Monday, June 9, 2008

Persepolis, Utrecht

The black and white cat sits on the counter.
She is quietly licking her right foot. Then she passes it on her snout.
From right to left. From left to right. Up and down.

A customer places a couple of yellow plastic bags on the conveyor belt.

The small golden bell around the cat's neck jingles as she jumps on the floor.
She is smooth and well-mannered, but cannot be of any help.

A man approaches behind the counter. He weighs
the two bags on a scales while whistling.
Coins pass from one hand to another one.
"Dank je wel.
"Tot straks.
"Tot ziens.

Welcome to Persepolis, my favourite grocery store in Utrecht.

We are in Kanalstraat, the main street of the Lombok neighborhood.
A place which I use to call "my own Ha(a)rlem", meaning not the Dutch, but the New Yorker one. An area of red-bricked working class buildings between a wooden windmill and a bell tower.
On both sides of the road you can find a large potpourri of Turkish butcheries, Moroccan grills,
Surinamese confectioneries, Lebanese bakeries and Iranian-owned hardware stores.

It just takes five minutes to get here from my place walking along the orange festooned Borneostraat. Hup! Holland Hup! Hundreds of triangle shaped banners exclaim.

Once I used to buy my fruit and vegetables on the other side of Kanalstraat in a no named store known for its juicy mangoes, but lately I put faith in Persepolis for Marjane Satrapi's sake.
It's only here that I can find my beloved hummus and full moons of feta cheese sunk in milky pools. And every time I come here it's hard to don't fill a plastic tray with olives of all sort, tzatziki, mysterious but colourful sauces.

Making your grocery shopping at Persepolis you can feel as a fellow member of Utrecht's microcosm. While waiting for your turn to pay it's nice to catch a quick glance of that cute blond girl ahead of you in the line who took just one green pepper and a single zucchini. And then looking backwards you have a tall old man in his beige caftan who carries a 5 kilos bag of basmati rice and a handful of cassava roots.

Despite the long queue of customers, the Persepolis owner looks relaxed. He is never in a hurry. He stands on the threshold of his store talking nicely with passing people, suppliers, yobs and acquaintances before deciding of coming back to the counter with slow steps.
But as he gives you the yellow plastic bags back adding a bigger stronger white one with a smile, I am sure you will forgive him proclaming Persepolis your favourite grocery shop in Utrecht.

And there is no such thing as customer satisfaction.
If you don't mind the cat, obviously.


Anonymous said...

perse polis has the best tzaziki in the entire world.

Marta said...

Persepolis is the place to be.
Still in 2010, same cat, same relaxed and nice owner(s?), same great hummus and wonderful feta (the goat one). And what about the room in the back, the one entirely dedicated to Persian food? There I always get Halva (the Persian one) with pistaches but also the Kashk Bademjan (a Persian specialty based on Aubergines).
When I'll move back to Italy (in a couple of days, unfortunately) this is the place I'll miss the most.
Thanks for this post, it's nice to see that more people have feelings for this shop :) ... I'm thinking about starting a fan page on Facebook... ;)