I have been using Michanicou Brothers in west London for as long as I have lived in the area – 20 years.
It is an Aladdin's cave of a shop. Produce spills on to the pavement, although, to be kind, as a boxed and neat sort of spillage, where all kinds of fruit can be inspected, by both feel and smell, particularly in summer-time, when fragrant raspberries, strawberries and the like scent the narrow street.
Sidle your way through the constantly peopled, equally narrow doorway into the bustling interior and here you will find an array of root and leaf vegetables, salads, very fresh herbs, and fungi covering almost every genus including, once or twice, even the odd truffle ... They also stock large sticks of fresh horseradish, which is particularly useful to me.
What most customers seem to favour is, I think, the extraordinary variety of produce from all over, although the range covers the seasons admirably. I particularly love the winter salads, and this is one of the only places I know where you can find both fleshy, super-fresh batavia and, my favourite, frizzy endive.
Fine French beans are of the very thinnest and the shop always seems to be the first to find new-season garlic. Wild garlic leaves are there in late-April, too, as well as sorrel leaves soon after that.
It is certainly an emporium that knows its local clientele (prices are keen, but you do get what you pay for), but people make special journeys from further afield, too. And no wonder. It's possible to purchase the freshest, most golden-yolked eggs here, delivered twice a week – from Italy!
2 Clarendon Road, London W11, 020-7727 5191
Alwand This Middle Eastern shop (open 24 hours) is where I go for those long, pale-purple, thin-skinned aubergines, essential for making delicious Asian recipes. And for fragrant quinces, too – a quid a pair, the other day.
140 Uxbridge Road, London W12, 020-8742 9009
Secretts' Farm Shop You can find the finest home-grown asparagus here – as well as countless other fruit and vegetables. Even better, you can pick your own asparagus – great for a spring day out.
Milford, Surrey, 01483 520500
Wholefoods I go here for their array of ripe and luscious seasonal tomatoes, especially the large, ridged ones from Provence, heavy with juice and full of flavour. Lovely bread, too.
63-97 Kensington High Street, London W8, 020-7368 4500
Simon Hopkinson's 'The Vegetarian Option' is published by Quadrille, £20Reuse content