The De Beauvoir Deli in De Beauvoir Town, which falls between the boundaries of Islington/Hackney.
I've always found a favorite cafe to anchor myself to wherever I've lived in London. It's probably a comfort thing. I always felt it was important to have a "go-to" place for lazy Sunday breakfasts or fresh bread and olives when you're hosting unexpected guests. In Maida Vale, we had a favorite Italian deli that sold the best parma ham and bread. We were also fans of the pancakes and hot breakfasts at the American-owned and run Plan 9. In Angel, we rolled out of bed and straight into the ramshackle, mom 'n pop, Rheidol Cafe (which was hardly ever opened, it seemed) and in Dalston, it's The De Beauvoir Deli that's been a firm favorite for lunch and afternoon cake, along with Reilly Rocket for breakfast and brunch.
Although the deli can become quite hectic and overcrowded (and service sometimes slow as a result - I once waited 20 minutes for my sandwich to be made, but it was worth it!), if you hit it at the right time and can bag a seat in the corner, then you're set for an hour or two. John and I are huge fans of their roast beef and horseradish sandwich, made on freshly baked, soft brown bread, although when I went last weekend, I also fell in love with the minestrone soup.
Did I mention that it's a great place for last-minute gifts? Perfect for say, if you're running late to a dinner party, or if you're looking for a present for a foodie. I noticed that they sell Prestat drinking chocolate and truffles, along with some very unique chutneys and sauces. Last year, I bought my brother a selection of hot sauces, since he's obsessed with the condiment (especially the kind at Nando's).
Their cakes are always impossible to resist: above is a slice of their gluten-free lemon cake, which, despite sharing with John, I managed to polish off in no time.
If you're in the area, I'd suggest stopping by.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Monday, February 25, 2013
I feel kind of wrong doing it, even though I know that, technically, I'm not doing anything wrong - I'm not causing a disturbance or blocking people from collecting their tickets by simply walking through. But, at the same time, it feels wrong because the ROH is like hallowed ground to me: it's home to one of the greatest ballet and opera companies in the world, and I'm strolling through on my way to the gym.
Like Big Ben, the ROH is a place that never ceases to amaze me. Often, I've contemplated about leaving London - sometimes when I'm feeling restless or bored or frustrated or homesick or sick or annoyed, I think about leaving my life here behind and starting anew. I know it'll still be waiting here for me. But then I'll walk through the ROH, or glimpse the London Eye and Southbank from Waterloo Bridge (which happens to be my favorite view of London) and think, "Not quite yet. I'm not ready to give this up just yet." I only wonder when I will.
What about you? Do you have any favorite shortcuts, whether it's on foot or by car? Or some other method of transportation?
Monday, February 18, 2013
I received this beautifully wrapped package this morning from Anna, and it made me go, "Awwww!!!" aloud at my desk:
I can just tell that I'm going to become quickly addicted to the Strawberry Creme chicks dipped in milk chocolate. Sigh. I honestly don't understand why these haven't made their way across the pond yet. Oh wait, yes I do.
Thank you, Anna! You make this Angloyankophile feel very, very loved!
Isn't it beautiful? The underside of the heart bears a lovely Valentine's Day message and I'm currently looking for a piece of wire/string so that I can hang it up in my office.
Once opened, I was ecstatic to find Valentine's Peeps carefully preserved within the pink tissue paper:
Thank you, Anna! You make this Angloyankophile feel very, very loved!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Which is why it was no surprise that, as I snuggled deep into my down comforter this morning, reminiscing about the delicious slice of apple cake and custard I had yesterday at Mood for Food on Essex Road, I suddenly threw off the covers and shouted (yes, to myself, since John had long since left for work), "OH MY GOD. I NEVER PAID FOR THAT CAKE. OR THE TEA."
Embarrassing? It felt downright criminal. I'm such a goody-two-shoes and rule-follower that this sort of thing horrifies me.
How could this have happened? Well, I retraced my steps. I had a lot on my mind and was waiting for Ruth to arrive so that I could spill my guts to her. In the meantime, I ordered my cake and tea, took out my wallet to pay, and was handed a table number by the man behind the counter. Mentally reminding myself to pay at the end instead, I took the number to my table and sat down. Then I changed tables because the obnoxious chatter of the women behind me was annoying. Then I changed tables again, because another group of obnoxious women came in. Then I changed tables for a third time, Ruth arrived, ordered, we sat down, I spilled my guts out, picked up my groceries, and left. Without paying.
So, this morning, praying that they'd be open, I walked in and explained the situation to the woman behind the counter, who remembered me from yesterday but seemed a little bemused by the whole situation. I gave her my £5 note but then felt the need to explain that I honestly had forgotten and hadn't intended to run off without paying.
Anyway, the cake was delicious, if you're wondering. My advice is to pay in advance - especially if you're in a distracted state-of-mind!
Monday, February 4, 2013
About three weeks ago, I contacted one of John's best friends, Rob, and presented to him my plan: I wanted to throw John a surprise birthday party at our place, inviting all of his/our friends, but needed to get him out of the flat for as many hours as possible during the day so that I could prepare without him getting suspicious. Rob all-too-readily accepted the challenge, and roped in two other friends to lure John out of the flat with the promise of watching the Six Nations rugby game (a big one, conveniently, as it was England v. Scotland) at a pub in the City (what ensued was the most hilarious chain of boy banter I've ever read, btw. Why do guys have a secret language?).
Obviously, the lack of suspicion failed, because in Week 2 of planning what Rob had dubbed, "Operation Calcutta Cup", John saw right through my lies and knew I was up to something. "Rob mentioned getting the boys together and watching Six Nations in a few weeks' time," John said to me a day after I had hatched my plan. "Oh yeah?" I said, casually, as I folded laundry. "We have a huge projector, so why don't I get them to come over instead?" he said. "That won't work," I replied quickly. "I've got so much ... work ... to do at home. I need some peace and quiet." He looked at me. "You're SUCH a bad liar," he said. "You're planning something!" I simply walked away and wrote to Rob: "He's on to me!" I knew that John knew something was up, but I was confident that he didn't know the scope of who'd be involved. I had gotten in touch with some of his closest school and university friends through Facebook, who were all enthusiastic about the idea of a surprise party and more than happy to attend.
Fast forward to the day of the party: I made sure to mope around the flat the whole morning in my pajamas, waiting for John to get out of the house while simultaneously complaining about how "tired" I was and how much paperwork I had to get through that weekend. I even managed a, "I wish you weren't going to the pub" pitiful look. As soon as I heard the door lock behind him, however, I sprung into action: calling Alice and Jodi over to say the coast was clear, moving tables and arranging chairs, waiting for the Sainsbury's delivery of over £100 worth of booze to arrive, and getting dressed.
Alice and I headed over to Party Party (what a name, right?) in Dalston for helium-filled balloons and party decorations (which ended up looking AMAZING), while Jodi helped prepare snacks at my place. 5:30 (when I asked people to start arriving) rolled around in no time, but when no one showed up then, I panicked and texted Rob, telling him to delay John for as long as possible. Sure enough, at 6 pm sharp, when I had asked everyone to arrive by, the doorbell started ringing and didn't stop!
Soon, there were 20 of John's best friends gathered around, waiting to surprise him. When I got the text from Rob telling me that they were on their way, we turned off the lights, got very quiet, and waited for the sound of the key in the lock. We had candles in two of the cupcakes that Alice and I had been feverishly baking for the past hour or so, and all was in place.
When John walked in and we shouted, "SURPRISE!" the expression on his face was priceless (and one that we can re-live thanks to Bindy's quick-thinking skills of filming the scene as it unfolded on John's iPad mini). It made me so happy to see him so happy and I knew the weeks of my secretive planning had led to a success.
For the rest of the night, we caught-up with each other, ate these ...
... which Alice and I made from a recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook (the cake stand is from Oliver Bonas, in case you're wondering).
We somehow ended up at Passing Clouds until 3 a.m., with John delightfully and deliriously happy-drunk, repeatedly asking for a KFC "Zinger burger" (we had to settle for Dixy's, instead, as KFC isn't exactly an 24-hour establishment).
This was the aftermath the next day:
All in all, it was a terrific evening. And what did I learn? Firstly, John has some amazing friends, who obviously love him very, very much. Secondly, planning surprise parties is fun. I wouldn't rule out doing another one at some point in the near future! Thirdly, never underestimate just how many pizzas or beers you'll need - you'll always need more.
What about you? Have you ever pulled off a successful surprise party before and were there any close calls to the surprise being spoiled?