Friday, September 5, 2008

Whole Foods London, or: Imitation is the best form of flattery

So after my incredulous wonder at the brilliance of Whole Foods New York, the London branches I have visited so far come as something of a cross-making affair. They also seem to be in some relationship with Fresh'n'Wild which I haven't quite worked out (in the Bowery there was a Fresh'n'Wild stand, but here in London the connection seems to be greater and more explicit).

I've visited two branches - Soho and Kensington Hig
h Street - and have found both wanting in their own ways.

The Soho branch, not surprisingly for its location, is small and therefore more in the nature of a large health food shop. No wuckers. What is wuckers is the vitally restricted, oily, and boring buffet.

The Ken High branch does not suffer the space restrictions of it Soho sister. Indeed, it sprawls arms and legs akimbo across three prairie-like floors, putting
one in mind of what a WalMart might feel like except a hundred times more expensive and fancy la-la.

The buffet at Ken High, like the Bowery, is three buffets long. However, you can't mix hot and cold due to VAT reasons, and the selection has none of the exoticism (for me, anyway) of NYC such as endamame, wakame, soba noodles and fried plantains. The dishes are good, but very same-same, and the green plastic reusable bowls they give out are shaped in the most ridiculous way with a pointy bottom that obliges one to plon
k all one's food on top of itself, causing a most deleterious mixing and great annoyance to the eater. It is somewhat ameliorated by the presence of real cutlery but frankly the crockery situation leaves much to be reformed.

But what really got one's bloody goat was the price. In NYC the buffet cost US$7.99 per pound (lb). Google informs me that one kilo is about 2.2lb. 2.2 times $7.99 = $17.57, so that's equivalent to US$17.57 per kilo (stop me if I'm wrong here. I might be on a fast track to mathematical oblivion).

In London - High St Ken - the buffet costs £1.79 per 100 grams, or £17.90 per kilo. £17.90 in US dollars, according to, is US$31.60. So a
kilo of buffet in the Bowery costs US$17.57, and a kilo of buffet in High St Ken costs US$31.60.

Below: almost 11 quid worth at Whole Foods, High Street Kensington. It's about 610 grams.

Below: US$22ish worth of food at Whole Foods, the Bowery - roughly the same price as the teensy mouthfuls above, and more than a kilo in weight (it's got two layers ... both different).

Now is that right (I mean both is my ma
ths correct and is it morally, ethically, sensibly ok)?

Organic food is pricey enough as it is. Perhaps it's even more so in the UK, but I find it hard to believe that it's near on twice as much. Maybe it's the clientele expected around Kensington. Maybe it's the rent to cover the three gigantor floors that I imagine is equally big. Maybe it's just the going rate. But it puts the availability of fresh, organic, vegan food in a variety of dishes more out of my reach and therefore I assume some other people's reach too, which is never a great thing.

Apologies if my maths is crap and I've made this up.
Either way I'm really cross about the £10.92 I paid for two-thirds of sod-all for lunch.


Lisa Dempster said...

I'd be fucking angry too! Access to decently priced good fresh food was a constant problem for me when I lived in London... I hated that I had to pay extra for the 'premium' tomatoes just to get something that actually tasted like a tomato, where the 'normal' ones had the taste and consistency of plastic. Sure you expect a better quality of food when you pay extra for organic, but to have to pay extra just to get something close to ordinary makes me MAD.

Miss T said...

Why thank you Lisa! I was pretty cross too and about to post a picture of the measly pricey lunch to illustrate.
Miss T