Reasons to be Cheerful
My friend P is an interesting man. He is an aesthete, a bon vivant and an author of well researched books on European cultural history. He’s also a snappy dresser, favouring a top quality vintage look, which he describes as ‘Dandy Fatigué. Never is he seen without a well cut designer suit or tweed jacket and flannels in 50s or 60s style, always with a crisp white shirt, often with a tie too, and he is proud of his collection of Trilbys. Denims and a t-shirt are quite unthinkable to him. His hair is short and neatly Brylcreemed back, his quite fabulous cheek bones give him the air of a matinee idol, and he might have just stepped straight out of an Edward Hopper painting or some film noir.
A decade younger than I, we’ve known each other for a long time. In fact, I’ve known him since he was a young boy, travelling around the hippy destinations of Morocco and Ibiza with his model mother. I’m always fascinated by the combination of his personal wholesomeness and his love for louche decadence, his sense of humour and his sharp wit. Much of the time, he travels to the big European strongholds of art and literature, Paris, Vienna and Florence, so when he’s in London, I try to make sure we catch up over lunch. It’s always guaranteed to be fun and stimulating!
Surprisingly, our haunt of choice is not, as you might expect, some terrifically sophisticated venue such as perhaps Claridges or the Caprice, but a simple small sandwich bar café on Bute Street in South Kensington, the Raison d’Être. Now I have a great fondness for this place. It’s unapologetically Francophile, being just a few steps from the Lycée Français and owned by dashing young Frenchman Matthieu, who is always in evidence and who, even after two years of my absence, instantly recognized me, greeted me by name and remembered my favourite order. That sure makes a girl feel good! It’s a tiny café with an exposed brick wall, sensible, no nonsense furniture, funky lighting and soft grey and black scatter cushions on the benches. Behind the glass counter are wonderfully fresh sandwich fillings and snack ingredients; there are certainly no curling jambon slices here! Oven fresh baguettes and croissants look tempting and they do a mean coffee here too, as well as all sorts of other hot and cold drinks of fine quality. What’s not to like?!
On our most recent visit, P chose a goats cheese and rocket salad which looked very appetizing indeed! There was a good amount of tasty creamy but firm goats cheese and the leaves were dew fresh with just the right amount of balsamic drizzled over. I ordered, as I always do, the ‘Ma Raison d’Etre’ sandwich, a gorgeous mix of crispy bacon (or roast chicken), avocado, parmesan and pesto. Completely yummy every time! You can literally taste the love and detail that is put into the preparation of the food. Aside from our coffees and herb teas, all made properly, I might add, Matt also made me his special ginger and lemon hot drink concoction which looked very green but tasted divine. The whole little meal was just a treat and inexpensive too at £24 for both of us, including various drinks.
Raison d’Être is light years removed from your common or garden sandwich bar. So close to South Ken tube station and all the museums, this place is definitely worth earmarking for excellent light refreshment, an easy, chilled out ambience and attentive service with a smile. It’s open from 7am (8 am in summer) till 6pm, shorter hours on Sundays.
What I wore
French Connection pale peach chiffon ruffle skirt, Gap dark brown ribbed polo neck jumper, Bébé narrow nude leather belt, Mulberry dark brown ‘Amazon’ shoulder bag, dark brown leather boots with moderate heels bought at Jones Bootmaker. All items in excess of 10 years old.
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Kia aka Fizz of Life