Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Gaby's Deli, Charing Cross Road

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UPDATE 28/09/2011: Gaby's Deli has been threatened with closure - join the campaign to stop this happening at Save Gaby's Deli and sign the petition HERE.

I’ve just taken part in pudfest, but I’m still feeling grouchy and hungry. I pootle towards the Chandos near Charing Cross where the hubby and four friends are meeting me. They look wan and I ask what they’ve had to eat and they say, “Nothing - they stopped serving food at 7”.

“Ridiculous” I say, and I sigh and produce from my magic handbag a couple of prune and armagnac macarons which I’d bought earlier from Comptoir Gascon.

They pounce on them and, wiping the sugary crumbs from his face, the journo friend says, “This foodie thing you do is quite good, isn’t it?”

I smile at him fondly and then get up and say, “Right, that won’t sustain you - we’re off to Gaby’s”.

The civil servant friend says, "That's why I love doing things with you, MiMi - you always make sure we eat properly".

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Now Gaby’s on Charing Cross Road is what they call an institution. It’s been there since the beginning of time as far as I know and yet somehow, shamefully I’d never been (though the journo is a veteran).

Though it’s ten o’clock at night, I’m sure it’s still open and yes, wedged in the front door is a cheerful guy wearing a cycle helmet covered in 12 flashing red lights who waves merrily at us as we walk in.

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We sit at a large table right at the back and stare at the two identical framed photos of Matt Damon before having a look at the menu.

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I’m going for the legendary salt beef special, the husband is having falafel, the journo is having a bottle of red wine (seriously), and the others are having goulash, meatballs and a chicken kebab.

It’s not long before these enormous platters start winging their way towards us. And you know what - it’s all startlingly good (can’t speak for the wine though). It’s the very first time I’ve seen the point of falafel and that salt beef is juicy yet crumbly - pure bovine joy.

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I’m especially taken with their chilli sauce though - a rich, spicy, tomatoey concoction which I dollop liberally onto everything - and even onto my companions’ plates as they look slightly askance (hell, they should be used to me by now).

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Despite the vast portions, I'm happily wolfing everything down and finally I push myself away from the table and sigh. But suddenly a member of staff appears with a grin and a plate, saying, "These are on the house".

"These" are squares of carrot cake, whimsically garnished with squirty cream. As comically enticing as they look, I really can't face another bite, but once more my friends swoop and once more they give the thumbs up.

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So it's late and we're stuffed and we're happy. Time to wend our way home, but before we do, I ask the guy at the counter, "Will you sell me some of your chilli sauce?".

He looks surprised and says, "No, I won't - but I'll give you some" and he ladles the spicy nectar into a huge lidded, poiystyrene cup before wrapping it carefully for me in a paper bag.

I'm giddy. Good times at Gaby's.

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Gaby's Deli
30 Charing Cross Road
London
WC2H 0DE
020 7836 4233


Gaby's on Urbanspoon

19 comments:

  1. Brilliant - your reports make me sooo hungry; although I'm not sure I could eat at that time (comes of being ancient); but has me eating my lunch woefully early this morning anyway! Great stuff.

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  2. I like Gaby's but the salt beef isn't as tasty as it once was. I think the first time I went there was in the early 90's and I'm only 23 years old so it's certainly an institution.

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  3. @Kavey - Thanks!

    @chumbles - Ah, I will soon regret my midnight snacks.

    @MA Salha - Well, to be fair I've only ever had salt beef at Brick Lane Beigel and I thought this version was better.

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  4. I didn't recognise the name of the place but I do recognise the photo of it on that menu! I've never stepped into there but you've given me the prompting I need!

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  5. @Su-Lin - It's incredibly easy to walk right past it!

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  6. Haven't been for years, used to go regularly - funnily enough I walked past the other day and wondered if it was still as reassuringly reliable - good to know that it is!

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  7. @Deptford Dame - It was shambolically lovely

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  8. Gosh i must have walked past this place a zillion times but never really paid much attention, I will consider it next time i am in town. Thanks.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie
    p.s. You see I read your blog!!!

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  9. @The London Foodie - It's really cheap too - thanks Luiz x

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  10. It's one of those places that you always forget about, and then wonder why the next time you're there? Awesome hangover-prevention food.

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  11. This is without doubt one of my most favourite places in London. When we recorded radio shows at the Paris Theatre In the 1990s we often would get our lunches from here. It makes me happier that it exists.

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  12. Sounds like one of those rare beasts - a good budget cafe that takes pride in its food and doesn't follow the trend. Excellent. I will check it out next time i am wandering along the CC Rd.

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  13. @Gail - I think it's cloaked so it's invisible.

    @Chris Neill - Hello distant relative of mine! Yes, I believe it will survive till the end of time :)

    @The Grubworm - Oh god yes - so unfashionable it's untrue but lovely with it

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  14. I love Gaby's.
    If you get the three salads in a pitta bread to take away (£3.49) they sometimes give you a bonus falafel, a gratis chickpea meteorite.
    Not always though, it keeps you guessing

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  15. @Ben Clover - OH HAI, Ben!

    Bonus chickpea meteorite, mmmmm x

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  16. You said "wend" therefore you are awesome. Also, because apparently you never let people go hungry. And that is super important - hangry people may do things they aren't responsible for and oh, it can be bad. Hangrrr is evil and must be stopped!

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  17. @sasasunakku - Awww, thank you Sasa!

    I love this concept of Hangrrr :)

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  18. I just re-read this and it's making me sad, because Gaby's is facing imminent closure, but also very hungry for some falafel, humous and latka. Which is a shame because I'm 1,000s of miles away in the land of dreary food.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!