Generally speaking I try to avoid brands that describe themselves as ‘budget’ and which boast brash blue and yellow colours as their corporate livery.
So when a Lidl store opened on the outskirts of a nearby village over a year ago, I just ignored it and blocked off my ears as numerous friends described the interesting products from other countries and the bargains that could be had.
Eventually curiosity led me to check it out and with the exception of the pitted black cherries (excellent for making desserts) I wasn't impressed.
I was put off by the fact that my fellow shoppers were mostly stocking up on extra-strong lager at 10.00 in the morning. (Is this the reason why the 'i' in the Lidl logo appears to be falling over I wonder?)
Its approach to customer service meanwhile, seemed to be modelled on Ryanair's. In this case the ‘no frills’ approach meant no check-out staff. As a long queue of people formed at the cash desk the only assistant in the store blithely carried on stocking shelves.
But last week I revisited Lee-delle (it sounds so much better pronounced the French way!) and discovered that it had launched a Deluxe range. There was actually stuff that I wanted to buy, including Italian biscotti, Spanish Manchego cheese and some great organic stuff - free range eggs (€1.59) and carrots (€1.19 a kilo).
I have no idea how the German store treats its suppliers or whether or not it has any ethical policies but I was impressed by some of the new produce.
The 'Selection Deluxe' I figured, was Lidl pandering to its secret middle-class shoppers. But apparently not. The line has been introduced for Easter only.
I never thought I’d find myself writing these words but, deep breath .... here are my top Easter buys from Lee-delle.
And better get a move on people, as some of this stuff is selling out FAST.
1) Chateau de Carolle Graves 2009 - at €4 a bottle this crisp Bordeaux white, which was commended in the Decanter World Wine Awards, tastes way more expensive than it costs.
2) Manchego cheese, €2.99. Goes brilliantly with (1) above as an aperitif.
3) Red Sweet Paprika Crisps €0.89 - delicious gourmet crisps and no monosodium glutomate.
4) Pain d’Epices Raisin, €1.79 - only one left on the shelf when I popped in this afternoon. Apparently it goes brilliantly with foie gras but I like it spread with Echire butter (produced in the Poitou-Charentes and said to be the best butter in France.)
5) Wild Caught King Prawns - with shells, tails and veins removed, these are ready to go and tout simples to use for paellas and barbecues.
6) Cantuccini almond biscuits from €1.99 - ideal for dunking in coffee.
And finally, one to avoid:
The Demi Lune Mushroom and Truffle pasta, €2.29 - sounds so promising but smells more like diesel than truffle oil, with mouse grey stuffing that tastes of precisely rien.