Category Archives: Deli

Mirror, mirror

The mornings before winter decided to ice London’s sidewalks I would walk to work. The highlight of my brisk 30-minute commute was pounding the sidewalk, drenched in the aroma of fresh coffee, outside Caffe l’Angolo Bianco. In the 18 months that I have sometimes walked down Crawford Street I never stopped for a cup. Until today.

The deli is no bigger than a largeish bedroom. Two counters and four round tables squeeze into one half of the room; a deli counter in the other half. The walls are lined with boxes of Panettone Verdi, Panettone Venezia, Il Panettone Bauli, Cantuccini alla Mandorla… in honour of Christmas. I ordered a cappuccino and a tomato-avocado-mozzarella sandwich and settled in for the morning.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was the only stranger in the room. The Italian owner knew everyone else. She asked after the gay couple’s sick dog; the soccer kid’s mum (out shopping while dad played dad); she asked the old man how he was coping after his wife’s death. For the first time that I can remember, a restaurant was more like a family’s living room and I, the gatecrasher to this party.

I order another cappuccino; I didn’t really want another but I also didn’t want to leave this family just yet. A gentle energy connected everyone in the deli and the temptation to be included was too sweet to ignore. A few more unwanted cappuccinos and several more interesting stories make me think of another party I’ve gatecrashed: London. I do a bloody good job of pretending to have settled in but no matter how well I know the streets, how much I love the X Factor, or how used to the weather I get, London will always be someone else’s city. Things changed a few months ago. The miracle of Facebook reconnected me with myself.

I found Shakha, Sailaja and Sree Lakshmi in London. Deepa, Sharmeen and Chanveen in the US. Shairi and Anuja in Bombay. They are mirrors I lost a long time ago. Today, when I stand before these mirrors they show me my reflection before life changed it, for better and for worse. I don’t just get to see what I want to see, but I see all that I am too scared, proud or hesitant to look for; the good, the bad, but especially the good.

London will never be home but through these friends from school a little bit of home is now with me in London. Being able to unhesitatingly ask a friend if she wants to meet “this evening” as opposed to “three weeks from Friday (if nothing else comes up)” is a joyous relief. And when I ask for an opinion, I know I will get nothing but kind honesty.

Its finally time to leave Caffe l’Angolo Bianco. Just as I reached for the door the lady of the house walked up to me and reached for my hand. She placed a cookie in my palm and said, “You will like it. Now come again, okay?”

-p

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Filed under Breakfast, Cafe, Coffee, Deli, Italian, London

Make a wish

Mount Street, in London’s Mayfair, is not for the weak of heart, or of wallet. When I read of a new delicatessen that promised to offer the best of what Mount Street’s celebrated (read: expensive) establishments serve, I couldn’t resist. From Annabel’s chocolate cake to Harry’s Bar pizzas, here was the promise of a new affordable option I prayed would not disappoint.

The original plan was to get there for brunch. But a big night out at Vertigo 42 (fabulous views, snooty service) and Viajante (still the best Skye Julep) ensured I didn’t get to the Mount Street Deli until well after lunch time. The Deli is heart-warming. It is teeny and packed with so much deliciousness that I couldn’t help but fall in love at first sight. The adorable waiter helped me choose my Roast Veg and Manchego Foccacia (£6) and settled me into one of their two tables outside. I sipped on the most perfect cappuccino (£2.80, second only to my favourite at Flat White in Soho) and lusted at Louboutin’s window across the street.

The Deli has been sent up for the Cipriani guys by Hannah Gutteridge. Her passion for food doesn’t show on her dress size, but is clearly evident in the food on display. I had to tell her how much I loved the sandwich. And she made me promise I would come back for more. I will.

One of the many joys of eating alone, I discover, is that I am not distracted by having to make conversation. Today I could eavesdrop in peace. The table next to me was occupied by a dashing American, an old Paul Newman in his 80s. He was on the phone to (I later find out), his 96-year old neighbour. He spent several minutes describing the menu to her in the hope that he could bring her something to eat. Just before giving up he said, “I think I may have to marry you Alice, you’re the only woman I know who doesn’t ever need anything!”

His corn chowder arrived and he said to the waiter, “I do hope this is delicious, then I will be a very, very satisfied man”.

Satisfaction. I have been thinking about this all week. At the moment I seem to be surrounded by people who don’t seem satisfied, in spite of having their “one wish” come true. There is the girl at the office who has been miserable at work for as long as I’ve known her. She was finally offered a dream job with a dream company and she could barely bring herself to crack a smile. Then there is this friend from home. For the 10 years she has spent in a loving relationship, she has yearned for her parents approval. And when that finally happened, all she could manage to say about the official meeting of the parents was “as well as could be expected”. And then there is Carrie Bradshaw who spent 94 TV episodes and one movie trying to get the man she loves to love her back. And now that he does, she chooses to shroud the stability of their love in a hideous caricature of TV and take-out.

What is it about our dreams coming true that scares us so much? The possibility that we won’t have something to work towards? The probability that we will never be satisfied, no matter how many wishes comes true? Or is it that we spend so much time wishing for something that we are afraid to admit that we may not want it anymore?

So for a New York minute, but only for the minute, I wonder if I should stop wishing for my dreams to come true? And then I remember this from an episode of One Tree Hill:

“Make a wish, place it in your heart, anything you want. Everything you want.

 Do you have it? Good. Now believe it can come true. You never know where the next miracle is gonna come from, the next smile, the next wish come true.
But if you believe it is right around the corner, and you open your heart and mind to the possibility of it, to the certainty of it…
…you just might get the thing your wishing for.
The world is full of magic. You just have to believe in it. So make your wish. Do you have it?
Good. Now believe in it. With all your heart.”

Go ahead, make your wish…

-p

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Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Deli, London

Baby steps

I was single for four years before I met the Ex. In between one story and the next I moved to London and for the first time was completely responsible for myself. To twist Spiderman’s words slightly, “with great responsibility came great loneliness”. Yes it was my choice; didn’t make it easier though, knowing it was your decision all the way.

When I first moved to London I had to force myself to go out on my own. My first solo trip to the cinema was a traumatic experience and I remember running home even before the end credits started rolling. I’ve come a long way from that trip to Odeon Swiss Cottage. In the last few years I’ve learnt to love the journey of discovering this vibrant city and myself. I used to love hanging out with myself. Just before I met the Ex my favourite Sunday activity used to be a Table for ONE at a lovely new restaurant. Then I met someone and there began a rosy life as a couple. I forgot what it was to spend time with myself and now find myself at the beginning of a long, solitary road I thought I had left behind forever.

I am not looking back. But trying to move forward is very, very hard. Encouraged by the overwhelming feedback to my first blog post and the Bank Holiday sunshine I walked into Hyde Park this morning. What a bad idea! In no time at all I found myself on the path my Ex and I used to frequent when we walked his dog. I am clearly not yet ready to reminisce. The Elephant Parade amuses me for a minute but I had to get out of there.

I needed to be somewhere safe, somewhere that was just mine. 30 minutes later I find myself at Flat White. The relief as I walk into the familiarity of this narrow coffee bar is obvious and I waste no time at all finding myself a seat. As I wait for the sexy barista to bring me my Flattie (£2.50) I put away my iPod, my book, the notebook with ideas for my blog posts, and the phone. I’m safe now and can deal with a cup-of-coffee worth of thoughts. I miss him immediately; I fight the urge to distract myself and instead let myself miss him. Baby steps.

-p

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Filed under Breakfast, Coffee, Deli, London, Soho London