Chanteroy French Deli, Southfields

London July 6, 2012 7:12 pm

I get sentimental over little places like this.

For I love them so much, but I have a fear: A fear that one day they will be no more; forced out of our lives by big stupid chain stores with no heart and no care.

But for now, spots like Chanteroy French Deli are real, and we must cherish them.

A hole in the wall Delicatessen in the suburbs of SW London, with room enough only for a countertop and a single file line of customers. A bustling little establishment with 4 or 5 busy young French guys behind the counter, and a queue of locals in wait that usually spills out the store and onto the sidewalk.

It sounds a cliche, but stepping inside is like stepping into a real Deli in France. You’ve got servers who speak French; English only when they’re forced to. You’ve got a simple menu that has as many rules as it does options (eg. instead of a friendly “Choose from Baguette or Focaccia”, you see the much more blunt “Baguette Only” with a fullstop ). And you’ve got the scent of fresh baked goods and delicious deli meats wafting from some kind of labyrinth of deliciousness downstairs.

There’s a lot on sale for a small place, but it’s no secret that most people are there for the sandwiches.

You choose a meat (chicken, salami, mince) and a cheese if you wish (Brie or Emmetal). Then you wait.

The frantic staff behind the counter take 5-10 minutes carefully stuffing the freshest lettuce and tomato into your Baguette, along with slices of warm roast chicken breast (delicious brown skin still on), strips of Brie cheese (if you’re preference is the same as mine), mayonnaise and a dash of pepper.

Simple enough, but as Anthony Bourdain would say, “The whole is so much greater than the sum of it’s parts”.

What you get is a bread that not too recently came from the oven. They cook it somehow, fresh all day, from the oven underneath the store. It’s crispy on the outside, soft, often still warm on the inside. Your cheese is cut from a new wheel, right there in front of you. Creamy, fragrant, with a soft white Rind. The chicken, we covered: The exact opposite of previously frozen, artificial Subway crap. Your lettuce and tomato are crisp and new, and the mayo and pepper, a perfect garnish.

Oh and I almost forgot… it costs £2.50 for a footlong. Less than half the price of it’s completely inferior equivalent at your local Pret a Manger.

At the end of the day, it’s a sandwich. There’s only so much you can do with it. But it’s the care at Chanteroy that counts.

It would be cheaper to buy your baguettes from some supplier. Rent out your bakery downstairs once you’ve gotten rid of the oven. To use packet lettuce instead of fresh stuff. You’d make more money if you doubled the price. And you’d save big time by having half as many staff employed.

But someone, sometime in the history of Chanteroy made a decision that’s nowadays all too foreign: They decided to put quality ahead of profit. They decided that they’d rather make sandwiches that were impeccable instead of sandwiches that were saleable.

And who knows? Maybe it works. They’re open 8am til 8pm every day and they’ve apparently been running their show for somewhere between 5 and 10 years as far as I can gather.

Everything about the French Deli is special. It warrants sentimentality. It is deserving of romance.

Count yourself lucky if you get a chance to be a part of it.

Chanteroy is located at 233A Wimbledon Park Road, just across from Southfields tube station. They have a website you can visit too at this link (though, just like the store, they keep it all in French!)

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