Personal space is important to the English. Italians kiss and hug, Spaniards crowd together and most Americans effuse warmth and touchiness, but us English exhibit shy reservation. Until the drinks are flowing, we usually dislike rubbing shoulders too closely. There is, however, one place in the city of York where the phenomenon of social awkwardness is suspended.
A small, squashed café may seem like anathema to the average Brit, but all who visit love The Pig and Pastry on Bishopthorpe Road. Whatever could be going on?
Unlike the average Costa or Starbucks, you’re not guaranteed a table, after all. Such is the limited seating, you might even have to hang around by the door with other bodies before having to sit with complete strangers. But then this seems to be the appeal of The Pig: the sense of total opposition to the chain cafés of our new modern world.
That, and the food. Standing around waiting for an inch of chair allows you to contemplate the large chalkboard menu covering one wall, filled with an array of mouth-watering breakfast, brunch and lunch options. And that’s before you even get onto the sweet treats and cakes. The chef does such expert things with eggs, it puts Leon in the pale.
Every staple cliché of the middle-class, liberal foodie café is here: avocados, local sourdough, halloumi, hoummus, bowls of this and that – but don’t let that put you off. It’s all delicious, even the earnest bowls of porridge. Reassuringly, the menu features no-nonsense Yorkshire items such as York ham, dry-cured bacon, and ‘Doreen’s Black Pudding’. One of the sarnies won a place in Buzzfeed’s 17 Sandwiches You Must Eat in the UK Before You Die.
Then there’s the décor – if you could call it such. Décor implies a cold, artful process, but The Pig’s interior has evolved to include personal photos, curiosities, momentos of the owners, maps and art prints; funny stuff; décor that money couldn’t buy. The World Service broadcasts in the loo, where you’ll find an escaping Woody and Buzz Lightyear climbing up the cistern. What’s not to like?
It’s a forever bustling hangout, a community meeting point where everyone gets to know each other’s names, and Bishy Road would not be Bishy Road without it. Once you step out of the door you can go back to observing the normal rules of spatial awareness, of course.