Hello all, it's been a while, hasn't it? It's been a hectic year and my food mojo has done a runner. However, I've come to realise that it's the little things, the comforting things, that make you appreciate what you have. And seeing what Kayoko and Yoko, together with their friends, have done with Umami Mart, conjuring up a beautiful, solid, real-life store and realising their dreams is wonderful and inspiring.
One of my favourite places in London is Pâtisserie Deux Amis, a tiny, unassuming little café tucked away in a corner of Bloomsbury, a stone's throw from the British Library, the British Museum, Charles Dickens' house and the many colleges of the University of London. I first came across it by chance as a graduate student and often took the 10 minute walk from my department in Gordon Square, across from where Virginia Woolf once lived and where her husband Leonard ran Hogarth Press, to the dark green-facaded café just to get my fix of my favourite baguette. I'm still a little surprised that after all these years, it still remains a little secret place that only a select few are lucky enough to stumble upon.
The menu is small and hasn't changed much in the last 15 years. When I was struggling to finish my thesis, I'd slip out of the British Library where I'd spend hours amongst others working diligently with my head buried in piles of books, and sprint down the road for some much needed respite. Pâtisserie Deux Amis is filled with lots of memories of my student days but it's also one of the few places where even if I visit now, I don't feel out of place. It's like a little preserved bubble that will forever remain calm, a tiny oasis in the busy university area that is still inviting even though you are no longer a student.
When one of my university friends came to visit us a few weeks ago from Japan, one of the places she wanted to revisit was the café. And all because of our favourite baguette: the chicken, bacon, cranberry and mayonnaise.
It doesn't sound very French, I know. But who cares when it tastes seriously scrummy. My visiting friend had been dreaming about this baguette for the last 15 years and I totally get it. I'd do the same too. And when she took a bite, the expression on her face was pure bliss. They also do a lovely pâté and cucumber baguette. Although common in France, you don't see many pâté baguettes or sandwiches in London. I think the English think it's a little too Continental.
15 years ago, when it was nigh impossible to get a good, flakey croissant, this is where my mum and I would come. Imagine our joy when we first took a bite, looked at each other and sighed, 'a real croissant'.
As well as their sandwiches, they do a good variety of pâtisseries including cakes, the ubiquitous nougat, sweet and savoury tartes and quiches and a serious selection of breads. I often take away a little chicken and leek feuilleté (a filled puff pastry tart) to eat at home. And in winter, their piping hot leek and potato soup will warm your cockles.
And they do good, strong Italian coffee, one of the few places that did back in the days before Starbucks invaded the world.
Served with cute little French sugar cubes.
It's a small, warm little beating heart in Bloomsbury. It's never too busy but it's always friendly and welcoming and I highly recommend a visit next time you're in London.
Pâtisserie Deux Amis
63 Judd Street
London WC1H 9QT
Tel: 020 7388 7029