John Shepherd, Partridges: “Salmon enchanted evenings”

21 July 2022, 12:45 PM
  • In his latest column for Speciality Food, John Shepherd, managing director of Partridges, discusses Jubilee bestsellers and the popularity of salmon on summer evenings
John Shepherd, Partridges: “Salmon enchanted evenings”

Plus ca change. In the 1980s the celebrated food writer, BBC presenter, deli owner and all-round icon for speciality food, Glyn Christian, kindly contributed some articles for the Partridges Magazine.

For those of you not acquainted with this fine publication it is basically our in-house Christmas catalogue and has been published every year since 1986. It was around the time that Glyn published his pioneering Delicatessen Food Handbook which is still available to buy today.

In those days a number of leading food and wine writers also contributed pieces for us I am pleased to say – for example Robert Carrier, Harry Waugh, Ken Hom, George Melly, Angus McGill and Sir Dirk Bogarde.

However, it was Glyn’s articles that always seemed to attract the most positive feedback from customers.

In a summer edition he was proposing to call one of his articles ‘Salmon Enchanted Evening’. That article never appeared and I am not sure if it ever did in another publication but it was a brilliant play on the title Some Enchanted Evening – the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic from South Pacific which is, by many, regarded as their finest work.

The title particularly resonated with us because it captured the role that salmon in all its various guises played on summer evenings in our part of London. Especially because in those days we stayed open later than any of our competitors and salmon was one of our best-selling products in the evenings.

At the time we used to hand slice it on the counter, sell it in packets, have poached salmon displayed in the front window, sell salmon pieces or offcuts and make up our own poached salmon fishcakes which Jane Grigson kindly made a reference to in her book about English food.

I remember particularly around the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, but also during consecutive summers, that smoked salmon and Champagne made a formidable contribution to our summer sales.

Fast forward to the Platinum Jubilee several decades later and I am pleased to say that this formidable combination still performs very well. In fact, on Saturday 4th June 2022 during the Jubilee weekend, in pleasant summer weather, we achieved our highest ever sales of these two products on a single day.

Looking at the bestsellers list of products by quantity at Partridges the following categories performed very well: mineral waters, soft drinks, ice cream, Partridges gin and tonic, fruit and veg, wine, beer, Prosecco, beverages from the coffee shop, salads from the deli, and I give a special round of applause for our signature dish, the in-house duck confit sandwiches.

In terms of brands represented on the bestsellers list of June 4th 2022 it is good to also note the presence of Moet, Evian, Volvic, Gordons, Pol Roger, Veuve Cliquot, Charbonnel et Walker and Alderton Marmalade Ham, all of which were good sellers at the time of Glyn’s article.

I have often been confused by the usage of the phrase ‘plus ca change’, probably because it’s often written in its abbreviated version. But ‘the more it changes, the more it stays the same’ for me sums up speciality food. The best food, the best wines and the best service will always be the key ingredients for the best speciality food shops. Everyone knows it but sometimes we forget. Here’s looking forward to many more Salmon Enchanted Evenings.

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