A local shop for local people

May 20, 2015

When I moved into my flat on the Peckham/Dulwich borders three years ago, I noticed a funny little shop round the corner on Wood Vale. Named Libretto & Daughters, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me what it was all about.

A mish-mash of a window display, plus a couple of derelict New-York yellow cabs in the forecourt, it could have been as easily a junk shop as a car repair shop.

Libretto & Daughter on Wood Vale, SE22

Libretto & Daughters on Wood Vale, SE22

What it is, in fact, is a fantastic, proper old-school butcher. Run by Kim Libretto (not sure where the daughter is) for the last 30-odd years, it causes a fair amount of debate in the locality. Some people think, because it isn’t neatly set out like a supermarket meat section, it must be a bit dodgy.

Others – ie those who know their rump from their shoulder – love it. I am in firmly in the second camp.

Entering the shop, you won’t find much on display in the chill cabinets, bar a couple of trays of Kim’s excellent homemade sausages. That’s because everything is kept out back, in the form of whole carcasses, ready to be cut to order.

As Kim hauls out entire lambs, pigs or venison, and sets to work cutting chops, fillets and joints, to each customer’s exact request, he’ll chat away, giving advice on the perfect gravy, which cut is best for the barbecue, and where exactly and by whom your venison was shot.

This, as you can imagine, takes time. Which is why you’ll often see a slow-moving queue in the shop. But Kim’s loyal customers love him for it, and it’s all part of the enjoyment of buying from him.

Last weekend, I went in for a joint of pork. I was thinking belly, for a long slow roast, with lots of lovely crispy crackling. When I asked him for this, Kim raised a finger and silently went out to the back room. He came back with an immaculately boned and prepared shoulder of pork.

A perfectly boned shoulder of pork, for a good roasting

A perfectly boned shoulder of pork, ready for a good roasting

It had been hung, he told me, so the skin was good and dry, making for perfect crackling. And the meat itself was so juicy and tender, there was no need for the three or four hours a pork shoulder often needs. Kim advised an hour and a half. And, as usual, Kim was right.

Fennel seeds, orange zest, thyme and garlic, to flavour the prok

Fennel seeds, orange zest, thyme and garlic, to flavour the pork

To flavour the pork, I bashed a few fennels seeds, mixed them with some orange zest and thyme, then smeared that over the skin with some salt and pepper and olive oil. I sliced up the rest of the orange, placed it in a baking tray with a couple of bay leaves and a few cloves of garlic, then plonked the pork on top.

The pork shoulder, ready for the oven

The pork shoulder, ready for the oven

A blast at the highest temperature in the oven for 20 minutes ensured the crackling would, well, crackle, then another hour and 15 minutes at a lower temperature resulted in a juicy, tender roast, full of good porky flavours. I chucked in a sliced leek for the last 20 minutes, which braised in the fat and juice of the pork. Some braised fennel and carrots and some creamy mashed potatoes finished off the Sunday treat.

Roast shoulder of pork

Roast shoulder of pork




5 Responses to “A local shop for local people”

  1. teamgloria Says:

    This took me back to growing up in England and the butchers with huge hands and kind smiles giving advice, always prefaced with a: “Now what you need here love is some…..” followed by excellent suggestions, like you said, on gravy. It’s not the same at all, but Wholefoods here in west hollywood is bringing back the conversation —–I bought something from the counter the other day and thought I’d ask a question and they were very knowledgeable (the British accent always intrigues them here of course) and it felt good. You painted such an evocative image of the Dulwich border butcher (but if you can find out what happened to the daughter I’d love to know. Sounds like there might be an excellent story possibly involving Gretna Green and a wartime dash…….stop me before I get carried away 😉


    _sophia x

    • Thanks so much Sophia! That makes me happy to know I’m bringing back some good home memories for you.
      It’s a really special shop – one of those rare places in London where strangers talk to each other. When there’s a queue, the conversations Kim is having with the other customers are well worth joining, making it all a very sociable experience.
      And yes, I must find out what happened to the daughter. There are several signed posters of professional boxers on the shop walls, so maybe she ran away with one of them!

      • I’ve just found this post while googling for Kim’s opening hours. He has been part of our lives for over a decade, which sounds very odd when talking about a butcher! But in between supplying us with fantastic meat cut to order, we’ve chatted and chatted. I cannot recommend him highly enough! By the way, Kim’s youngest daughter still lives with him I think. The ‘daughters’ was because so many traditional businesses are ‘& son’ and Kim didn’t have a son for quite a while. Of course he does actually have a (rock star) son now, which adds to the confusion, but the sign was made before that happened. See, all clear!

  2. Thank you for clearing up the “Daughter” mystery! And the rock star son – I’d got the jist of that from overheard conversations there, although I still haven’t worked out the band he’s in. Can you enlighten me on that one too?

    Sadly, I’ve since moved a little further away from Kim’s, so don’t get down there as often as I’d like. But it’s always a joy to go and shop there.

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