Just when we thought Ealing had it all, Amazon chimes in with a novel store that’s raising eyebrows for all the right reasons: the first contactless grocery shop to hit the UK. So what can West-London-locals can expect from this checkout-free concept, just a 15-minute walk from JIGSAW? We joined the queue of curious shoppers eager to find out what’s inside, how it works and why the 'Queen of Suburbs' plays host to Amazon’s very first store outside of North America.
The quest for supermarkets to make food shopping more convenient has long-continued over the last couple of decades. First came the introduction of self-checkouts in 2003, followed by contactless payments four years later. Sainsbury’s introduced their till-free concept in 2019, but to scan every item as you shop proved more effort than it was worth. Amazon have now truly upped the grocery game, eliminating the payment process altogether with its ‘Just Walk Out’ technology. As the name suggests, it offers you the chance to ‘grab and go’ – without being stopped by security.
With the number of online shoppers continuing to climb every year, it’s become essential for brands to keep up with the nation’s changing habits – and Amazon Fresh undoubtably offers us the smartest solution yet. "The focus was just creating a really easy shopping experience for customers,” said Matt Birch, the store’s director. But this growing need for convenience isn’t the only reason the store comes at a good time. Amidst a pandemic, touchless payments are more welcome than ever, with people now looking for safety from their high street experience. Could this be the future of retail?
We looked at how it works. On the way in, shoppers scan a smartphone app, shop as they would normally, and walk out – no queues, checkouts or interactions with staff needed. Instead, their Amazon account is automatically billed as they leave. Too good to be true? Stellar reviews are proving it does what it sets out to do, one Ealing shopper claiming “I felt like I was stealing things – stealing my bottle of wine.”
To make this innovation possible, the store uses hundreds of cameras, depth-sensors, and technology backed by artificial intelligence. This helps detect which items are removed from shelves and identifies goods put in shoppers’ bags. But – importantly – facial recognition is not used, which originally raised concerns over.
So why Ealing? It took the online retailer three years of research to find locations that Amazon Fresh stores would start life in. Darren Richards, Head of Real Estate at British Land, said “We are thrilled to welcome the UK’s first Amazon Fresh store to Ealing Broadway. Ealing already benefits from fantastic transport infrastructure and is set to undergo significant transformation with the opening of Crossrail and £1 billion of wider investment that will continue to enhance its appeal.”
The neighbourhood’s exciting mix of large retailers and independents stores make up 400,000 square feet of retail space and is already attracting over 16 million visitors per year – making it a no-brainer for many retailers looking to set up shop.
For locals, as well as benefitting from contactless payment, it provides them with yet another supermarket option. Stocking everything from meat and fish to fruit, veg and baked goods, it’s everything you’d expect from a grocery store. You’ll also find everyday essentials, household items and flowers – Amazon’s own-brand products sitting alongside better-known names. There’s even freshly prepared hot and cold meals and a self-serve coffee machine so Ealingers are pretty much sorted from their morning croissant to their midnight snacks. The store also doubles up as a place to collect and return goods bought online, another bonus for shoppers.
A novel idea, no doubt. And one where the novelty is unlikely to wear off. Just 15-minute walk away, JIGSAW residents can now welcome this new addition to the supermarkets, independent cafes and restaurants already on their doorstep. For those thinking of moving to the area? If Ealing was the retail giant’s first port of call, you know it’s the place to be.
Curious as to what local neighbourhood eats are in the area? You’ve lucked out –more irresistible restaurants and cafes than we have room to list. From delicious takeaways to see you through lockdown to hip hangouts for when the world reopens, here are 10 favourites that are all within walking distance from Jigsaw.
You know you’ve found a good pizzeria when it’s full of Italian diners. The award-winning Santa Maria restaurant is as authentic as it gets, using the same much-loved ingredients and traditional cooking methods as they do on the streets of Naples. Amongst the classic pizza combos, there’s a long list of vegan and gluten-free options – all topped off with affordable prices. Buon appetito!
Off the menu, try: The San Gennaro pizza, for a true taste of Naples.
Current status: Until you’re able to dine inside, have their wood-oven pizzas delivered to your door.
West London will spoil you for brilliant independent coffee shops, but this one’s up the with the best – and has inevitably become the morning ritual of many Ealingers. Their secret is small batch roasters of exceptional, ethically sourced, speciality coffee. Pick up your regular (and a flaky pastry or cronut for good measure) then stroll over to Walpole park for the perfect weekend wind down.
Off the menu, try: A latte (it’s worth it for the coffee art alone).
Current status: Open for takeaway coffee and treats and soon-to-be open for dine ins.
Nestled within the stunning grounds of Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful spot to dine in around the area. On a sunny day, grab a table in the walled garden for lunch al-fresco style, or find a cosy corner inside to sample the delicious British cuisine. Made with local ingredients and seasonal produce, it’ll keep you smiling from breakfast through to dinner time.
Off the menu, try: The Full Soane to set you up for the day.
Current status: Soanes Kitchen is ready and raring to welcome you in post-lockdown. So add this one to your ever-growing Ealing eateries list.
Maxim (or ‘Mrs Chow’s’ as it’s known by seasoned locals) has become a particular favourite in the neighbourhood. Going strong since 1974, this family-run restaurant has been tempting diners back for decades with its traditional recipes from Beijing's street markets. Its plentiful menu offers everything from succulent spare ribs to grilled dumplings and crispy chilli beef.
Off the menu, try: The aromatic crispy duck – it won’t disappoint.
Current status: Give Maxim a test run with a takeaway, then check out the spacious, 80s-style Chinese interior when the restaurant reopens.
The folk at this award-winning restaurant have fine-tuned their steak to perfection, using only the best cuts and quality-tested methods. It’s no wonder it was hailed as Ealing’s best restaurant last year. But that’s not all that’s on the menu. Buttery seabass and garlic tiger prawns will tempt fish lovers, and vegetarians aren’t forgotten – with grilled halloumi burgers amongst their delicious meat-free options. Its trendy décor and vibey atmosphere make it perfect for date night, or a casual catch up with friends.
Off the menu, try: Their seriously juicy “thick cut” steaks.
Current status: Order their steaks to cook at home or find them on Uber Eats until they open up later in the year.
Not your typical curry house, this trendy Ealing restaurant was founded by Puneet Wadhwani to recreate the snacks and dishes he once devoured as a young boy. Everything on the menu is centred around the food found at India’s iconic railway stations and on board its trains. It’s unbelievably moreish – and there’s an impressive selection of craft beers to wash it all down.
Off the menu, try: The daal makhani (slow cooked black lentils to die for).
Current status: Order in now for a lockdown feast, or keep an eye on Patri’s reopening dates.
Ealing meets Tokyo in this popular independent Japanese patisserie, with bakes so beautiful, they’re bound to dominate your Instagram feed. Be sure to take a detour here before any journey from Ealing Broadway station to stock up on freshly-made cakes and pillow-soft bread.
Off the menu, try: The white sesame cheesecake and a Kurogoma latte.
Current status: Pre order online, pick up in store, or find them on Deliveroo.
Ridiculously good, fresh food, sourced from local farms and producers is what this place does best. Even better? It’s nutritious as well as delicious. Choose from healthy lunch boxes, wraps and sandwiches, with vegan and gluten-free options and head to the park to tuck in. Best natural cafe in Ealing? We think so.
Off the menu, try: A refreshing nicecream – their new frozen thick smoothies, here just in time for summer.
Current status: Grab their food to take away during lockdown.
This little gem is the place to come for authentic Spanish small dishes, designed to share (although they’re so good, you might not want to). Sample everything from delicious seafood to crispy croquetas. Team that with Spanish music and you might flamenco all the way home.
Off the menu, try: The succulent iberico pork. And what’s tapas without paella?
Current status: Available for takeaway until the restaurant opens up again.
Finally, no foodie list is complete without a solid Sunday roast recommendation – and Red Lion offers one of Ealing's finest. As locals go, you’ve landed on a great one, complete with a lovely beer garden to while away those summer evenings. Walk off all that food and drink at Walpole Park before heading back to the apartment, a 20-minute stroll away.
Off the menu, try: Any one of their roasts, served with deliciously creamy cauliflower cheese.
Current status: Red Lion will hopefully reopen this summer. Start getting excited for that post-lockdown pint.
So there you have it. 10 of our favourites – and that’s just for starters. Ealing’s food scene continues to thrive, so you won’t run out of new places to try or new favourites to stumble upon. It’s the perfect neighbourhood to make up for those lost lockdown meals out.