B for brilliant? Yes! Located on the corner of Bermondsey Street and Tyers Gate opposite the Fashion and Textile Museum, this small venue is a deli, sandwich bar and café that transforms into a wine bar in the evenings. It sells a few carefully chosen British, French, Spanish and Italian products.
There’s bar-style seating to one side; and a deli counter on the other, with antipasti displayed in gorgeous wooden bowls, and olives from The Fresh Olive Company. Sitting alongside are Italian meats from Guidetti and Spanish ones from Bellota, including salami, ham and pates; plus smoked meats from the Weald Smokery in East Sussex.
Cheeses like baronet and st nectaire are supplied by The Fine Cheese Company and Beillevaire. We enjoyed an impeccable selection: award-winning gruyere, aged brie, mild bleu de severac (perfect with the quince paste, membrillo) and ash-covered goats’ cheese were all truly delicious.
You can enjoy these with breads like Hoxton rye (£3.75) or olive and rosemary (£3.50) from Bread Ahead and Flour Power. The latter also supplies, along with Konditor & Cook, luscious cakes, pastries, muffins, brownies and meringues. A generous slice of almond st clement cake will set you back £3.50. So B is also for bargain.
Good pricing (for a smart, central venue) continues with freshly made sandwiches like salami, artichoke hearts and rocket, and the best-selling pastrami, horseradish and beetroot relish, all of which are priced at £4.50. The said relish is from a very small supplier, Ouse Valley Foods.
Another tiny supplier provides white chocolate and cranberry fudge (£4.20 for 100g). Other confectionery includes Manna Bon chocolate (£6), which you can nibble with a cup of Volcano Coffee Works coffee or Jing tea.
In the evening, when the curtains are drawn and the lights dimmed, there’s an altogether different atmosphere. Meantime Brewery beers and wines are available to sip, along with Cristal champagne and rare cognacs.
Cheese, charcuterie, smoked salmon and antipasti platters (from £12.50) are also available to share. And don’t miss Francois Voyer pineau des charentes, a mix of grape juice and cognac aged between 18 months to 10 years that’s not widely available in the UK. We were blown away by its sumptuously rich yet refreshing taste.
And is it B for beautiful? Certainly. The counter that runs along one side of the deli is made of beech wood, and the ceiling decorated with “timber from a Georgian house in Adam Street”, on which hang shiny copper pans and stringed garlic bulbs. Casually strewn hither and thither are a few olive trees and enamel containers that look like they’re awaiting a glossy photo shoot.
Additionally, the walls are covered with hessian sacks of coffees from around the world. At the entrance is a chalkboard of daily specials; and at the far end, a mural of the Bacchus painting by Caravaggio, featuring the god of wine with a glass in hand. Not your typical neighbourhood deli then.
The striking look was designed by the owner Simon Lyons, who ran a flower shop on the same premises for 9 years. He comes from a strong food background, and says: “I wanted to seek out special things, such as the French and Italian truffles we’re getting next week, while serving the local community.”
Flavour – rather than the country of origin, region or brand name – is the only criteria when selecting which product to stock. Lyons is ably assisted by a team of friendly, charming and well-informed staff. So despite being flanked by foodie favourites Borough and Maltby Street markets, it’s the rustic-chic look, commitment to quality and attention to detail that makes B Street A-list.
B Street Deli, 88 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UB. Tel: 020 7403 3943. www.bstreetdeli.co.uk