Delis typically claim individualism and have that earthen, rustic quality replete with 'exotic' cured meats and 'exclusive' sounding breads. But enough embellishment, why not let the food speak for itself?
Local, fresh, and a contemporary approach, and ideally an owner that is proud to stock local, quality produce, seem the ingredients for success. This sounds almost idealistic. However, tucked away on a side road is a place where such things exist. Enter Pickles of Harborne, the humble deli that is quietly brilliant.
As you enter the light space, your nose is pleased with the smell of a delicatessen - fresh bread, cheese and olives, full flavours that make your senses sit up and listen.
Situated just before the bustling High Street, Pickles is a little delight amongst the Harborne independents. The shop itself has been there nineteen years,so it was in more than need of a modern update. Having opened in April 2011, Pickles has been a hit evident in that we were interrupted by myriad customers. Steel-capped-boots builders came in ordering bacon and egg sandwiches, an older man came in enquiring about diabetic marmalade, and a mother left with bags of treats for her children.
The chatty, friendly owner Antony Kingston is a breath of fresh air. His enthusiasm for what he does is infectious and soon enough I'm giggling away while he proffers samples of cheese and recommends accompanying chutney.
With 90% of his stock local, Pickles of Harborne hold their head high with the confidence that they are the forerunners when it comes to supporting and supplying the Harborne public with local produce. Independent goodies come in the form of the following:
Cheese from both the UK and European suppliers
Chutneys, jams, and pickles from Henley-in-Arden and Stratford
Seasoned flours (bread and pizza/wholegrain/seeded) from Oxford
Oils from UK suppliers
Olives, tomatoes, peppers from Birmingham
Nougat, chocolate, cookies, biscuits, and pastries from Ludlow and Sutton
* Beverages from Leicester
I'm excited by the yummy looking treats and walk away with a selection of cheeses, chutney, crackers, cookies, jam, chocolate, and a flapjack.
I tuck into the flapjack on the way home and it was gooey and caramelly but not too dense. I couldn't resist the sugary treats as I munched through Daniel Jones 73% Dominican Republic chocolate square, a dark, rich, and decadent treat. It would be great melted into hot chocolate or used in brownies, but it is equally enjoyable in its pure, unadulterated glory.
For a lighter treat I suggest the Border biscuits' strawberry and cream shortbread. It is described as meltingly moreish and it truly is. It melts on your tongue with a creaminess that is reminiscent of Devonshire days and studded with tasty pieces of strawberry.
As good as the baked goods were, my favourite has to be the autumnal warmers; cheese, crackers, olives, and chutney. The olives were yummy and fresh but the cheese stuffed peppers were sweet and also moreish. To compliment my antipasti I added a slice of Manchego cheese, which was creamy and lush.
On to the pièce de résistance: Wychcraft's apricot and orange chutney. Sweet yet savoury, and chunky with a little corriander heat, it goes great with Cracotti's fig and olive crackers and a slice of mature cheddar. You'll be feeling very country manor.
The selection of local produce is fantastic, from the organic Welsh brie Perl Wen, to Earlswood's Fowlers cheddar. Pickles passion for prime produce means you get the best on the market. They cater for a small cluster of friends (minimum six), and large events like the Birmingham Beer Festival. However small or large your appetite, you can now take a slice of the delicatessen home. Hand-pick your favourites and pop them into a gift-wrapped hamper, ideal as a gift, especially for Christmas.
Now is the time to hit the deli. As autumn turns into winter why not explore the delicatessen delights and pick up some comfort foods that welcome the cold mornings. Pickles of Harborne give you a reason to stay in; get cosy with a hot sarnie, specialist cuppa, and loved ones cooing over the delicious deli eats that beckon the taste buds.