Naomi's secret obsession

Only In New York
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The Independent Culture
IT HAS only taken me four years to discover what Naomi Campbell has known for ages: it is possible to find nirvana in Manhattan. We are talking perfection in British nostalgia food, for all of us sad and pathetic expats who occasionally feel the need for a gobble of Bird's custard or a quick slurp from a can of Fray Bentos. Or just the simple but hard-to- find pleasure here of genuine Heinz baked beans on toast.

The urge for some nosh-from-home came upon me one morning last week as I struggled through the heat to my office. I had just been reading about a double-decker tour bus, one of many imported from London to ferry tourists around. Unable to cope with the temperature, it had spontaneously combusted on a street in Little Italy. Then I spotted something odd on the pavement: a single McVities chocolate digestive. It hadn't been there long - the chocolate covering, with its square-shaped ripples, was still not quite melted.

Someone was trying to tell me something. So on Sunday, I made my first pilgrimage to two establishments in the Village that are shrines to many other Brits in the city, not to mention a roster of famous models and actors: Myers of Keswick, a tiny butchers and "English provisions shop" on Hudson Street, and, two blocks away on Greenwich Avenue, the even tinier restaurant Tea & Sympathy and its adjoining shop, called Carry On Tea & Sympathy.

Actually, Pete Myers, who opened for business here 14 years ago, won't have Naomi Campbell in his shop any more. "We had a falling out," he explains with a gnomic smile. Apparently, she was a bit rude once to some of his customers. Anyhow, "She sends her chauffeur down now." Myers' shop is stuffed with old favourites I hadn't seen in years, except on visits home. Things like Dettol, Garibaldi biscuits, Jordan's Luxury Muesli (nearly $6 [pounds 4] a packet, but I had to get some anyway), Ribena and, yes, Fray Bentos. His patrons are 95 per cent British, he says, and the most popular items are HP Sauce, baked beans and Branston Pickle.

Really special, though, is the meat section. Formerly a butcher - in Keswick, of course - Myers realised soon after arriving in New York that there wasn't a single English butchers in a city that even then had a quarter of a million Brits living in and around it. "I reckoned it would be like having the only butchers shop in Carlisle," he recalls. Business has been booming ever since. Every day, he fills the refrigerated counter with the sausages he makes himself - bangers that you won't find anywhere else west of Kerry. And chipolatas, pork pies and even the occasional haggis.

Jordan's and sausages duly purchased, I headed for Tea & Sympathy and its husband-and-wife owners, Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett and Nicky Perry K- D. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a good cuppa, but I felt it was important to go the whole hog, ordering scones and clotted cream, finger sandwiches, jam sponge cake and, to finish, beans on toast. Copies of the Daily Mail and The Mirror were also on hand. (What, no Indy?) As for the piped music - Des O'Connor singing "Raindrops Keep Falling". How can you not fall in love with this place? Stomach bursting, I repaired to Carry On... next door for a quick raid of their English sweetie counter.

The restaurant was opened eight years ago by Nicky, who for years was in the business in London. (Her first job was as tea lady at the Stock Exchange.) She and Sean have plans to open a fish and chip shop later this year. "The American approximation of fish and chips is an abomination," says Sean.

Naomi's chauffeur stops here, too. Her naughty secret is out. "She is obsessed with apple crumble and custard," reports Sean. Others come in person. Rupert Everett is in the restaurant almost every day. Dame Judi Dench came by recently before ending her Broadway run in Amy's View, and the magazine queen Tina Brown likes to treat herself to Sunday breakfast here with hubby Harold Evans.

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