Love is in the air and all over the gateau, the morning we slip into Pyrenees Delicatessen. It's also written on the glass cabinet: "15 per cent off all cheese for Valentine's Day". But you only need to stand at the counter and listen to the baristas chat in French with the cashier, who chats in French with the baker, to know that it's always Valentine's Day at Pyrenees. Everyone says French is the language of love. Plus, hearing a radio clip that morning with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had put me in the mood. At the weekends, this place is crawling with members of the Mt Albert Active Wear Association, and their petits chiens. So be prepared to queue for your latte (Volt). We're here on a Tuesday. There's a small girl yanking her tiny, toy-like dog by its lead and giggling hysterically. An exquisitely groomed elderly woman floats past us to an outside table with her takeaway cups. It's all paper cups and paper plates here, whether to go or to stay. Recyclable but, still, it seems a shame.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL
I say cheese. It's never to early - or late, for that matter - for cheese. Tarte Fine Campagnarde - bechamel, grated cheese, mushrooms, leek and bacon. The grated cheese is a combination of gruyere and emmental ($7.50) because why stop at one? Chris has an apricot danish ($6). The cabinet is bursting with options, including a selection of macarons, which I don't get. They look pretty, but have nothing to say. Other than that, I could order everything here. In another cabinet are the most exquisite dessert creations. There's pate, olives, terrine and cheese: Roquefort, French brie, buche de chevre. We chat with the baker about how crazy we are for that nutty, creamy Comte (15 per cent off $7.50 per 100g), who agrees it is the best cheese in the world and that he could eat it all day. And because he's French, and we're talking about cheese, you know he's probably right. He bakes the baguettes, which are packed into baskets, still warm. We consider creating our own picnic at an outside table and not moving for several hours. I would recommend anyone considering playing hooky to start their day here with their lover, a great coffee ($4.20 for a latte) and something with melted cheese, followed by a French movie.
The staff are warm, friendly and French. There's a big communal dining table inside, a bench with stools where you can perch and smell the freshly baked bread. The whole vibe is seductive and typically, being French, apparently without even trying. The outside tables are buffered from the white noise of New North Rd by a wall of plants. You can have takeaways - a potato dauphinoise is moderately priced at $16 and would serve a family. And there are frozen, ready-to-heat pastries to take home. Pyrenees is not only a deli, but a shop. On the shelves are escargot shells in tins, mustards, jams and bags of sweets. Apart from those paper cups, what's not to love?