I love it when you have a great retail experience and that’s just what I had this week.

Increasingly I find it is those shops that deliver a classic old fashioned service that really connects with me rather than supermarkets or indeed the more fabricated, trendy ones. There is a push, which is often attributed to Mary Portas, to rediscover the traditional high street and whilst I would contest that the lovely Mary has merely jumped onto the band wagon, it is true that the butcher, baker and candlestick maker really is the way to connect us back to shopping, especially with food.


When I moved out to Surrey from London I wanted to find all the local shops that would bring the county and its food to my fridge. But the sad truth is that they are not embracing the opportunities all that well. I guess this is why I was so overjoyed to find a local fruit and veg stall, popping up every Wednesday and Saturday in the car park of the local Hillier garden centre.


Run by a local family, the greengrocer stall is created from produce which Dad buys from the London markets at 4am so that he can bring the freshest produce and get it back in time to sell. The whole family get involved from that point on creating a really classic fruit & veg stall with colourful merchandising, traditional tickets and a feature to the best of seasonal British produce. This week that included asparagus, strawberries, jersey royals and the first English broad beans. Yum.


The icing on the cake and funnily enough the thing that touched me most was the service given at the tillpoint. There was a real energy at the till with Mum, son and daughter all engaging well and moving the rush of people through efficiently. And to top the whole thing off was the offer of bag or box. Opting for the latter, my produce was handled with the utmost care placed beautifully, standing upright to attention and presented to me as a boxed gift of fresh loveliness. It was carried to my car and when I got it home, I couldn’t help but smile.


One of the most wonderful things I bought back was locally grown rocket which had the most incredible hit of pepper and was just fabulous. I wanted to make something that would celebrate the ingredient, so created a typically me-dish by making a pesto incorporating the rocket with salty pecorino, toasted pine nuts, garlic and really great olive oil. I mixed that through spaghetti and topped with even more rocket, cheese and some sweet chunks of quality tomatoes. A vibrant tasty meal which showcased wonderful produce from great greengrocers.