Brunch time on Saturday. Sam and I are squeezing ourselves into the middle seats of a picnic table outside of Cafe Route in Dalston, awkwardly trying not to disrupt the already-established pairs on either side. We complete the table; two girls sit opposite one another to my left, discussing their parents’ adjustment to becoming empty nesters and an impending trip to Australia, while on my right two guys with accents are asking the waiter for smoked salmon on the side of eggs benedict.
With the intention of heading over to Voodoo Ray’s for pizza-by-the-slice, we’ve chained our bikes up in Dalston Square. Most of Dalston is comfortably grubby, but Dalston Square is shiny-new and purpose-built, the cafes and restaurants nestled below shining glass tower blocks. We are frequently running or cycling through but we’ve never really looked to see what’s here, so we have wandered over to see which cafes have outdoor seating. We decide to stay. It’s not terribly warm, but it’s warm enough to make the most of.
Once our plates are cleared, the guy next to Sam, Saturday-casual in a t-shirt and backwards baseball cap, asks us if we’re from around here. He’s from Lithuania, but he’s getting ready to move to New York for work as a business development manager at HelloFresh. “Your marketing budget must be insane,” I’m saying, enviously.
He laughs. “We were just talking about how different New Yorkers are. They’ll chat to anyone, anywhere. Londoners, not so much. We were… testing this theory.” I try not to now imagine the situation as a trial by combat, and agree instead. I am being harmonious.
This year you can’t talk about New Yorkers without talking about Donald Trump. The four of us are equally appalled. “People are voting emotionally. It’s happening everywhere,” the guy next to me is saying. He’s about to move from Dalston to Notting Hill. “I’d rather stay around here– east– but my friends and I found a really good deal. We didn’t even see the place before we agreed on it,” he says with a hint of a shrug. Finding accommodation in London is not for the faint of heart, and definitely not for the choosy. He tells us he’s Romanian.
“Romania is a completely underrated country,” his Lithuanian friend states, nodding. I admit I’d like to visit. The Romanian sighs. “Romania is beautiful, it’s just been destroyed by its politicians. But that’s another story.”