Lava, Deli, Neukölln

LavaThe storefront that precedes Lavanderia Vecchia is now home to Lava. A deli with mossy green walls and checkered tiles on the floor. A lone ham and 4 long salamis greet me when I come in. Doilies are pinned to the furniture at random intervals while barren wrought iron candle holders decorate the wall.

The space is large; I count 4 rooms one of which is also the kitchen. On Saturday afternoon, there are two tables besides our own but not at the same time. The customers speak English and I wonder if they have made the trip especially since outside, it’s mostly Turkish men reclining on fold out chairs and smoking effusively.Lava

The menu is small and scatty or one could also call it eclectic to put a more positive spin on it. There is a cold cucumber yogurt soup (€4.90). Spaghetti with vegetable Bolognese (€6.50) that is like a miniature ratatouille, one that uncharacteristically (and unfortunately), includes carrots. The vegetables are cut into brunoise, which shows me there is pride and care in the kitchen. The pasta has passed al dente and entered stodge town, which alongside the carrots, lets the dish down. Read more of this post

La Fromagerie, Cheese Shop and Deli, Marylebone

If money were no object what would you spend it on?I would eat lunch and do a lot of my shopping at La Fromagerie. (And have round the clock hired help for the twins and buy the Saarinen oval table in white marble – since I’m making a list and all…).

Of the robust deli brigade in London, La Fromagerie is easily my favourite.  They don’t pile it high nor do they have the colour range of somewhere like Ottolenghi (Oh! Do you know Ottolenghi’s new book, Jerusalem is out?).  What they do is put out a selection, say 3 salads and a tart out at midday, which they only leave out for a few hours.  This ensures that you aren’t served up  a green bean puckered with age or a wedge of beetroot that has lost the glossy veneer of dressing. There are warm mains, things like a melanzane or tomato soup.What they serve is always at its best.  The San Danielle ham I had was balanced at just the right pitch of saltiness.  The ribbons of white fat were starting to be just that little bit translucent around the edges from being at room temperature – it melted on my tongue.  The figs were soft and ripe, which is the only way they are edible, an immature fig is just gritty and thin in the mouth.  That was one dish of many like that.  The charcuterie plates with stocky cornichons vinegary enough to cut through the rich homemade rillettes.  The cheese plates with a small stack of crackers and a few wedges of apple, composed with the austerity of a Baugin still life.  Chocolate cake with a spoonful of cream. Read more of this post

Schmidt’s Deli Deluxe, Mitte

I kept thinking about Spaceballs (the Mel Brooks parody of Star Wars) when I heard this deli had opened. Maybe it’s the Schmidt* (coming from blacksmith) compared to ‘the Schwartz’ (a Mel Brooks combination of the words ‘schwarz’ meaning black in German and ‘schwantz’ being the Yiddish slang for penis).  Not exactly linear thought, I’ll give you that, but that’s the way my saturated-with-TV as-a-teenager-brain works (when let’s face it, TV was SO much better!).There are definitely some oddball factors at play here.  Like Schmidt’s is in a unnaturally quiet pocket of Mitte (not peaceful like where Alpenstueck is, more dead, like the people have left the city type feeling).  It’s next to The Dude hotel (I’m not going to succumb to the obvious jokes on this one but by all means, you go ahead).  In the window are two white chairs, a white table on top of which sit two highly polished metal domes, the kind which waiters used to remove from your plate with a flourish to reveal still warm, albeit small portions of Nouvelle Cuisine some 40 years ago. (Points out of 10 for deli relevance? 0)

There is a neon in the window (which is sadly turned off, 4/10), when I step into the blasting hot room of the deli I am met by a woman in a stiff Iron Chef-Cat Cora type jacket, in fact come to think of it, this lady could have been her older sister, with blond hair shorn in a neat and orderly bob; worn with a hairband, which she pushed forward to make a little bump of hair.  Cat Cora’s older sister and a young chef manned the space behind the counter, which housed a compact kitchen and the till.  On the other side was a red dining room that was off bounds, serving as the breakfast room for The Dude hotel.  You could perch on one of the high three tables under a large black and white painting of a man eating and a woman farting – no smiling (but doesn’t that smile look like she’s just let one rip?). Read more of this post

CôCô – bánh mì deli, Mitte

I’ve been to Vietnam twice, to Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.  There is some serious good eating to be done in Vietnam. I’m on the same wave length as them as far as taste buds go.  They appreciate texture like I do.  And have a deft hand at juggling and mingling salty, sour, sweet and heat.

One of the most delicious things I ever ate in Vietnam was sweet pineapple and pomelo dipped in chilli salt.  Simple – yet it totally rocked my world!

As with Mediterranean food, it’s hard to get really good Vietnamese food out of Vietnam because so much of it relies on fresh ingredients and varieties which are not available in Europe.

Bánh mì doesn’t have those ingredient constraints.  As long as you have a good source for the baguette (which is usually made using a combination of wheat and rice flour), are confident with a mandolin to get those carrots and daikon cut into the matchstick julienne – well then, you can make a pretty good bánh mì.   So I was very pleased to hear that CôCô had opened in Mitte. Read more of this post

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