We voyaged out into glorious sunshine on a city adventure. Colombia Road flower market was intended to be the main event but turned out to be little more than a fleeting interlude, a precursor to a perfect afternoon.
We made slow progress across town towards the market. If you hop off at Shoreditch high street, there are distractions aplenty and we made segways galore our attention attracted by famous bagel shops and bars, restaurants we’d read about and the most delicious new chocolate shop, Dark Sugars. Tasters are always guaranteed to peak my interest and the chilli chocolate we were proffered was stunning. Smooth and rich, you have forgotten the chilli until, bewilderingly late, it licks the back of your throat.
We meandered towards the market against the tide of flower-laden figures until suddenly we were in the thick of what has to be the most chaotic and claustrophobic of my experiences in London to date. The flowers that lined the street were stunning if we could only have seen them. More fool us for going on a sunny afternoon. It was impossible to move or truly appreciate the spectacle, let alone buy some flowers. The cacophony and crowds were too much so we ducked gratefully into the courtyard.
A muddle of cafés, come galleries, come market stalls adorn this quaint square. Not one to describe at length now other than to say that this is a fabulous place to escape the chaos unfolding outside. Duck inside for a sausage roll at Lily Vanilli or to peruse the Colombia Road gallery. To be quite honest there are more little gems around here than I could say. The only way to do it justice is to wander around yourself.
If you do, make your final destination Story deli. After the hustle and bustle of the market, this oasis of calm couldn’t be more welcome. You could quite easily overlook the handsome doorway and the understated kitchen inside if you weren’t drawn by the scent of rosemary that hangs think and alluring in the air. Follow your nose, or the handwritten sign saying ‘pizza’.
It almost feels like you’re peeping into a private dining room, not least because a little cord hangs across the entrance and leaving you uncertain as to whether you should wait to be greeted, or indeed if you should enter at all. The owner later explained, it’s designed to keep out undesirables. In his words, the right people come through the rope, the wrong ones don’t. This idiosyncratic approach catches people a bit off guard and you can spot them hovering around in the huge doorway, both entranced by the gorgeous interior, and uncertain as to what it is. Be bold, let yourself in.
Here simplicity translates to magic. Story deli is one of a wave of places that have adopted the approach of doing one thing and doing it splendidly. Tucked away behind rustic screens, the kitchen makes the most delicious clouds of wafer-thin pizza topped with vibrant flavours. At eighteen pounds a pop, I admit, this is not your everyday dinner, but any quibbles you have will be blown out of the water with the first bite.
Ordering a different pizza each, to go halves, obviously, we waited. Not for long at all though, I have to say. One spicy ‘fast Eddie’ and a ham, spinach and Gorgonzola pizza arrived in all their splendour. We fell silent. Barely a word passed between us. Our eyes, wide as saucers, said it all. My goodness they were just delicious. Fresh ingredients sung in chorus. The sweet chilli drizzle in particular, was genius. This is the closest thing to a healthy pizza you’re likely to find without compromising an inch on flavour.
Heady with rosemary and giddy on life, we bounced into the street. It had been the most beautiful afternoon.