Angel Delicatessen, Cross St

May 13, 2012

Part of my intention when starting this little blog was to go to a few places which hadn’t quite hit the map yet, or perhaps in our connected, soche-meeja savvy world, the app. Those little, tucked-away venues which do their thing and do it well, but don’t perhaps garner the praise or attention they deserve. In the bustling area of Upper Street and its environs, home to a plethora of places of varying quality all vying for attention, here is a little shout for just such a place: the Angel Delicatessen, Cross Street.

The Angel does its own thing.

On Saturday, with the sun out and a spring in my step, I went down to the Angel/Upper Street area to find me some coffee. The accomplice was unavailable, so I attended with my good friend Lipstick (see the photo below, if an explanation is required). Eschewing the hipper spots in Camden Passage we ventured somewhere which has long been a favourite drop-in spot for me when I’ve had to come to the area (which is regularly – for one thing, I do most of my present buying around here): the Angel Delicatessen, tucked away down among the Regency harmony of Cross Street, which runs between Upper Street and its grumpier cousin, the Essex Road.

Angel Delicatessen, Cross St

The Angel Delicatessen is actually just that, selling a wide variety of imported goods, from cheeses and meats to curious little aperitifs called Strappj, which is like the bastard child of aniseed, cherry, and plastic explosives. They import their own coffee directly from a roasting house in Italy, and serve this as their house blend. I started, as is customary, with a double espresso. It’s an interestingly conflicted experience, because the shot shouldn’t work. The machine, a rather battered looking Expobar of decidedly vintage temperament, doesn’t seem up to much and the resulting shot is a touch watery with an insipidly thin crema. But the taste is really quite lovely. The roast is dark and full and chocolately, and the top of the cup sends little whizzing citrus notes spiking and dancing happily over the bass notes. For a bespoke, imported blend of unknown provenance, made by a battered looking machine, the taste of this shot is a very happy surprise. I had a double-shot, so it may be that the single, being more concentrated, comes out looking more like ‘a shot’; the double is more like a long single in terms of density and draw, but works very well like that too.

Next up I had a macchiato. Lipstick had chosen a latté originally so we could now compare notes. Her verdict: ‘pleasant’. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but there were no complaints. My macchiato was another dolloping job (I’m starting to think only a few places do it the way I like, but I know who you are, and I’m coming for you), and it was, again, perfectly pleasant, but I think the weaker consistency of the shot doesn’t work that well with a foamy top; it’s just a smidgen too watery to blend and swirl enough. I think if you’re going to come here, your best bet is probably a single shot or a sort of ‘Americano’-style cup, with the emphasis on taste of blend rather than construction of drink.

Angel Delicatessen

And what of the place itself? Well, its location is a welcome break from the hustling busyness of the very popular Upper Street, and the sense of relative peace and calm makes it a perfect place to collect your thoughts and tot up your receipts. There is a small outside seating area, which on a day like Saturday, makes for a warming, al fresco experience. The people who work there are chirpy and chatty and even a little bit playful, which is sometimes a welcome change from the studied sang-froid of some of the places I go to get my coffee on. Drinks start at £1.60, and you can buy the house roast for £1.50 for 100g, £15 for 1kg (that’s maths, folks). And I would, because I suspect it would make a fantastic, rough-ground cafetiere brew. I suppose my verdict on Angel Delicatessen is as much a reflection of the attitude and delivery of the place itself as the coffee. A lot of coffee bars are a touch too aware of how good they are, or play up to how good they want to be. The Angel could never be accused of this: they quietly go about their business and make a far finer cup of coffee than you’d expect, in a spot where you can ease off and breathe out, and with a smiling warmth which is genuine. I wouldn’t quite describe this place as a hidden gem, but it is quite like finding a crumpled fiver down the back of the sofa. And sometimes, that’s all you really want, isn’t it?

Angel Delicatessen, 48 Cross Street, N1 2BA

No website, no Twitter, but they have a land-line: 020 7226 1951

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