Stumbled across the sweetest independent outdoor caff near Ally Pally during a wintry amble this afternoon. And the people there could show your cafe chains more than a thing or two about allergy-friendly provision. About friendly, full-stop, come to think of it.
The Italian-run Grove Cafe sits on the slope of a grassy hill in The Grove bit of Alexandra Park, looking out over trees and rooftops. It’s a tiny, slightly ramshackle building that, on a freezing day like today, has the cosy air of a chalet with its wood panelling, patio heaters and blankets tucked on chairs. Italian and Spanish ballads pipe from outdoor speakers and brightly coloured jars of straws, faded photos of Sofia Loren and other odds and ends jostle against the windows and plaster the doors.
The chalkboard menu offers everything a family-friendly cafe should: toasted sandwiches, pasta dishes, ice creams, soups and jackets. And when asked how the potatoes are cooked, given our allergic Sidney, the man couldn’t have been more helpful.
Not only are the spuds baked in nothing but their skins but, on request, the cafe serves up gluten free bread and wheat free pasta and the guy (who I guess must be the Ciro mentioned here; I really should have asked his name) said he’d be perfectly happy to heat up anything we might bring ourselves for Sid. How lovely is that?
There’s a football behind the counter for kids to kick about on the grass outside…
…and our straightfaced tot finally cracked a smile after being treated to a ditty about Naples and given a little red car to tinker with while we drank our tea. When we attempted to wrestle it from his grip as we left, prompting melodramatic tears, the chap said we could keep it and bring it back next time. Which we will, very soon.
Grove Cafe, The Grove, Alexandra Park, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7BA