The Mockingbird Deli and the Sands of Time
The Mockingbird Deli had stood out from the start. The shop sign, a mockingbird hanging in simplistic splendour guarded a doorway to a place where time stood still. The regulars, sitting outside, watched the world go by in forgotten happiness, ice blocks slow melting in their wine glasses. In the window seat, a studious reader pondered over the news as he dug his feet into the sands of time.
Cat walked by. Again and again. The pull, the willingness to go in becoming stronger. She knew that drops of sunlight and that tinge of carefreeness that gathered like pale white foam over a hot day came in unexpected forms. It didn't have to be sunny nor did you have to be sipping an espresso on the terrazzo of an Italian café to experience the warmth and unique simplicity of life on the Continent. It was there. Right there on Yarm High Street in the form a plain mockingbird.
The Mockingbird Deli is all about simple beauty, simple taste, simple enjoyment. Run by Martin and Helen, it began as an Italian-themed deli with only a coffee machine, three tables in the centre and ample shelving around the shop. Before it opened, Martin used to work for a company importing and selling Italian goods. On Friday afternoons, Helen would take the afternoon off from her previous job to join Martin on deli expeditions. It was while visiting different delis and cafés around the area that they started imagining what it would be like to run their own shop, incorporating the finest aspects of the places they came across with their own values of quality, simplicity and hospitality.
Seven years ago, they got the chance to transfer a lifetime of deli exploration and idea collection into reality when Martin was made redundant at his work. They turned the situation around by acquiring a small rented space on Yarm High Street, which was once a dress shop, and transforming it into one of the most unique, vibrant gathering points in town. Inspired by a love of Italian café culture they created a rare experience for customers, offering them a combination of southern European relaxedness with North Yorkshire hospitality and the charm of an English market town.
Starting with a reputation for excellent coffee, the deli soon evolved and turned into something more of a social café and restaurant. It’s elegant yet laid-back ambiance soon attracted a healthy buzz of customers enjoying food, wine, cake and coffee amidst fascinating memorabilia from the owners’ many European travels. The Friday night wine bar became especially popular. As well as being able to have a glass of wine, a platter of cheese or an espresso, regulars could attend Italian conversation lessons, enjoy acoustic live music events, jazz nights and even sample superb 3 to 4 course sit-down meals made by guest chefs.
“I think it is difficult for people to come through the door because you don’t know what you are going to get. If you go into a Costa, you know. We attract the sort of person who likes to find somewhere different,” Helen points out. But the Mockingbird’s distinctive character and allure go beyond special events and quirky interior decoration. It’s more than just the ornamental birds, Parisian signs, skis, musical instruments, gigantic pasta and Italian beer.
Helen explains that aside from the right combination of lighting and space, what sets the deli apart is the fact that regulars become part of the Mockingbird team. They know that when they come in staff will greet them warmly, know what they would like to order and ask them about their day. The deli soon becomes a space where you feel at ease to waste time and be yourself because it is a space where you are welcomed as you would be at home.
It might take you a while to discover the delights of the Mockingbird Deli but once you experience the tasteful love of Italy, the quality food made from fresh, plain ingredients, time that takes on a different pace to the world outside, it is impossible not to come back. Going to the café, whether by yourself or with others, is like meeting with a very good friend, you always leave in a better mood than when you came in.
To find out more about events hosted at the Mockingbird Deli, you can do it virtually by visiting their Facebook page or in person by willingly and delightfully wasting some time there.