BP Garage /M&S Simply Food
Trafalgar Road, SE10
The trio of mini supermarkets along Trafalgar is complete now that M&S Simply Food has opened at the BP garage, but I still see no real reason to abandon hope that we’ll get some more proper, specialist shops to go with Theatre of Wine and The Fishmonger at some point.
M&S IS convenience food. One of the reasons they always managed to look so much better turned-out than the rest is that while Tescos and the Co-Op attempt, in the measly few square metres they have, to be all things to all shoppers, piling their shelves high with thirty different cereals, washing powders and flour-brands, M&S merely dabbles, turning over the bulk of their space to attractively-presented ready-meals, sandwiches, wraps and immaculate, individually-packaged pieces of show-fruit and vegetables.
Their aisles are well-spaced and the shape of their chillers is such that they feel open and inviting, rather than claustrophobic, and a first time, casual visitor can happily toddle around filling their baskets with nice little treats and a spot of something to bung in the microwave for tonight.
But woe betide anyone who would actually like to do any serious cookery from scratch. They do premium cuts of meat (and fish – shame on anyone who buys it, mind, when they could walk a few steps up the road and get personal, informed service from a real fishmonger for the same kind of money) and a limited selection of veg – it will do you in an emergency, but try doing it too often and you’ll end up seriously short of basics – the fiddly ingredients and store-cupboard staples – and your pocket will start to whine in agony.
In their defence, M&S aren’t actually TRYING to be a grocery store. They’re a supermarket within a garage, and they are, to be fair, a marked improvement on what was there before. The food is superb, there’s no doubt about it, and even walking up to the place, after paying for your petrol, there is a neater, smarter look about the place.
The usual piles of barbecue equipment and charcoal are just that little bit neater, the newspapers just that little bit more regimented. Even the bits that don’t ‘belong’ to M&S – the counter and the Wild Bean Cafe which I’m afraid I couldn’t bring myself to try, it brings back far too many memories of motorway services and dismal long-distance journeys, seem that little bit cleaner; the lads’ mags tucked into the little bars for truckers to stand at while enjoying their beverage just that little bit less rank than on the M1
As a family treat or for the locally-based bachelor who just wants to stick a gastropub ready meal in a microwave, this little M&S is fab, and I cannot put my hand up and say I don’t do it myself on a more-regular-than-I-like-to-admit basis. But as a regular buy, in my humble opinion it is all a bit over-packaged and a tad on the pricey side. There’s still plenty of room for a good bakers, a proper greengrocer, a decent butcher, Andrekabu’s stationery shop….