unpackaged

2 Jun

Every now and then you walk into a place and it’s as if the world has suddenly, wonderfully slotted into place and everything is as it should be. The air seems clearer, the lights brighter, there’s a lemony scent of fresh positivity on the wind. It’s an unexpected utopia.

A couple of weeks ago I was heading up to St Pancras to meet Arianna and the blogless Kate for coffee and as I was cycling, early and feeling fine, I took a detour and discovered Unpackaged. Unpackaged is exactly the sort of place you walk into and it’s as if the world has suddenly sorted itself out.

It’s a bulk buy, bring-your-own-bag kind of place, the sort of shop my mum used to send me when I was a kid and she’d run out of nutmeg.

You walk in and are immediately surrounded by great bins of flour, dried beans and fruit, Borax, dish detergent, different shaped pasta. There’s a corner dedicated to fair-trade, shade grown coffees, another to locally made cheese, an entire section in the back filled with great jars of home-made jams, which you can purchase by weight. It’s a paradise for the locavore, a haven for the organic maven, a goldmine for those who only want a few grams for a recipe they’re trying out. It is precisely the type of establishment I never thought I’d ever be able to find in the UK, but thankfully, mercifully, here it in just north of Exmouth Market.

You wander round, filling up the tubs and containers you brought from home with all the things you need – a bit of baking soda, a handful of chocolate-covered nuts, the staples of fresh lettuce, eggplant and peppers — and at the end, deposit your takings on the counter where Catherine, the genius behind it all, will carefully weigh everything and tally up your bill.

Catherine herself is immediately welcoming and clearly both very dedicated to spreading the low-impact word and equally passionate about providing excellent quality. She’s been in the business since 2006 and is a font of information She’s chatty, witty, very opinionated in the best possible way and, to my delight, a fellow devotee to BBC4’s The Food Prgramme. When I ask about the wine selection, she goes into minor raptures over the white boxed wine (supplied by the Borough Market wine stall). There is a stack of empty bottles behind it, with secure flip-top lids. The idea is to keep it organic and sustainable, but cheap enough that people can nip in on their way home to snag a bottle after a long day or stock up on a few home-made jams for Saturday’s brunch.

I just realised I don’t have any pictures of the jams OR the bins. For shame. What a good thing it is that I’m good studenting at the British Library today.

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4 Responses to “unpackaged”

  1. jean 2 June 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    I absolutely agree with what you have written. I walked into Unpackaged for the first time last week. I did actually know it was there already but hadn’t yet visited. I had been to Craft Central Fair and was on an ‘exploring the area’ mission!

    Not only did I buy some things on my list but was surprised when I saw cheese from Cotherstone (Teesdale) so bought that as well. I used to go to Cotherstone and surrounding area when we were living in the N.E. We moved to London about six months ago and I do miss the countryside.

    Also I have discovered you by following Unpackaged on Twitter (girlatheart), so another lucky find.

    Hope your garden thrives in the sun, enjoy. Jean

  2. Kate 3 June 2010 at 8:41 am #

    I really like being the blogless Kate :) Unpackaged looks great, I’m going to find some fun containers to take there, do they have olive oils and balsamic vinegar too?

  3. nora 3 June 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    so glad you shared this little discovery – I’m going on sunday!

  4. Deptford Dame 12 June 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    How fabulous – when I used to work nearby that old shop was still a dusty remnant of the past and I mourned the fact that the shopfront would probably be ripped out and replaced. Fantastic to see that it not only survived – it blossomed! Also interesting to see that the old ‘weigh and save’ idea has been recycled with the emphasis on reducing packaging rather than saving money!

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