A spice odyssey…
Mumbai couple's wonderful café is a unique creation – take a good book and nab a table downstairs
27 February, 2020 — By Tom Moggach
AT Spice Deli, a café off Finchley Road, there’s a touching handwritten sign in the window. This urges customers to take photos on their phone to share on social media: “Unfortunately our £2.50 marketing budget doesn’t go very far.”
I’m more than happy to help, so get ready for some superlatives: this café and delicatessen is stupendously wonderful, a unique creation that scores 10 out of 10.
You’ll find Spice Deli in Goldhurst Terrace, near John Barnes Waitrose and a few doors down from a specialist Japanese food shop called Natural Natural.
It was opened by a married couple whose family roots are intertwined. Both grew up in Mumbai before moving to London, their grandparents displaced by the Partition of India. (“We’re stateless,” says Kim Wilshaw, the talented chef).
We went for lunch, loading our plates with lamb and harissa pastries, florets of cauliflower coloured with turmeric and chunks of roasted aubergine tossed with feta, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.
For pudding, a stack of fluffy pancakes is gently spiked with cardamom and served with sticky caramelised bananas, yoghurt, a crumble of pistachio and syrup made with unrefined jaggery sugar.
“We just love spices,” says Kim, who is clearly obsessed with tweaking recipes to add depth of flavour.
At breakfast, she adds a pinch of Kashmiri chilli to her butter for poached eggs and rubs fennel into the free-range streaky bacon.
Spice Deli is a deceptive venue. You walk into a small room – just a few tables, often packed.
Overhead is a run of wide, rustic wooden shelves laden with trailing house plants. To the left, the counter where that day’s dishes are displayed.
Head downstairs to discover a series of rooms and alcoves, delightfully decorated and with framed Indian miniatures on the white walls.
We spent a happy hour watching the regulars come and go. The cooking is precise and thoughtful, but what struck me most was their fanatical attention to detail.
They sell treats to take home: bundles of cinnamon sticks tied with a strand of yellow wool; mango and ginger energy balls served with antique metal tongs.
I ordered a juice – a creamy blend of avocado, spinach, apple and ginger. This was bright green and served with a paper straw in the exact shade to match.
I mention this to Kim later, who quickly explains. She was a psychotherapist; her husband an accountant. “We can be quite analytical as people – we enjoy all the detail.”
Spice Deli is open until 5pm every day. It’s a wonderful place to hide yourself away from the world. Take a good book and nab a table downstairs.
For the owners, the next challenge is spreading the word. The lucky locals already know they are blessed, as in this review posted on Google.
“No joke, my biggest regret in moving … is no longer being across the street from this place. I’ve been here so many times.”
11 Goldhurst Terrace, NW6