“It was a bit of a whim,” says Katherine, joint owner of the Larder with Cynthia. “We didn’t have any experience of running a deli and we didn’t do any market research … but we had a hunch it would work out.”
It has. Five years on the Larder is firmly established in Ladywell village and a must-visit deli for south east London’s growing band of foodies.
Katherine and Cynthia, who met at their kids’ nursery and ended up “going to the same birthday parties”, had backgrounds in marketing and sales.
They decided to get together when El closed. The deli was in a great position and they both liked the neighbourhood. “Ladywell is super social. So we decided to take the plunge.”
Their approach has been to create a deli with an “urban twist” and to source local produce wherever possible. “Gingham tablecloths are out,” says Cynthia.
The shift seems to be have been in tune with people’s growing interest in urban produce.
“We look for non-standard foods …. they are of increasing interest to people in the area,” adds Cynthia. The Larder sources honey, bread, jams … and even pasta from the local area. They take fresh pasta from Mansi in Peckham, a small pasta workshop founded in 2012 by Emanuela Mansi.
Every day Mansi handcrafts fresh pasta and sauces using traditional methods and organic ingredients.
“When Mansi’s traditional equipment broke down … there was no pasta. The machine had to be sent back to Italy to be fixed. But customers were understanding. We had a story to tell.”
They take jams from Wild Brockley, which produces artisan jams, jellies and chutney from locally foraged fruits. And of course there are now dozens of local breweries, including Brockley Brewery.
Katherine and Cynthia believe they started the Larder at the right time. “People were looking for something different. Tastes were changing … people no longer just wanted supermarket convenience.
“In Ladywell people were engaging with local shops again … Ladywell was changing … new people were moving into the area … and they were interested in the sort of food we wanted to sell.“
They both have to like everything they sell and they try 90 per cent of the produce. “We like food … and we go to lots of tasting sessions and meet producers.”
They like to tell customers the stories behind the foods they sell.
The Larder now has lots of regular customers … “even those that just come at Christmas and order their cheeses.”
Katherine says they have a broad mix of customers. And they have noticed a growing number of “young professionals” moving into the area. “They come in for their quick purchases on friday and saturday nights – wine, beer, cheese and coffee”.
The Larder is looking forward to the next five years. “We are in the groove,” says Cynthia.
The deli is now firmly embedded in the local community and is intent on remaining a feature of the village for a good few years to come.