18 December 2020, 11:49 AM
  • Joe Fox, head chef of Townsend restaurant in Whitechapel Gallery, gives us insight into his best-loved independent shops and restaurants
Joe Fox, Townsend restaurant: “Local businesses have become a lifeline”

I live in Forest Gate, East London with my wife and daughter. We relocated here from Hackney a week before lockdown, which has made getting to know the area a strange and intimate experience, with local businesses becoming a lifeline as they adapted to the new measures.

I was pleasantly surprised with the local offering and have found some real gems and am looking forward to discovering more. Around the corner we have Arch Rivals, an independent small restaurant refashioned as a bodega. They have a great selection of natural wines and beer from small breweries, as well as staples and awesome takeaway.

The entire neighbourhood refuses to let them take their Korean fried cauliflower off the menu and there is good reason for this. They also have an amazing grilled kimcheese sandwich which can even be ordered via their click and collect system online – the best.

Also on our doorstep the lovely folks at Wild Goose bakery have not only adapted for local customers, they are also a social enterprise who tirelessly provide meals for the community. This is where I go for everyday staples like sourdough, veg and milk, as well as pastries and coffee. The babyccinos are a hit with my daughter. If you look on their website they also have some fantastic recipes like their home made peri-peri sauce.

I am always trying to shop as sustainably as I can, so it’s great to have Cups and Jars on the local high street. They are a zero-waste deli and refill shop. I like going here to refill my soaps and laundry detergent, and they also have nice preserves, cheeses and bits and bobs.

Their loose dry goods section is quite impressive with a range of beans, pulses, grains and pasta. Outside they have a lovely little outdoor space with tables which is under cover too – it’s a lovely spot for a great cup of coffee and cake.

Farms are always my favourite place to buy produce. The Stepney City Farm is on my commute into work so I’ll stop in here often and check in, pick up a veg box and leave feeling just a bit more connected to the food – their farm to fork café called The Allotment Kitchen is also a hit with my daughter, they serve everything from pizza and fresh pasta to cakes and pastries.

Second best is a farmers market – in Hackney we went to the Growing Communities Farmer’s Market on Saturdays – it’s a fabulous one.

For cheese, it’s Neal’s Yard Dairy. Hands down my favourite cheesemongers, showcasing the best of British. There are three stores in London, the iconic Borough Market and Covent Garden just round the corner from the original Neal’s Yard and now on Friday and Saturday morning if you head Bermondsey (Allo business park). You can visit any store and sample many of the fantastic British cheeses – some of my favourites are Kirkham’s Lancashire, Berkswell, Devon Blue and Colston Bassett Stilton.

Paddock Farm is run by brothers Nick and John Francis and based in Oxfordshire, they specialise in Tamworth pork which is hands down some of the pork in the country. Tamworth breed is one of the oldest in the world and is a close match to the old English forest pig. I’ve worked with Nick and John for nearly 10 years and they have never failed to impress with the quality of their produce.

As like a lot of businesses, Paddock Farm adapted to home delivery, I regularly order pork and other meats which I have delivered to my house. This way I know where my meat comes from and help support independent farms.

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