An Insight with: Ellias from David’s Deli

One of the pleasures of writing West Hampstead Life is writing these Insights during which we get to know some familiar West Hampstead faces a bit better, behind the facade even. This month’s is no exception as we caught up with Ellias from David’s Deli.

We all know him as Ellias, in fact his full name is Ellias Dbouq; he was born in Beruit from mixed heritage Middle-Eastern heritage, and considers himself Lebanese. When the war broke out his family moved to Germany, where he grew up.

Ellias is super enthusiastic about life, David’s Deli and West Hampstead. Yes David’s Deli is business but it is also at the heart of the community as a place to eat, meet and greet. But it takes a proactive approach to be so, helping cook for the winter shelter at the church (and handing out 250 oranges).

Ellias in front of David’s Deli, West Hampstead. It’s his life!

So, what brought you to West Hampstead?

“It was accidental really, or perhaps fate is a better way of putting it. It was 2004 and I’d come over from Kiel to visit my brother, who was living in Wood Green. I was looking with a business partner for an opportunity over here and I knew Gaby* and Zak (who worked for Gaby). Gaby saw this site in West Hampstead and suggested we take a look, so I came over to visit with my brother. I had a really good vibe about the place and West Hampstead, so we went for it. And that is how Zak, my brother and Dauod opened David’s (Daoud’s) Deli.

“After two years Daoud decide to move back to Germany and Zak wanted to move on,  at which point they offered me the chance to buy their share of the business. I took it.”

*yes readers it is the Gaby of Gaby’s deli on Charing Cross Road, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s favorite haunts.

What was your first/fondest memory?

“Like I said as soon as I arrived here I felt at home.  I remember the first night we opened the deli I went for a drink in what is now the Alice House and met a very friendly reception, chatting with people right away. And I thought, yes I’ve made the right choice”.

How has West Hampstead changed?

“When I first arrived in 2004 it was very booming and quite mixed but then credit crunch of 2008 hit. It hit the business quite hard as we saw a substantial drop in our earnings. We adjusted our business but after things picked up we noticed a shift in the area by 2011/12 there was more investors money coming”.

“When things wobbled in 2008 we had to think about what we could do, extending the day by becoming a shisha bar at night seemed a good option, so we tried it (Ed – with the correct licences he added)! It’s worked well and now adds another leg to the business”.

What’s for lunch?

“Here are David’s Deli there’s lots for lunch! We have a new chef who we hired from Maroush, we call him Abu Ali. Since he arrived we have jumped over 4,000 places in the Tripadvisor rankings.

As well as our regular mezze he cooks range of daily specials. [Ed – on offer the day I went was garden chicken, golden from the saffron sauce, a nice new addition]. He also makes homemade hummous and chilli sauce and has other secret recipes…”

Garden chicken anyone?

[For breakfast David’s Deli offers a croissant with halloumi and fig jam. A  new variation on the sweet and salty combination that works so well.  If you are looking for something different for breakfast, try it!]

Halloumi and fig jam croissant. Mmmm.

“If I’m going out then of course the Wet Fish Cafe which does a professional breakfast and very good coffee. With my wife and kids I’ll go to Locanda 311 we always have fun and enjoy the food”.

West Hampstead in three words?

“It’s my life”

Tom chills out in David’s Deli

Grabbed a bite to eat in David’s Deli the other day; wanted something quick in somewhere relaxed, and I hadn’t been to David’s for a while. It’s always friendly, and I rather like the addition of shisha pipes a year or two back; it’s cool to see so many chilled-out people enjoying a smoke, and it adds an extra element of character to West Hampstead. (Who remembers Brent Council’s poster campaign last year, warning that shisha is 8 million times more dangerous than normal tobacco? Rubbish, I say, even if it’s true).

Anyway… I always get a little confused when ordering in the Deli; the specials board can seemingly appear on the wall, ceiling or anywhere else, and the various things on display at the counter are not listed on the menu – but perhaps that’s part of the fun.

I tried the halloumi salad, which turned out to be enjoyable. The halloumi had been grilled to give a nice edge to it, the texture going well against the salad items, and suitably salty. I’ve never quite understood iceberg lettuce; it’s a little like pale green water in semi-solid form, like you might find on a distant planet or something, but the olives were excellent and sun-dried tomatoes were present – these I love.

A proper mint tea arrived, and as I gazed out at West End Green opposite, I was reminded what a nice location David’s has. Definitely a “Sunday afternoon with the papers” place; or just somewhere to laze about while watching the world of West Hampstead go by… and what an appealing world that is, in the summer.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, come on everyone, crack open the rosé!