63–97 Kensington High Street, London W8 5SE
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, June 9th, 2007
The Victim: Me.
The Damage: £60 plus public transport.
In Chicago, I used to live about a 15 minute walk from the Lakeview Whole Foods and I would drop in all the time. I loved their salad bar. And I loved their artichoke dip. And their wine section. And their cheese section.
See, Whole Foods employs people who are either experts in things like wine or cheese or who want to become experts. So it was always a pleasure talking to the staff about wine. And about cheese. They always had a recommendation.
On-site food and wine experts don’t exist in Dominick’s or Jewel in Chicago. Maybe behind the meat counter, or the fish counter. But not anywhere else.
So I was excited when I heard in 2004 that Whole Foods was planning on opening a shop in London in 2007. Three years seemed like an awfully long time to wait though!
But here we are, three years and one London food blog later, and here is Whole Foods South Ken. And I’ve just dropped £60 on all the goodies I could carry back on the tube.
Here’s what I liked about the Whole Foods on Kensington High Street…
1. The staff are friendly and omnipresent. I saw tons of people asking for particular products, and Whole Foods’ team members were practically holding their hands as they led people across the store.
2. You’re not just staring at food on shelves, it’s all around you in stacks, particularly the fresh fruit and vegetables.
3. The fish counter is beautiful.
4. I loved the way the eggs were displayed…it was pretty much serve yourself.
5. When I went to check out, the salad dressing I bought was not on the register. So they gave it to me for free. My cashier noted that it was their fault that it wasn’t in the register, not mine, so why should I have to wait while they sent someone to check the price? He said they are really good at making sure that once that happens once with a particular product, it doesn’t happen again. I thought this was a fantastic piece of marketing/customer service…because you know, I bet you at other stores when stuff is not in the system, once they manually key in the price, the product probably still doesn’t get into the system. By taking the loss on my dressing, they give themselves an incentive to solve the problem. Permanently.
6. The baskets. Rather than just plain old hand baskets, they have little baskets that you tote around behind you like carry-on suitcases. This is clever. Because hand baskets get heavy. (I think these would be even better if they were like those newish suitcases that you roll along right beside you, as opposed to behind you.)
7. The cheese room.
8. The sun-dried tomato pesto from the antipasto bar. DELICIOUS.
9. The marcona almonds. YUMM.
10. The coconut macaroons.
11. I liked how they took a Disney World approach to the queue at the till…as you enter the queue, they tell you how much time it’s likely to take. I didn’t time them, but the 3 minutes they noted seemed about right.
What I didn’t like about the Whole Foods in South Ken…
1. I kept going to the wrong side of the store to get to the right escalator. They need better Up/Down signage.
2. The wheelie baskets are GREAT, but every five year old in the store seemed to have one. So it was a bit of a traffic hazard.
3. People who don’t get the "no sampling" thing. As I was filling up on sun dried tomato pesto at the antipasti bar, an American woman was considering the regular pesto with her daughter who was about eight. She gave her daughter the serving spoon and let her stick her grubby little fingers in it. I gave the mother a "You are a disgrace to my country" look.
4. They didn’t have my artichoke dip. They had another type of artichoke dip, and although it’s nice, it’s not great.
5. The checkouts make you feel like you should have your passport and boarding card ready. They need something going on while you’re standing in the huge queue.
6. The crowds. I wish I had gotten there at 10 on a Saturday instead of a little after 11.
7. Despite my request to be invited to their launch events, I wasn’t. 🙁 If I were them, I’d want me there! Their loss.
Well, as I write this, I’ve just boiled up some Whole Foods linguine and I’m getting it ready for the sun dried tomato pesto. And then I’ve got Whole Foods salmon steaks in the frying pan, crackling away. And I’ve made a nice Whole Foods baby spinach salad with my free Italian dressing. (Yes, I do cook occasionally…when inspired!)