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2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Top billing for Billing's, Sydenham's butcher and fishmonger

Billing's: butcher and fishmonger – 45 Sydenham Road, London SE26

The very welcome revival of butchers and, to a lesser extent, fishmongers in this part of South London continues to gather pace. The latest arrival is the very good Billing's in Sydenham's main street – aptly named Sydenham Road in SE26. The fish section opened first in the latter part of 2010 with the butchery section last year, so now Billing's has been fully opened for a little over six months and I have been using them for two or three months and have been very pleased with the quality of their produce and the helpful and friendly service.

During the 1990s good butchers and fishmongers in this part of London became an extinct species. There used to be a very good and popular butcher in Kirkdale – Miles & Son. Sadly they disappeared overnight – perhaps they went bust? Absurdly for one of the world's leading capital cities it became necessary to travel five or six miles either to Hesters (now closed) near Vauxhall Bridge or to Portwine (Covent Garden but now also closed). For some reason I was never aware of the nearby and highly regarded K & J Libretto & Daughters in Wood Vale, which is only a 10-15 minute walk away.
Billings sign

Things got better at the end of the 1990s and beginning of the new millenium with the opening up of Borough market but that has now become more and more crowded and expensive, so it is good to see high quality local butchers coming back here. William Rose in Lordship Lane started the renaissance in 2005 when they moved from Vauxhall. Although it is very popular with queues outside the door from early on a Saturday morning this has never been a favourite of mine, partly because they don't accept credit or debit cards which is a real pain these days. I've always been much happier with the nearby fishmonger – the card-accepting Moxon's, whose East Dulwich branch is just across the road.

More recently Geoff Sargeant opened further up Lordship Lane (348) near The Plough and the Dulwich Library. His beef was particularly good but again, like William Rose, no credit or debit cards, nor was he very welcoming, although his assistant was but he has now moved to Billing's, who do take cards! With a couple of days notice they are very happy to order anything you want – we had a couple of fine hares at the beginning of December. Enjoyed a very good plump pheasant earlier this week and a delicious sea bass and some raw prawns for grilling last night.

Billing's opening hours: Monday to Saturday inclusive

So much more enjoyable buying from someone who knows what they are selling, rather than from a supermarket, and quality for quality it is no more expensive. Indeed their free-range eggs are considerably cheaper. Also it's brilliant to be able to buy fish and meat at the same time.

It looks like the apostrophe in Billings/Billing's is optional. Billing's is used on their website but on the signs outside the shop there isn't an apostrophe. Take your choice!

45 Sydenham Road
SE26 5EX
Phone: 020-8659 2781

Billing's shopfront


Hervé LALAU said...

To me, simple Frenchman, butcher and fishmonger are completely different trades, re training, craftsmanship, selection of suppliers,slicing, etc... so I don't se how a specialist shop can claim to be both. We do have bouchers-charcutiers, here. We even used to have specialised tripiers-volaillers and boucheries chevalines. But I bever saw a boucher-poissonnier.
Anyway, I hope the revival of specialists food-shops will hit the continent very soon.

Anonymous said...

Thing of the past up here Jim. Always remember mother in UK going to fishmonger to buy hare!

Bob Alberta.

Jim Budd said...

Much esteemed Hervé: thank you for your comment which is a perfect illustration of the difference between the French and the English, used in the proper sense rather than British, which is something else. The French think vertically, while the English laterally.

There are two distinct sections – fish and meat – within Billing's each with their own skilled staff.

Anonymous said...

I think the congestion charge zone did for Hesters, although I understood that they moved rather than closed

Jim Budd said...

Thanks Anon. Would be good news if they had moved but haven't so far been able to find a new address for them as they aren't at 344 kennington Lane anymore.

Luc Charlier said...

Jim, Hervé just beat me on the pole, as I was about to make the same remark. Yet, I’m no “simple Frenchie” but an intricated Fleming. I don’t doubt for a second that both teams are skilled: the fishy ones and the meaty ones. Only, apart from the English – and the Welsh or the Cornish – no single food-loving European (this excludes ipso facto the Dutch, but that goes without saying) would ever think the same supplier can be good at finding the right meat AND the right seafood. These are DIFFERENT connections.
This does not mean to say the staffs are inadequate, or even that the goods are not decent. It only means you don’t get the real stuff. You just can’t. For the whole of the city of Brussels (and look at the big money European civil servants spend there), you only find 3 companies delivering good seafood to all the restaurants and caterers of the area and even the province. But you have butchers in a plenty.
For the same token, when I used to spend my summer holidays learning English on the pillow of various – older - schoolgirls or teenagers in Kent, Essex or Sussex, we frequently enjoyed a day in London. At that time, some Marks & Spencer’s branches possessed a “food department” as well, mostly downstairs. Tell me about Coco Chanel slaughtering Angus beef on her premises !
Yes: “Comment peut-on être Persan ? »

Jim Budd said...

Luc. Merci mais by the same token a vigneron can only be good at either viticulture or winemaking – very different skills...

As Chevalier Hervé commented yesterday morning far from it being 'by a pole' he has beaten you by a country mile.

N Smith said...

Just came acros your post.

I must say that I've been using Billings for about a year.

I've found the quality of the meat to be superb, I also by my salmon steaks from here.

I no longer by meat from the supermarket, other than mince. I've found steak, oxtail, lamb to be cheaper and far superior in like for like quality than any of the supermarkets./

The staff are friendly too.

I just called to order some boar and they are happy to do so.

They have definitely covered a niche here on sydenham Road and I for one am glad they have chosen to set up shop here and hope they don't leave anytime soon.

Jim Budd said...

N. Smith. I entirely agree. Very helpful and willing staff. Happy to order what you want eg grey mullet difficult to get these days.

If we can spread the word they should have a good future.