Monday, 25 July 2011

HIDDEN GEMS

As my mother-in-law frequently, and correctly, points out, I am very lucky to live close to the heart of the best city in the world, and have access to all it has to offer, should I desire it. There are specialist food shops, markets like Exmouth Street and Borough, wonderful food halls and a myriad of other retailers purveying wondrous delicacies. Yes, I am really very spoilt.

However, what I do lack is Olives et Al, a wonderful small specialist retailer which started out 18 years ago selling olives, and has since developed into a company which supplies oils and vinegars, pestos and tapenades, wonderful snacks, and other lovely foodie goodies. From humble beginnings, the company now has a well-stocked and friendly factory shop on the edge of Sturminster Newton, a small town in Dorset, where I stayed on my wedding night. Despite living in a leafy suburb of London, which has several good delis on its high street, I cannot buy Olives et Al products locally, so whenever I am in Dorset, I like to call in at the factory shop and stock up. This is fairly easy to organise as the shop is on a small trading estate which is also home to a good bike shop which Other Half likes to visit (to get his fix of "spoke sniffing").

Today I visited Olives et Al on the way back from Shepton Mallet, where we had lunch at Kilver Court, the latest addition to Mulberry founder Roger Saul's empire: a 'designer emporium' with a farm shop and cafe run by Sloaney young men and women with flicked up blonde hair and nice accents, yar. Compared to the designer outlets I visit in and around London, Kilver Court was rather disappointing - and very expensive for what it was - but for I can see that it could become a retail oasis for the moneyed of Dorset and Somerset. It's housed in part of the old Babycham factory, and there are attractive gardens to visit, as well as the Mulberry factory shop, just up the road, which is full of over-priced bling handbags.

Olives et Al is a whole lot less pretentious than Kilver Court, and is run by enthusiastic people who obviously care about the products they are vending. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. I have blogged previously about some of the great dining pubs I have discovered in Dorset too - it's a county that values its local producers and farmers, and this is reflected in its foodie outlets, from pubs to specialist food shops. I am sure other counties can boast similar attributes, but Dorset is the place I know best after London and my manor, Teddington, and retailers like Olives et Al deserve our support.

More information about Olives et Al here
The Grand Dorset Chilli Festival
The Bull Inn
The Anchor Inn
The Museum Inn

1 comment:

  1. These sound great! I buy olives and incorporate them with most of my meals!

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