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Best of British: Online food shopping

BY Fiona Hicks

1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

Best of British: Online food shopping

Beat the crowds this Christmas and order festive fare from the comfort of your own home. Here's our pick of the best online grocery retailers out there. 

Melbury & Appleton

A busy professional family—who mysteriously don’t reveal their name—originally opened this business as a high-street shop in north London.

"We were frustrated by the lack of variety in supermarkets," say the founders. "When we wanted to try out new recipes at home, we struggled to find the ingredients we needed, often travelling miles to track down a key item. We knew others must experience similar frustrations, so were inspired to open a shop."

Demand for such rare luxuries as Italian candied chestnuts was so great that the shop expanded to an online supplier, which now boasts the largest range of food ingredients available in the UK. From Mexico to Malaysia, delights from all corners of the globe are covered—and they regularly hold clearance sales, in which you can pick up a real edible bargain.

Visit melburyandappleton.co.uk for details


Cup of Tea

Bored of your bog-standard brew? This website is here to take your tea-drinking up a gear. Set up by Simon and Christine Collins—experts with decades’ worth of experience in the industry—Cup of Tea sources leaves from the best estates in China, India, Sri Lanka and beyond.

Orthodox methods are used, which means only hand-picked (and impeccable) leaves make the cut. That’s not to say there’s a lack of choice, as the extensive selection features black, green, white, oolong and fruit teas, herbal infusions and tea caddies (great for gifts)—all ready to be delivered to your door.

"Buying online can be faceless, but we encourage our customers to talk to us if they need any help in choosing their tea," says Simon. Those with a real passion for char can travel down to rural Somerset, where Simon and Christine host popular tea-tasting workshops.

Visit cupoftea.co.uk for details


Summer Isles Foods

The real-world foundations of this website are on the picturesque banks of the Cromarty Firth, north Scotland. Here lies a small smokehouse, which has been producing smoked fish, meats and Scottish cheeses for almost 40 years. The popularity of their products is largely down to their meticulous and unique smoking technique.

Most smokers simply dry-salt their fish before smoking, but the Summer Isles method involves marinating both sides of the salmon with a brine mixture infused with molasses, juniper berries and peppercorns, before smoking the fish for a full 24 hours using fragrant oak shavings. One of their selection boxes would make for a great Christmas lunch starter.

As well as being incredibly good value, they include free delivery to any UK address.

Visit summerislesfoods.co.uk for details


Farmison & Co

These days there’s no shortage of online butchers, but Farmison & Co is really leading the pack. Their focus is on championing the best meat from around the country and making it available to everyone.

“The British Isles has some of the finest beef, pork and lamb breeds in the world,” says managing director John Pallagi. “They were bred to perfection in the 18th and 19th centuries, to yield more marbling and fuller flavours.”

Farmison & Co may supply some “world-famous kitchens”, but they make a point of treating every customer like a top chef. Meat is only cut to order (never before), and delivered fresh (not frozen) to any UK address within 48 hours. Perhaps it’s time to take a break from that turkey…

Visit farmison.com for details


Irish Gourmet

We think one of the best parts about this site is that they have to have a dedicated section for “Alcohol-Free Hampers”—because booze is some-what plentiful elsewhere. Of course, it’s just not an Irish Christmas if there’s not a bit of liquor to help the food slip down nicely, but that’s not to say the food plays second fiddle. Far from it.

These hampers, which come ready-made or with the option to “create your own”, feature some of Ireland’s most delectable offerings. Lots of the products are hand-made with artisanal flair, and a good number are winners of the Great Taste Award.

With everything from Green Pepper Venison Salami to Skellig’s Mint Crème Truffles, there’s bound to be something that caters even to Aunt Evelyn’s fussy tastes this Christmas.

Visit irishgourmet.co.uk for details



You know you’re living in a golden age of convenience when you neither have to visit a supermarket nor even think about what ingredients you need. Nowadays, if you want a delicious home-cooked meal, a creative chef and some charming food-packaging people can do most of the hard work for you. 

This is how Gousto works: you choose the recipes you like the sound of (from a selection of ten each week), all the ingredients are measured out, pre-portioned and generally sorted out (you know, all those fussy preparatory bits that take an irritating amount of time), and then they’re delivered to your door.

You receive a sleek recipe card with each meal, so all you need to do is a casual bit of chopping, some chilled-out stirring, probably a bit of sprinkling and hey presto...you have a gourmet-standard, home-made meal. It’s great for mid-week suppers and, as you’ve probably guessed, a dream for festive dinner parties. 

Visit gousto.co.uk for details


Abel & Cole

Having begun 27 years ago—way before the internet boom, even—this is one of the original grocery delivery companies. The legend has it that it all started with a man named Keith Abel and some spuds.

He went to a potato farm, saw all the chemicals used to grow them (some of which had a skull and crossbones on the tin) and decided there must be another way. He set up Abel & Cole to encourage a return to organic farming, and it’s a standard that infuses the company’s practices and products today.

Says culture director Claudia Ruane, “Fantastic organic food makes our heart sing because it’s a healthier way of farming that works with nature, not against it. It protects our countryside and, frankly, we reckon it tastes heaps better.” It certainly does. Their organic fruit and vegetable boxes can be self-selected or filled according to the season.

It’s a wonderful way of getting back in touch with our bountiful land—even if you live in the middle of a city.

Visit abelandcole.co.uk for details

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