In 2009, lifelong De Beauvoir Town resident, Harry Davies, 35, gave up his job in production management to provide his community with a shop selling quality, fine food and coffee. The De Beauvoir Deli Company, 98 Southgate Road, became a stalwart of De Beauvoir Town. As a forerunner of the independent movement in the area, the deli represents the past, present and future of De Beauvoir Town…
“The deli was destined for a former cow shed behind The Scolt Head pub, set up by my friend Rosie,” says Harry. “But then I heard about the car spares shop that was being redeveloped by the Benyon Estate and which Estates Director Edward Benyon was hoping could house a deli.”
Harry, an enthusiastic foodie, admits he’s not entirely sure where the desire to open a deli came from as an adolescent, but says his appreciation for good food was enhanced through family holidays to France (and its many vineyards).
“I’d always wanted to set up a deli since I was a teenager,” he says. “I wanted to provide a fine food shop and coffee house for the community, because at the time there was nowhere around here to get a decent loaf of bread or quality cup of coffee.”
Initially, the deli focussed on retailing independent, artisan food, locally produced where possible, selling cheese, charcuterie, olives, bread and wine. It also had a popular coffee counter.
Responding to customer demand, Harry soon started offering sandwiches, then soup; the kitchen opened two years in. Then along came a chef who far exceeded the job description of sandwich maker, and quiches and salads were added to the menu. People loved it and the kitchen took off.
These days there are eat in and takeaway options for breakfast, brunch and lunch. A second, production kitchen opened up nearby six months ago within The Benyon Estate property and a small herb garden, designed and cultivated in 2015 by Estate gardener Jennifer Benyon, supplies the kitchen.
In the beginning, there were only two running the show, now there is a team of 27, including three chefs and two sandwich makers.
“De Beauvoir Town has seen a changing demographic over the last decade and more independent businesses have sprung up,” continues Harry. “So it feels like we were one of the first adopters of a style that really caught on. It’s been a gradual process. We’ve always tried to be responsive to customer feedback.”
The deli has long offered a catering service. “We have had people asking for us to provide sandwich platters ever since we’ve made sandwiches here,” says Harry.
And since August 2017, the deli has run the café in the nearby “creative hub”, the De Beauvoir Block created and run by the Benyon Estate.
Fresh food, wine and spirits can still be found in the shop, carefully selected from artisan producers from London and further afield, and the deli’s own-label range includes jams, chutneys and hummus, olive oil, biscuits and wine.
Harry has stuck with the Monmouth Coffee Company “my favourite London roastery” since the get go (served in a decent sized, 10oz cup). “It’s a rich chocolatey roast and people seem to love it,” says Harry.
Since the deli opened, coffee shops have come and gone in the area, but the deli has endured and is regarded by some as a “local hero” among the ever-growing creative community working in the vicinity.
“Our focus has always been quality, and offering something different,” Harry affirms. “We strive to do everything as best as we possibly can. We could easily fill a space double the size of the deli.”
The deli is a tangible part of De Beauvoir Town’s evolution.
“When I was a kid growing up here, the area had its contrasting areas,” adds Harry. “Now it’s more sought after and fashionable than ever.
“There’s a real community feel here, and that is part of the Benyon Estate’s approach which has made a real difference to the area.
“It’s nice to be part of its evolution, and we’re looking forward to the future.”