Existing wholesale customers login here. If you are a new customer please register hereRegister here
Lucy Deedes from our Petworth food shop takes you on an alternative tour of Petworth this Christmas, viewed through the eyes of some new visitors to the town…
The men and their camels take the road through the woods and stop in the Gog and Magog archway, contemplating the little town of Petworth below them. They have been told there is an Angel and a Star here, and a Church of St Mary the Virgin. This could be the place.
In the town, houses are strung with green trees and tiny white lights and every glowing shop window tells a story. The Antiques Market is an indoor bazaar, a veritable temple of gifts – books and paintings, glass and silver spoons and precious stones, a model boat as large as a donkey, a cracked old rocking horse with one eye and no tail. The camels stride on along East Street and the men admire the Persian rugs in Rugs of Petworth and a starkly beautiful dress in the window of Twenty.
On past the Leconfield restaurant they go, where candles and a warm fire seen through the window promise the best of dinners; later, maybe, when they have done what they came for. The Hungry Guest windows stop them in their tracks: there are miniature frosted churches with lighted windows, unfamiliar snowy skiing scenes, piles of boxes tied with ribbons.
They dismount and the camels apply themselves to stripping the leaves from the box trees outside the door.
Inside the shop there is warmth, music and the smell of coffee. There is a Biblical abundance of loaves on the counter- from rough rye breads and round walnut loaves to crisp baguettes and glossy plaited challahs. Round the corner, heaps of smoked fishes of all kinds as well as caviar and lobster soup.
Outside, the camels grumble and chew box leaves and a small crowd gathers. This evanescent crowd is a feature of Petworth: it seems to fall from the air, like dew.
The men walk majestically around the shop, impervious to attention. Balthasar loiters to gaze at jars of lemons, olives and Lebny jostling with oils and vinegars, Dukkah, dates and brightly coloured tins of fish. Gaspar peers at the richly flavoured curry sauces, but without spectacles he cannot read the labels. Melchior nudges him along to the central display where sweets and chocolates, figs and nuts, crackers and Panettone, mince pies, Panforte, Turkish Delight and marzipan are piled high with striped candy sticks, defying gravity. Balthasar reaches for a bag of mulled wine mixture and breathes in the scent of oranges and cloves. There are bottles of gold-wrapped champagne, rhubarb vodka and Pinkster gin. On the butchers’ counter every part, it seems, of every animal, is for sale: venison and duck, goose and sheep; golden pastry pies and savoury tarts; a whole Iberico ham with crisp oily skin, its hoof pointing heavenwards.
In the cheese room they breathe in the smells, reading out the labels to Gaspar: Stichelton, 1924, Mrs Bells’ Blue, Sotto Bosco, Ticklemore: cheeses from the Netherlands and the high Alps and the French plains and from small English farms. Chilled, they sit on high stools at the window with steaming cups of hot chocolate and coffee, flakes of croissant and cake fluttering down the front of their robes, froth in their beards, remembering why they are here.
Outside in Middle Street, the camels lie calmly in the road, blocking the traffic, and a portentous figure in a high-viz jacket takes out his telephone.
Breakfast finished, they lead the camels down the hill, distracted by the leaves and berries and delicious green wreaths woven with herbs and fruit in Spriggs’ window. The window of Guilt startles them, for there are models of ladies wearing fabulous wisps of lace and creamy satin and not much else at all; the men hurry on, blushing.
In the Hungry Guest Frozen shop they argue about the respective merits of cheesecake and crumble, of pecan pie and bread and butter pudding and select one of each, to be sure, whilst the camels reach for the olive trees and the shopkeeper threatens them with her umbrella.
A well-lit townhouse draws them in, through a garden pathway lined with statuary and immense stone urns. In Augustus Brandt there is treasure in every room: sumptuous furniture, colossal sofas, glass and china and table linen for a banquet; silken velvet cushions, long woollen robes as light as feathers; clothes for infants, tall silver wine pitchers with bone handles. They breathe in the scents of glorious Cire Trudon candles, whose very names evoke holy places, polished floors, leather and incense: ‘Ottoman’, ‘Spiritus Sancti’,’ Bethleem’. There are soft toy dogs for a baby and fur throws to wrap around him, travelling bags and heavenly soft velvet chairs.
At Austens in the Square they wander among cooking pans and kettles, animal foodstuffs, ladders and padlocks and a host of manly tools. Gaspar tries on pairs of reading-glasses in rainbow colours. At midday, they search for an inn. The crush of people and noise in the Hungry Guest café makes them shy, but a kind neighbour gives them a newspaper and they gather happily around the Times crossword and finish it while they eat their soup and sourdough bread.
By nightfall they are gone – three inscrutable men on three long-striding camels, their packs loaded to bursting, an iridescent stuffed peacock and a one-eyed rocking horse strapped to the final camel. It’s a common enough sight at Christmas.
Thank you for choosing Home Entertaining by The Hungry Guest. To place your order please use the following form making sure you select the correct quantities. Once you have completed your order please select your collection date (minimum 7 days notice required on all orders). Payment must be made online at the time of order.