When I was fourteen; young, foolish, and full of dreams I held several visions of myself sitting outside Parisian cafes, smoking cigarettes, drinking tea, coffee or maybe red wine. Obviously the latter more preferred.
I envisioned the smoke drifting easily from the tip of my cigarette, Paris moving by in its romantic rush and I, as you should, wearing a reverse collar light denim shirt accompanied with a tanned Chino. My leg crossed with a book like Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan perched on my left hand, whilst I flick my right wrist holding the cigarette to ease the ash into an ash tray. It was quite a sight I envisioned at fourteen; I blame Ernest Hemingway and his memoir, A Moveable Feast.
Although I’ve made aspects of these visions reality – excluding the cigarette as I cannot bare the smell of tobacco smoke – I am yet to live permanently in Paris thus I am having to compromise by settling with the commercial cafés available in London.
Following numerous years of settling for corporate cafés such as Starbucks and Costa, it was quite surprising that it was the same London I endured that will bring forth my salvation. It was a faithful Saturday afternoon, I had just finished a consultation meeting and I was looking for a place to go over the meeting minutes before I head home.
The streets were eerily quiet as though something was about to happen and as I thought on this I look up to see ‘Abasto’ written in coloured letters over a black painted shop front with panelled windows which leaked warm orange lights that scream comfort and intimacy. I was drawn, in fact pulled as though someone had tied a lasso on me and yelled “come hither!” and what do I do? I heed to the voice and enter the café, leaving London and to my surprise finding Argentina.
‘Abasto’ which simply means supply in Spanish is an Argentine bodega. A cross between café, butchery, restaurant, and a red wine joint. The interior is an expression of broad brush stroke class, like a page torn out of a Kinfolk magazine. It has an air of minimalistic elegance with its brown padded sofa, wood bench for tables, glass vase with white daisies and its Argentine memorabilia placed perfectly across the room.
The space is split in three, the main sitting area decorated with Argentine paraphernalia, and the core fridge to the right holding a splendid variety of meats such as acorn fed bacon, ham, salami and a selection of artisan cheese. A kitchen to the back of the counter and a wine room with great selection of Argentine wine completes the enchanting South American bodega.
I was spellbound and in order to appreciate the space, for some unknown reason I randomly ordered hot chocolate which is never a choice of mine but I drank it and it was delicious. This was the beginning of a long-term relationship. Even when I’m passing by and I’m short for time, I go in and buy a Havanna Alfajor – a chocolate sandwich snack filled with either cream or caramel, also known as Crema De Leche.
As I conclude, it is possible to think my description of Abasto might suggest a niche shop with steep prices, but on the contrary. For me, Abasto is a gem and until I learn French and move to Paris I’m fine with a slice of Argentina in London.
Christopher Omale is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker and holds keen interests in culture, arts, and international relations.
The visuals in this featured story were shot with a Minolta X300 on a Fujifilm Superia 200.
All images are subject to copyright. ©