Lindsey Bennet feels good about this feel good place
There it was, hidden on the bottom shelf; a piece of driftwood inked with ‘our calm place’. It was placed among the small range of obscure items that you only find in delis, convince yourself you’ll use, only to stick in a cupboard at home and forget about until four years later.
I visited The Little Deli, on Crosby’s Endbutt Lane, for a late lunch with my mother. I was in nothing short of a frenzy, trying to do several unrelated things at once, including relax and focus on both my long-suffering dining companion and this embryonic eatery’s healthy-leaning menu. That I left this little place of calm smiling, some 90 minutes later, infused with energy and positive vibes, is a testament to the business that owners (and managers, chefs and general all-stars) Rania and Jules have created.
They calmly answered my every fired-off question about the menu, the history, Crosby food and drink in general and how The Little Deli fits in to it all. In so doing, they made clear the integrity behind their concept of a ‘Fresh Express Kitchen’.
The small but flexible menu, with daily changing salads, has been constructed so that several key dishes appear throughout. It looks and leans towards a vegan offering, but there’s actually meat and cheese aplenty should you wish. Colour is everywhere and dishes are presented with artistry - highly Instagram-able and intentionally so.
Despite the late hour - Little Deli winds up around 4pm, although no belated customer is sent away - we began with the savoury breakfast bhudda (£4.95), their iteration of the now nearly ubiquitous dish that no one in this realm of existence had heard of two years ago. The stars were two beautifully soft-boiled eggs and a light-touch home pickled cabbage, the creation of which was explained by Jules, who took a seat at the table to divulge her process. A ‘smash not mash’ of nutritious grains was fine if forgettable.
Every dietary requirement can be catered for with the same general grace that all my queries were handled. For example, I was flapping about choosing a watermelon soda, but hesitating over the amount of sugar, when, unprompted, I was offered a carafe of water with a drop of hibiscus syrup; very refreshing and free. It’s the kind of hospitable and unselfish touch that defined my experience here. Indeed, much of the menu is customisable, with make your own Buddha bowls, a range of charcuterie and cheese and a healthy kids menu offered alongside a takeaway service.
We moved onto the vegan platter (pictured above), a resplendent cornucopia of their ‘best bits and bobs’; the day’s vegan salads as advertised on wall mounted brown paper ‘boards’ with olives, sourdough wedges, falafel, homemade humus and a gorgeous and inventive spiced, grated beetroot element somewhere between relish and chutney. Quite surprisingly some tropical fruits were included that set the whole thing off. The whole affair was so varied and generous, that it took looking at the bill to realise we’d been served a portion for one (£10.95) rather than two.
As with this dish, and in general, the menu can lean towards assembly rather than cooking in places, with reliance on leaves, olives, cheese, cold meats - although in fairness, many of the home made salads had gone by the time we arrived. There’s an unapologetic use of local suppliers; bread is from the noble Kensington Bread Company and the delicious ‘Iron Man’ coffee blend, sourced from award winning neighbour Crosby Coffee.
Cakes and tempting cake-based gifts are supplied by a local bakers – both the lemon curd blueberry and vegan biscotti cup cakes were pricey at £2.40 and pretty, but a little dry.
I’ve no doubt that these ladies are the real deal; two of the cooking classes I enquired about (pizza and ‘no bake cheesecake’) were fully booked and the history and vision for the Little Deli, as explained in warm terms on the website, speaks of their passion for flavour, wellbeing and community. I was pretty touched by their underplayed gratitude at having the opportunity to create a business that inspires them and makes others happy.
There’s a breeze off the River Mersey that blows into the place, even making it a little draughty, but it also underscores the brightness and vitality of the Little Deli; the interior of wood and judicially used metal and tile references the simplicity of the concept at this stage of Little Deli’s’ life. In terms of growth, it’s clear –and already feels as if – this calm, companionable deli/café, only twelve weeks old, will become a cherished cornerstone of the Crosby community.
The Little Deli, 24 Endbutt Lane, Crosby L23 0TR Tel: 07905 05140
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Bhudda Bowl 7, Vegan Platter 7, Cupcakes 4
Suffused with warmth, patience and enthusiasm by two really likeable women.
Sunny, pretty attractive