At Maison Dellys, Columbia Rd
Maison Dellys is a small cafe in an old terrace beside the triangle of trees where Columbia Rd meets the Hackney Rd. In this quiet spot, you may rely upon a peaceful cup of tea and a snack at an affordable price – a commodity that grows increasingly scarce in this part of the East End. Farid Djebrouni opened his cafe eleven years ago and has worked hard to build up a significant clientele and reputation, but next week on Friday 30th October Maison Dellys will be closing forever in the face of a rent increase from £11,000 to £27,000 a year.
Rather than this event go unacknowledged, Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I went round for a chat with Farid this week to offer him our moral support and thank him for the invaluable service he has provided to the community over the last decade in creating a friendly focus for those who live and work locally.
“When I came here eleven years ago, I liked the look of this cafe with the big glass window and the trees outside. I was a nurse before I opened Maison Dellys. My father died when I was a child and I spent a lot of time around hospitals, so when I grew up I chose to become a nurse myself and take care of people. But after three years, I realised I wasn’t cut out for it and I had another love which was cooking so I decided to do this.
I was born in Nigeria and my wife and I used to live in Hackney, but then we moved to Barking because it was the closest we could afford to buy a place. My wife works for an investment bank in the City, she makes the money for them.
I get up each morning at five-fifteen. You get used to it but you have to be disciplined and go to bed early, which is difficult for me because I like to stay up late. I open every weekday from seven until four and I have one employee who works with me. I cook pasta and lasagna every day, one vegetarian and one meat. I make the sauces and bake the pastries first thing every day when I arrive. Sometimes, I have a line outside when I open at seven and its very busy between midday and two, but you don’t see anyone after three.
I like it very much although sometimes it can be a bit stressful when people are demanding. I look upon it as a challenge, to provide good food for people with nice service and make them comfortable. I recognise all my customers and know everyone by name, it’s like a small club. People feel at home. We get a wide range of customers who work nearby, from drug dealers to famous artists and architects, and they all mix together.
My landlord owns a shop round the corner too and their rent has gone up, so they increased mine from £11,000 to £27,000 a year. We tried to negotiate a new five year lease and they offered to come down to £25,000 a year. Nobody can afford to pay so much. Under my license, I only have limited hours and I can’t open at evenings or weekends.
In eleven years, I’ve seen the area change. When I came here there weren’t any coffee shops and Shoreditch High St was empty. The big boys are coming in now who will throw away £200,000 just have a presence in this area, and a lot of my customers who are designers and artists are moving out because they can’t afford the rent either.
I want to take a bit of time off until the of the year to clear my head and then I’ll look for a cafe further east in January. Otherwise, I’ll give up and try to get a job and become a Monday to Friday person. What I will miss will be the people I’ve met here. I’ve been fortunate, London is a great city but the people in the East End have the biggest heart.
I heard about the riot on Brick Lane and I don’t believe in violence but I understand why people are angry. So many are going out of business round here but the Mayor isn’t doing anything about it. It’s a bit scary.
I don’t try to be the best coffee shop in the world but it’s honest food at prices people can afford.”
A tall man with a sympathetic modest demeanour, Farid has become a widely-respected personality in this corner of Shoreditch in recent years. You have until next Friday 30th October to pay him a call and give Maison Dellys a bumper last week in business. There will be also be a party on Thursday 29th October from 5:30pm for regulars and well-wishers.
“I heard about the riot on Brick Lane and I don’t believe in violence but I understand why people are angry”
Jana Dushaj works alongside Farid at Maison Dellys
Farid Djebrouni - ”I will miss the people I’ve met here”
Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie
Visit MAISON DELLYS, 10 Columbia Rd, E2 7NN, until 30th October, 7am-4pm weekdays
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