strapped customer. Shop assistants fill baskets with freshly baked bread and ensure the shelves are brimming with products. At the back of the shop you will find a section dedicated to all manners of charcuterie and cheese. If you fancy a tipple, there are wines to match your every meal. Got a picnic or events you need catering for? Not a problem. You will also find a small section of the shop stocking a quite a wide range of American goodies, which shows their understanding of their customers and acknowledges the strong American ex-pat community who live in the area. My favourite section in the shop was the table laden with artisan chocolates.
The butcher counter remains the forefront of their business, with a focus on sourcing their free range meat from local and sustainable UK producers. You can read more about their meats here. If you're serious about your meat and would like to learn more, you could try one of their butchery or sausage making classes. If that doesn't take your fancy you could try their wine tasting class, which I can vouch for and I'll share my experience on that soon. But you don't need to be a carnivore to shop here, vegetarians are catered for and will easily find something to buy.
// How long has The Hampstead Butcher & Providore been in operation?
We opened our first shop in Hampstead in May 2010 and recently opened our second shop in West Hampstead in November 2014.
// What made you decide to open a butcher/deli ?
A few weeks after we moved to Hampstead the last remaining butcher, Steels on Flask Walk, closed its doors. I met with ownder Jo Steele and once I understood that his reasons for closing were not to do with his business performance, I decided that Hampstead must have a butcher. I was looking for a new project and after a year of searching for suitable premises I took what was The Rosslyn Deli and created a plan for a “Butcher + Deli” . Our fresh meat accounts for half of our business and the cheese, charcuterie, wines, larder and other fine foods make up the rest of the business.
// Please describe your background - do you come from a food background?
I was MD of Covent Garden Restaurants in Covent Garden until 2007. We also owned 4 restaurants, 2 late night bars and a nightclub. So yes, my background has always been in food/leisure/hospitality.
// The butcher counter remains the core of your business, how important is it to source your meat from sustainable producers?
The business majors on the qualitative and value difference that we provide when compared to other larger supermarkets. One of the differentials we provide is the quality of the produce and the certainty of provenance, which in itself supports the quality of product feature too.
// Where do you source the rest of your products from? Are there any criteria a producer must meet in order for you to stock their products?
Our cheese and charcuterie by definition comes from UK as well as Spain and Italy. Much of our artisan chocolates and cakes are produced in England. If the quality is right we’ll go outside of the UK. For example, we have rye bread delivered each week by a producer in France. He brings it over himself! We are approached by suppliers and producers form all over Europe and we do our own research in other delis, butchers, trade shows etc.
// Do you think the way people shop for their produce has changed over the last few years?
High street shops are fighting back and supermarkets are now making a mad rush to re-ingratiate themselves with their shoppers by dressing up their offerings to appear as if they are of great quality and guaranteed provenance. Consumers are also dashing back to the high street as they are suffering from misery and fatigue brought on by years of dull and depressing out of town supermarkets. Our customers want to shop in a location and environment that stimulates their ideas and taste buds. You just don't get that in any of the supermarkets, no matter how many bells and whistles they attach to their stores. It's not genuine and we all have much better food knowledge now than we have ever had before.
TV chefs have been shouting the mantra for a decade or more that if you want a quality, life-enhancing diet then you need to shop accordingly. That doesn't necessarily mean that to enjoy your food you have to spend lots of money. Eat smaller portions of better quality and you don't need to eat red meat every day.
We all get this now and whilst there may be massive demand for supermarkets and the alleged convenience and cheap food they offer, all customers are far more mobile now (in terms of their choice of shop) so they may shop in our shop one day and at Tesco the next, depending on their needs and desires. But most of the time we understand that we get what we pay for. We know that it's a lie to suggest 4 burgers for a quid can be produced with good quality meat or that a £3 chicken can have been reared in anything other than appalling conditions. So we can all make many choices within even the tightest of budgets and that is a fantastic freedom and choice for the market.
Hampstead branch - 56 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, London NW3 1ND
West Hampstead branch - 244 West End Lane, London NW6 1LG