Sausages, pudding and a little bit of home
Online supermarket Ocado now delivers Irish brands to nostalgic expats, so no more rasher runs on the ferry
The UK food delivery company Ocado now has Irish brands available for next day delivery
The makings of a full Irish breakfast were delivered to my London doorstep at 7.30 am last Sunday: Clonakilty sausages, rashers, white pudding, Irish eggs and Barry’s tea. I’d had a longing the day before and ordered it through Ocado, the online supermarket, which now has an “Ireland Shop” homepage dedicated to bringing native goodies to customers living in the UK. We can now order the ABC of Irish delights (Avonmore, Barry’s, Clonakilty) and more: Glenilen butter and yoghurts; Ballymaloe relishes; Bewley’s coffee; Keogh’s crisps but, sadly, no Tayto. Not yet.
Bord Bia helped Ocado in this new venture and its aimed at the near half a million Irish living in England and Wales. Worth €4 billion, or 42 per cent of all Irish food and drink exports, the UK market is a healthy one yet still ripe for future plucking. It’s a long way from the hard-up 1980s where familiar labels from home were almost non-existent in London food stores. I remember the thrill of finding a packet of Galtee rashers in Crouch End’s Fresco supermarket in 1989. I kissed the genial Greek owner. Sad to say, Fresco was demolished by a double decker bus some years later. Selfishly, when I heard the news, my first thought was “there goes my rasher supply”. I’d take the car on the ferry for trips home to Dublin so I could fill the boot with cool-boxes, jammed to the rim with sausages, pudding and rashers. I’ve done this trip so many times I’m convinced that customs at Holyhead have me marked as the Pablo Escobar of pork products. Some of these packets would find their way to Irish friends, and a few British colleagues in the BBC would find their palates tickled by the novelty of a bit of herby white pudding (“White pudding? You’re having a laugh?”). Orders would come in for future trips. I could have made a fortune if I’d had the foresight to set up O’can-do, a personalised, all-Irish, delivery-to-your-door service but I was beaten to the punch by the three merchant bankers behind Ocado.
In the gaps between trips home I schleped across the Thames from my North London home to The Irish Shop in East Dulwich. Staying open for the after Mass crowd on a Sunday, it caters to an older generation of expats. County papers from The Carlow Nationalist to The Wexford People are fanned out by the door; boxes of Tayto are jammed in beside pots of Old Time Irish marmalade; there’s fresh soda bread amid the Club Orange, Chipsticks, Chef sauces, Odlums flour and Erin packet soups. The shop also carries an extraordinary array of Mass Cards.
Shops such as this (and Mandy’s in Tooting) are a welcome resource for local Irish communities pining for a flavour of the old country but they can’t cope with the swelling hinterland of emigrants, hungering for that Proustian moment of a slug of strong tea after a salty sausage feast on a Sunday.
Wealthier expats can of course pick up premium Irish produce in select London outlets, including Paxton & Whitfield of Piccadilly, Neal’s Yard at Borough Market or Harrods’ and Selfridges’ Food Halls. But it would take all day, and a fair chunk of salary, to shop this way. Gift hampers from irishgourmet.com is one way of getting Irish staples and O’Kane’s Irish Foods of Wembley has been delivers Irish products to the Morrisons’ supermarket chain and Tesco and have an online presence at youririshshop.com. Now Ocado’s menu of 43 Irish brands fills a gap for those who want next day delivery, even up to 11.30pm, just when a packet of Hunky Dorys might come in handy.