There are very few things in life that give me quite as much of a thrill as stumbling across a new deli. All those cheeses and cold meats you’d never find in your local supermarket, the artisan breads, the teas, the lovingly sourced condiments, those little tubs of pickled garlic and smoked artichoke hearts – it always makes for the most satisfying of browses. Seriously, nothing excites me more. Except perhaps finding a good charity shop, that is.
So imagine my delight when I discovered Green Valley, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of Middle Eastern treats, tucked away in a side street off the Edgware Road. Apparently it’s been here for years. When I asked the owner if it was ok to take a few pictures, he just smiled and nodded in a way that said he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
As you enter you’re bombarded by what can only be described as a visual assault of deliciousness. Think racks of lustrous pomegranates, baby gourds, apricots, cherries and feathery bundles of dill next to barrels containing a Benetton advert of fleshy olives stuffed to bursting with garlic, thyme, feta, pickled chillies and hot pink pickled turnips. They even had these beautiful fresh green almonds, all fuzzy skinned and smacking of marzipan.
A spectrum of olive oil bottles ranging from pale gold to snooker baize line the walls along with tins of ful medames, halal frankfurters, cartons of sour cherry juice, salty drinking yoghurt and erm, Ajax.
The take-away cabinets groan with great heaving platters of lamb kibbeh, fresh falafel, palm heart salads, baba ganoush, mountains of biryanis, cauliflower fritters and some superlative hummous. They also do a selection of curries, but these didn’t look even remotely appetising. They stock cheeses I’ve never seen or heard of before, like Akawy and “twisted cheese” (a much saltier version of halloumi). There’s an in-house bakery, complete with a wood fired oven which cooks up a daily batch of fresh pide (Turkish pizza) and flatbreads. The butchers section harbours all the racier cuts, including lamb’s tongues and veal feet, and my personal favourite, spicy, sujuk sausages. There’s even a sweet shop which positively glitters with ices (I cannot wait to sample the ferrero rocher flavour) sticky baklava, huge ivory breeze blocks of halva studded with pistachios, a smorgasbord of cakes and sweets adrip with honey and nuts; all beautifully laid out in a style more akin to an Asian jewellery shop than a deli.
With so much variety, the prices inevitably vary depending on what you go for. I bought a Turkish coffee pot for £4.90, a handful of almonds were almost two pounds and a tub of mixed salad, some hummous, a couple of stuffed vine leaves and a lamb kibbeh came to around a fiver. I could quite easily have spent a lot less and also a lot more and still felt like I’d had my money’s worth. With Hyde Park a mere cherry stone’s throw away, I can think of no finer place to stock up on treats for my next picnic.
36-37 Upper Berkeley Street