The dreaded supermarket shop. While it may be useful for bulk buying, I can’t think of anything that is pleasurable about the experience. Screaming kids, crowded aisles, dubious quality and money ‘saving’ deals that don’t always do what they say on the tin. These are just a few things I associate with the experience.
The only way to survive peak-time mayhem is to get in to dog-eat-dog mode. Everyone driving a car fights it out over the parking spaces near the entrance. For some reason we decide this is easier than parking a little further away. And I, a passenger sat beside my friend as he curses and slams his hands repeatedly on the wheel, can’t help but think battling it out over supermarket car parking spaces has become a sort of sad modern-day equivalent to when our ancestors battled it out over dwindling meat sources during a long hard winter.
Times have changed since the days when missing a meal may have led to extinction, not hunger pangs. Since then we have developed into a society of consumers with changing habits and increasingly high expectations. We have more choice over where to do our weekly shop than ever before, with supermarkets constantly trying to outdo each other. But among the glossy marketing campaigns and supermarket price wars, there hides a thriving independent food scene in our city centre.
Buy produce from the market and you are guaranteed a fresher and cheaper product and, some may argue, a better shopping experience. And if you look a little deeper you will find exotic food products rarely found inside a mainstream supermarket. Asian and European supermarkets all specialise in food products to make authentic cuisine. So why aren’t we all sourcing our ingredients from independent shops? The answer is simple: time and convenience.
However, if you are tired of the same old supermarket shop, there are some excellent alternatives within the city centre.
Kirkgate Market is without doubt the most obvious independent food place within Leeds city centre. The market sells a wide range of food products from exotic to mundane. A large number of the food places mentioned in this article are based inside the market because, amongst local meats, fish, fruit & veg, it sells food from just about every continent.
If you love the fiery flavours of the Caribbean, you can find fresh, dried and preserved goods from any of the three Caribbean stalls, all within the same area inside Kirkgate Market. You can also pick up many of the herbs and spices required to make a South Asian curry. Common and rare ingredients useful for cooking complex dishes can be found at A.J Afro Caribbean. You can pick up unusual chillies, plantain and dried fish. Spice Corner and Neil’s Fruit and Veg offer the same type of produce at a steal compared to supermarket prices.
Stay in Kirkgate Market for Polish food produce. At Continental Foods Cooked Meats you can buy meats ranging from hams to sausages originating from Poland, Italy and Germany. Walk further down and you will find Russian and Polish Delicatessens and Polskie Delikatesy, one of the larger Polish supermarkets in Leeds City Centre, selling kielbasa (Polish sausage) instant barszcz (soup) and an extensive collection of pickled gherkins. Step outside to Magdalenka Polish Mini Market where you can pick up fresh vegetables.
On the edges of Kirkgate Market you will find the compact Oriental supermarkets Nong Fern Thai and Tian Tian Chinese. These are small stores, but they pack a lot into the shelves. Walking further towards the centre is Wing Lee Hong, one of the largest and best Chinese supermarkets in the city centre that also sells fresh ingredients. You can also pick up foreign newspapers and home goods. Opposite Wing Lee Hong is Asia Express. It’s nowhere near the size, but it sells Japanese food products and delicious green tea ice cream.
Nearby, Millies is one of the largest health food shops in the city centre. The store sells fresh and organic produce, ranging from locally sourced meats to lunch from an award winning deli counter. Besides health food products, Millies also provide a beauty service in the salon upstairs. Out Of This World offer a great range of fair-trade, whole and organic foods. You can stock up on fresh as well as frozen goods and there’s a wide range of healthy teas and drinks. Along with selling the basic health food products, The Health Food Co. sells herbs, spices and cordials.
To buy straight from source Briggate Farmers and Craft Market runs every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. Here you will find goods from independent manufactures across the city and its surrounding areas. Among the drifting smells coming from Linley Hog Roast, you will find cheesemongers, bakers, butchers and greengrocers all selling quality, local, fresh produce. Artists and craft makers also set up stalls here.
So, with all that and more on offer, what’s stopping us? Try it. You might like it.