That feeling, when you go abroad on an EasyJet weekend and you see proper food in neighbourhood greengrocers, and die a little inside about the lacklustre shit in Tescos? The remedy’s been here since 2011: and now Radio 4 has recognised it, shortlisting the L8 Superstore on Toxteth’s Lodge Lane as one of three finalists in BBC Radio 4’s annual Food and Farming Awards as ‘Food Retailer of The Year’. The same award that New Ferry’s Edge and Son won a couple of years back.
“Liverpool 8 has played a vital role in changing a once intimidating space into a bustling one, offering a sense of community for a diverse customer base,” say the award judges. “As well as selling an abundance of herbs, spices, fresh vegetables and authentic imported ingredients.”
A couple of years ago, we got so taken with it, we even gave you a SevenStreets Creole Curry recipe:
If you head down to Lime Grove where you might once have found a few fading convenience stores you can now find one of the maddest experiences Liverpool has to offer.
The retail unit has been turned into a bustling supermarket. Your shoulder may shrug, and you may envisage another white, blue and red plastic bag blowing down the gutter, an expressionless security guard standing behind a big blue stand, glowering at children.
But no, this is an altogether different kind of supermarket. It’s also potentially the busiest we’ve ever been to. Amongst the yams, water melons, whole frozen fish and a million other unlikely delights there are people of every culture imaginable.
There are East Europeans here; and Muslims; and Chinese; and Caribbean; and African; and Greeks; and Turks; and beardy Observer readers. And the lesser-spotted white scouser too – all rubbing along together and just getting on with things.
The food caters for every cuisine imaginable, so much so that it’s almost overpowering. We settled for stuff with a West Indian bent and walked away with enough ingredients for a kind of ambitious creole curry, but there are hundreds of foodstuffs you’ll never see in the Polish or Halal or Kosher sections in even the largest Tesco.
The supermarket is just that. While it reminds us of an enormous Matta’s it also sells bin bags, milk, cat food, washing powder and even the boring stuff you get everywhere: coke and Walker’s crisps. But we bet you there’ll be a dozen more interesting options. You should check them out.
Outside is what must be the largest fruit and veg market for some distance. Exotic fruits, unidentifiable veg, plantain nestling side-by-side with bananas and by far the biggest melons we have ever seen. Also some fearsome scotch bonnets, a chili that often comes with a biohazard warning in more genteel establishments.
We picked up some sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, lime, ginger and a solitary scotch bonnet – plus an enormous branch of coriander.
Heading back in, past hundreds of figs and dates, we’re immediately into a place so chaotic it might as well be Victoria tube station at 8.30am. There’s an enormous queue at 4pm on a Sunday, despite the three sets of men on the tills; one to pack and one to ring up the prices. It’s insanely busy, but everyone working at the Superstore seems cheerful.
David Cameron reckons multiculturalism has failed; but we reckon he ought to come to the Lodge Lane supermarket (or Brixton, Camden, Rusholme of a dozen other places in the UK where it seems to be thriving), where we’d slap him around the face with a snapper, just to reiterate the point.
Then, just in case he still didn’t get it, we’d cook him the creole curry we made with ingredients from the L8 supermarket.
You can make it too, if you’d like, the recipe’s printed below. Either way, do make sure you swap your weekly, weary, weepy schlep around Tesco for an experience as entertaining as it is useful.
SevenStreets’ Creole Curry
-Throw garlic, chili, ginger and onion in a pan and fry
-Toss in some Caribbean spices and some curry powder to toast
-Add lime juice, then add chopped tomatoes until reduced
-Add veg or pulses of your choice – we used okra, red kidney beans, peppers and aubergine
-Cover with mango puree and coconut milk and simmer gently til thickened
-Throw in some fat prawns for the last couple of minutes of cooking
-Taste – there’s a good chance you’ll need some white wine vinegar, balsamic or lime juice to reduce the sweetness.
-Season to taste.
-Whack in an enormous amount of coriander, shovel onto a plate, accompany with some white fish you probably should have started marinading 24 hours before
We had sherry-and-rum-fattened raisins with coconut ice-cream for afters, but you could have a Mars Bar instead.
The Liverpool 8 Superstore,
129 Lodge Lane, Toxteth
Open daily till 8pm.