Alpino Cafe @ Chapel Market, N1

Alpino Cafe, which is situated at the west end of Chapel Market, is a much loved local eatery. The establishment is a stone’s throw from our office and Hubbie and I often eat our lunch there.

Today’s special was chicken pie with vegetables and mashed potato…

Their portion was generous as usual. Nothing can beat a piping hot chicken pie with gravy when the weather outside is chilly and blustery, we wholeheartedly agreed as we ferried the piping hot mashed potato to our mouths.

The family-run eatery has a particular charm…

And their charm is derived from their individuality. The place has the air of history in a quirky way.

One of their walls are adorned with photos of football stars from mainly the 90’s and another one is a shrine for sports cars, notably mainly Italian’s and professional boxers. Their tables and chairs are recently updated and they are arranged rather tightly so the diners are almost elbow-to-elbow during lunchtime. Their extensive menu offers vast choices – from standard English breakfast to American pancake, sandwiches, pasta, risotto, gnocchi, lasagne, omelette, jacket potato, meat dishes such as chicken escalope and salad, etc. Plus they have special dishes which change daily. During the peak time, the service can be a bit slow but no one, especially the regulars, seems to mind. A team of waitresses, who I guess they are sisters, come in and out of the kitchen at a brisk pace, delivering the plates of food or clearing away the tables. Behind the chilled cabinets by the front door with cured meats and cheese for take-away sandwiches, an old lady, who I assume an owner of the cafe, manages the till. She calculates the bill without the help of a pocket computer no matter how long the addition may be and it sounds a treat every time I hear her doing the math with her native Italian. It is like a chirpy cheerful bird singing!

Sometimes, Hubbie and I buy our lunch from chains like Itus and Pret A Manger. It is because we are particularly busy on certain days and we rather scoff sandwich at the desk. However, the recent environmental issues such as plastic pollution make us contemplate if our habit of buying lunch at chain stores is damaging the environment. Of course, we do our best to recycle those plastic containers responsively. But would it be better if we don’t rely on disposable plastics such as lids and bottles altogether?

‘It’s win-win for both! Don’t you agree?’ While I munched on my chicken pie, I confided to Hubbie.

I meant was by having lunch at local restaurants such as Alpino’s, we weren’t producing any plastic waste. And we were also supporting local businesses which had to swallow a huge hike of the annual business rate by the Islington Council. What not to like!

Beside all the aforementioned benefits, we would enjoy our lunchtime together more because there would be no interruption by e-mails or phones. Let’s step back to the time when we had a proper lunch break, Hubbie and I agreed…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Merry Christmas

‘So we have done our duty!’ We patted our backs and buckled up our seat belts. Yes, we did go to a family lunch at Guildford in the end. Hubbie received a text from his dad, David, and we decided to attend a lunch which was organised by my sister-in-law. I didn’t care much about his brother but we should be there if our presence would make David happy.

The lunch was cordial even though I wouldn’t have enjoyed my brother-in-law’s sense of humour, which was always on the verge of being plain unpleasantness, more than two hours.

Anyway, we did what it was required from us. Now, let’s enjoy the rest of our quiet and peaceful Christmas Eve with mince pies, cups of tea and lazying on a sofa…

Have a lovely holiday, everyone!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lunch over Autoroute 4

Bonjour, Reims!

We looked out of the window and found the street below us deserted as it was still early Saturday morning. Mum commented with a mug of coffee in her hands that her sleep was disturbed a little by a group of Friday night revellers who were chatting rather loudly by the fountains. Poor mum!

‘À plus tard, instead of ‘Au revoir!’

A receptionist and I exchanged as we were leaving the hotel. The reason for it was because we were returning to the same place in ten days time on our way home to the UK.

We must admit that Reims was a very pleasant city and all the local people we encountered during our stay were very friendly and amiable. Especially, I was most grateful to one madam who helped me to navigate a paying machine at the car park!

The distance between Reims and our next destination, Strasbourg, was 350km (170miles) and it was estimated to take about 4 hours to reach the city. We left the car park just before 11:00 and joined the eastbound Autoroute 4.

Around midday, a fuel gauge indicated that there was less than 1/4 of petrol left in the tank. Conveniently, a service station at Haudiomont was approaching rapidly, so I changed the lane and joined a slip road to the service.

The service station, Aire de Verdun Saint-Nicolas Sud, was surrounded with tall trees and the ground was covered with gravel except where the petrol station was. After refuelling our car, we traversed the open ground towards the building with a restaurant and a shop. During our road trip, we rarely stopped at the service stations except for refuelling and using their loo and certainly, not for food. The reason was because we would rather be eating at a proper eatery at the end of the journey than grabbing some readymade snack on a move.

‘How do you feel about having our lunch here today, mum?’

We both agreed that we were feeling already a bit peckish because our breakfast was very light. So, we climbed up the stairs and joined a small queue at the cafeteria.

Oh boy, what a gem it was! This restaurant provided us a very tasty lunch.

We bought quiche with some game meat, salad and meatballs with rice and spinach. They all appeared unassuming but oh my, they were delicious! Each dish was seasoned and cooked exquisitely, we enjoyed every morsel until the plates were all clean.

We were one of the early arrivals at the dining room, therefore, we could get a table right next to the window which was overlooking the motorway.

A vantage point!

‘Let’s press on, mum!’

Our car and we were well fuelled.
Now, Strasbourg, here we come!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura


‘We long for it but also complain about it as soon as it arrives!’ We mused about the sudden arrival of heatwave as we licked ice lorries. Our atelier didn’t have air-conditioning but an electric fan, and the device didn’t help much other than it stirred up the hot air.

Early on yesterday, I met up with my old teammate from ice hockey and had lunch together. We hadn’t seen each other for almost a year, therefore, we had tons to catch up with. While we were busy chatting and eating, Bella was sitting on my lap quietly, no figeting nor begging for attention but looking around what was going on. A model behaviour. Well done, Bella!

Bella on my friends lap, looking at her pasta…

Oh my, it sounded like so many things, some of them were pretty drastic, had happened to a few of my teammates while I was in the thick of my own domestic affairs. All very happy and positive changes, yet, life changing decisions nonetheless! We both agreed that a summer social gathering would have to be organised before some of them disappear to the other side of the earth.

Let’s play with the bubble! I brought a secret weapon for Bella to play with at the studio…

Doggie Incredibubblles!

The bubble was absolutely harmless and peach flavoured. I could hardly want to see how Bella would chase the bubbles with excitement. Well, my good intention disappeared into thin air literally like “bubbles”…

She just ran away! She just hated it. Those bubbles were rather sticky and kept the shape for much longer than normal soap bubbles. She seemed to be freaked out by the bubbles sticking to her all over, especially around her furry face. Therefore, she rolled around the floor, trying to rub the residue off from herself, rather than chasing the bubbles for fun. Oh well, never mind. I will find another entertainment for you, Bella…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Market Cafe, E8

Bella looked bored and I was itching for fresh air. ‘Shall we have lunch at Broadway Market, Bella?’ I put a collar around her neck and picked up keys.

Most of the eateries along Broadway Market are canine-friendly and Market Cafe is especially pleasant for both dogs and their owners…

Bella greeting a resident lab…

Their menu is light and healthy. Perfect for a guilt-free lunch…

I had wild rice, avocado, radish, pomegranate, dukka & poached egg. It was garnished with chopped coriander and the whole mixture was very moreish.

Bella wanted to play more…

She is too large for you. You will have to wait for a few more months…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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