Bubble and Chic: British food in Belgium, a taste of home
Longing for a bit of British flavour? Faye Cardwell discovers Stonemanor is a British oasis in Belgium - complete with a Waitrose supermarket, favourite English foods and British brands.
I already mentioned in my post about why I love Belgium that you can get crumpets and scones in the supermarkets but Stonemanor goes a lot further.
Stonemanor is a piece of England in the middle of the Belgian countryside. Located at Everberg, just 20km from the centre of Brussels down the E40, the green fields and the country lane couldn't be a better setting for a quintessentially English shopping experience.
Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes.
Just in case you were in any doubt you're in the wrong the place to find an English supermarket, the red telephone box tells you you're not. Step inside the sliding doors and you're welcomed by the sound of BBC radio 2 and a chirpy 'hello' from behind the counter. It's rather like walking into Narnia.
There are three floors to explore. If you've ever found yourself looking disappointedly at the dull selection of greetings cards in Belgian shops, the first floor is a real treat. Hallmark heaven with rows of cards created for every possible occasion and relation you could think of. Here you'll also find a selection of English books, DVDs, children's games and a few household items – read: lots of jubilee tea towels, Christmas tablecloths, teapots and gadgets.
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The second floor is usually a showcase for larger pieces of furniture and catalogues for John Lewis and Argos so if you're not planning on making a trip back to the UK but really need something in particular, you can make your order and then come back to pick it up. For the Christmas season, the attic is filled with Christmas crackers, decorations, gift wrap and the Xmas essential paper plates and serviettes.
If those UK-starved shoppers were able to control themselves on the other two floors, the ground floor supermarket may prove too much. It's a proper Waitrose supermarket in Belgium and if you're like me, a long-term expat, you'll find yourself muttering, "Oh, I've not had that for years," every time your eye lands anywhere.
Angel delight, Marmite, monster munch, pork pies, water crackers, lemon curd, smoked cheddar, herbs, spices and sauces, everything you can need to make an Indian banquet, chocolate-covered hobnobs and all the breakfast cereals you could ever want (Alpen!). If you picked up a basket at the entrance, half way round you may realise you needed a trolley.
There's a full wall of magazines (at prices which are just converted from pounds), household cleaning products, pet food, vitamins and a section of kitchenware meaning that once you've set eyes on the mincemeat, you'll find that baking your own mince pies rather than buying them sounds like a great idea.
They also have a good selection of chilled goods (including skimmed milk!) and a cheese counter with English cheeses.
No cantal here
Stonemanor also sells European Royal Mail stamps so if you wanted to send a friend a card with a UK stamp, you can. It takes a little longer as the post has to go via the UK but it could be worth it to dupe a true Anglophile.
As the cashier says on the way out, "If you come here for one thing, take a basket, if you came for three, take a trolley and if you came to stock up – bring a friend to help you with the packing." He's not half wrong.
Stonemanor also has an outlet in Waterloo (smaller). You can see their website for details.
Having lived in five different countries, Faye Cardwell enjoys sharing her travel adventures and experiences of life as an expat on her hobby blog Bubble and Chic. She has been working in the world of wine for almost 10 years, and travels the globe organising trade fairs, events and promotions for consortiums and regional promotional bodies.
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