Chris D’Sylva has been in Notting Hill for 15 years and he lives 200 yards from his business, Notting Hill Fish Market. As the food supply chain began to crumble, his fishmongers in Westbourne Grove teamed up with other independent producers across the country to create a sustainable supermarket, stocking all the freshest seasonal produce he could find. could find in the same place. Beyond the popular community shop, they also offer same day delivery across London.
What were the unexpected challenges of transforming the store from a fishmonger to a farm-fresh grocer? To be honest, it was an almost entirely positive experience for us. We had to push to make sure all of our partners prosper equally, but we all loved coming together so much. Collaborations can fail sometimes due to financial differences, but I just allowed them to trade for free from our space because for us it’s not about immediate advertisements. I wanted to help my friends in the industry and make sure that as the food supply chain has collapsed, we could offer our customers the best possible products from all regions. I guess the only real challenge was that we were moving forward and innovating at such a pace that initially we didn’t have all the technology to make our customer experience completely streamlined. In my entire career, I have never experienced anything like this, and it caused me a lot of stress.
Tell me about some of the producers you work with and how you found them? I describe the producers of our shop as having joined forces to create a Supermarket of Dreams! Thanks to the quality of our producers, every day we have world-renowned chefs who come to shop at home. People currently working with us include; one of London’s most respected family-run butchers, HG Walter; famous British cheese makers Neal’s Yard Dairy; sustainable fruit and vegetable suppliers, Natoora; and progressive bakery, Hedone.
Do you think restaurants and grocery stores will change the way they do business forever after this? Everyone loves the collaborative and creative spirit that drives our business, and I hope we can continue to do business with that approach. I don’t like to say how much the world has changed, and I think it’s still too early to say exactly how we will change the way we work and our business strategies once we get out of it. I think the one thing this crisis has shown all of us is that you have to be nimble and be able to pivot your business. Because we read the signs early, we were able to lead the market and navigate successfully, but many people in our industry were unfortunately unprepared for this, and it will be difficult for them to recover.
Who was the typical Notting Hill Fish Shop customer and who is he today? I’ve lived in Notting Hill for 15 years and live 200 yards from my store so I know my customers inside and out. Our roots are based on offering an extremely personalized service with meticulous preparation for the demanding client. We had an existing core of people who loved to cook, were passionate about food, or professional chefs. As everyone is staying at home, I would say our customer base has grown significantly, with more and more people cooking again, reconnecting with their ingredients, and interested in the best quality. Now that we deliver all of London with same day delivery, we have massive appeal.
Give me some examples of acts of kindness you have witnessed along the way? There have been so many wonderful stories of selflessness. We have supported Michelin-star chef, Larry Jayasekara, the former head of Pétrus with 500 kilos of fresh fish so that frontline NHS workers can be fed the best meal while making such a great sacrifice. We have also taken on a large number of chefs on leave as volunteers who previously worked in some of London’s top restaurants, rewarding them with our great produce and food. We’ve given them a place where they can come and stay connected to their industry, and their presence also helps build on our ‘chef’s supermarket’ base.
What are some of the most unusual products you currently stock and/or some of your favorites? Our absolute favorites are our Happy Endings Ice Cream Sandwiches, bringing absolute joy to kids and adults alike. We also have fresh Cotswold flowers delivered regularly by The Tuk Tuk Flower Studio, which we sell at cost.
We offer fully dressed lobster as well as lobster spaghetti, which literally flies away, showing people they can have restaurant food and providing real joy and luxury at affordable prices.