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Every expat has their favorite Marks & Spencer treats. I tend to gravitate towards snack items like the wasabi peas or the chewy, white chocolate chip cookies, whereas my hardcore baking friends count on them for the oddball ingredients called for in Jamie Oliver recipes. But now, in addition to their usual goodies, the luxury world of M&S Simply Food awaits you at the Černý Most, Chodov, and Václavské náměstí locations.
When I first checked-out M&S’s fresh foods shop on Václavák, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall effect—it comes off as a cute, little boutique grocery. Most of their offerings would fall into the “posh picnic” category—from shrimp layered salad to couscous and Singapore noodles. There’s also a dairy section, a meat cooler, a bakery, and fresh produce.
Then my eyes zeroed in on the price tags. The biggest shocker for me wasn’t the overpriced seafood sandwich or even the bite size piece of carrot cake for 40 CZK, it was the potatoes—two plastic-wrapped jacket potatoes for 45 CZK and a kilo bag of new potatoes for 60 CZK. And yet one Czech friend of mine, who’s a M&S regular, swears there’s a huge difference in quality, that the potatoes in supermarkets are often from last season and have a slightly sweet taste (meaning they’d been left in the ground after the frost).
I hung around the area for a while, curious to see if anybody would actually grab a bag, but the draw of the meat cooler—chock-full of sausages, steaks, bacon, burgers, and lamb chops—proved too irresistible. Somehow a 250g package of unsmoked streaky bacon (80 CZK) and six chorizo sausage (125 CZK) made their way into my basket. The chorizo proved spicy and of course delicious, though not exactly what chorizo is supposed to taste like. And the bacon, well, what’s not to like? Everything is “M&S assured” from British farms and contains a high percentage of actual meat.
My pocketbook screaming at me to call it quits, I bypassed the rest of the fresh produce section, mainly salad-in-a-bag type things and mixed fruit salads. But I still wanted some cheese. The blueberry Stilton looked amazing; I got a 30g sampler block of red Leicester and extra mature cheddar for 15 CZK apiece.
I looked down at my basket to take inventory before paying and saw that it was mainly full of meat—bacon, chorizo, Scotch eggs (46 CZK), and a Melton Mowbray pork pie (40 CZK). Now, before I delve into what that could possibly mean on a personal level (an iron deficiency, a vegan phobia…?), I believe it’s a mostly accurate reflection of what’s worth buying (many of these cuts cannot be found in a Czech supermarket) and, of course, the Scotch eggs and pork pie were to keep in the British spirit. (By the way, each Scotch egg contains one whole free-range egg, not bad for pub food.)
I decided to round out my selection with a 600g portion of Moroccan-style Chicken Soup (94 CZK) since everyone always raves about M&S soups which are free of artificial flavorings or colors. The soup had generous chunks of chicken breast along with tomatoes and lentils, and it almost tasted homemade. I was also tempted to buy a package of seasoned scallops with chorizo because the contrasting red and white colors made such a pretty picture, but I was able to restrain myself just in time. (I’d forgo the liability of a wheel-able basket next time.) Other items in the seafood section include prawns, mussels, salmon, cod, and haddock.
Strangely enough, besides the soup, I had completely skipped out on the ready-made meals.
There was a time in my life that gourmet pre-packaged meals would have been a special treat, but when I moved away from the States some 10 years ago, I left that fat free, ready-made culture behind. Browsing around M&S, I realized that it didn’t even appeal to me anymore (cue corny self-realization music). But if that’s your thing, then M&S’ expanded selection now offers plenty of natural and healthy options.
250g package of unsmoked streaky bacon (80 CZK)
Six-pack of chorizo sausage (125 CZK)
Two-pack of Scotch eggs (46 CZK)
Melton Mawbrey pork pie (40 CZK)
30g sampler block of red Leicester (15 CZK)
30 sampler block of extra-mature cheddar (15 CZK)
600g portion of Moroccan-style Chicken Soup (94 CZK)
WHERE: Václavské náměstí, Prague 1
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Metro Můstek
OPENING HOURS: Mon-Fri 09:30–20:30, Sat-Sun 10:00–20:00
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