Do you know how lucky we are to have a butcher and a fishmonger in Kentish Town Road? Something like 70 per cent of both have disappeared from the nation’s High Streets over the last two or three decades. The shopping arcades in Fortess Road and Brecknock Road used to have a butcher; there was once a good fishmonger at the top of Highgate Road; all are long gone.
That alone would be reason to support Harry’s Fine Foods. The greater reason is that Harry’s is so good. Most of the meat is organic. Most fish comes from day-boats fishing out of Brixham, in Devon. He is an excellent cook who keeps his takeaway counter stocked with delicious dishes unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in NW5.
Ahad Dasht, AKA Harry, is originally from Iran and has owned this shop (formerly known as B&M Seafoods/Pure Meat Company) since 2000. He runs the shop with one full-time staff, Daniel Mamedov, and two part-timers: Jeff Lindsey, a butcher with over half a century of experience, and his wife Tanya Dasht.
You’ll find cheaper meat and fish at local supermarkets, but the pertinent comparison is with meat and fish of comparable quality. You’d have to travel a good distance to get them, and you would usually pay a much higher price. To take one example: Harry’s sells chicken (known to his customers as Brian’s chickens) from a small poultry farmer in Devon. Cost: £6.50 a kilo. At Lidgate’s in Holland Park, a butcher regularly cited as one of London’s best, chickens of slightly lesser quality sell for £13.50 a kilo.
Harry’s offerings are not consistent in the way that supermarket products are consistent. Sometimes the fish are bigger, sometimes smaller – it all depends on what the boats bring up in their nets. Sometimes there’s a mountain of monkfish, sometimes there’s none. Sometimes the lamb is leaner or fatter because that is the way of free-range and organic farming – and of the seasons.
Quality of produce is just part of what you get from good purveyors like Harry. Quality of advice is just as important. If you want to make an Ottolenghi fish curry, Harry will tell you which fish to use. If you don’t know how long to roast your rolled shoulder of pork, he will guide you.
Harry always looks for ways to expand and improve what he offers our community. He has started opening for half-days on Sunday. With advance notice he can deliver your purchases. He will put together barbecue packs, and weekly meat boxes to cut down your shopping time. Special orders are welcome, not just at Christmas but all year round. There is always something new and intriguing on the takeaway counter.
How many good reasons have I given to explain why Harry’s Matters? I’ve lost count. The ultimate proof is in the shopping.
Go in and have a look for yourself, if you haven’t already. We need Harry, and Harry needs us.
Words & Pics: Richard Ehrlich
Why It Matters comes in association with Discount Insurance, whose boss is a fan of our daily digest and lives in NW5 (and is a fan of Harry’s, natch)