97 Chapel Market
020 7837 8330
by Egon Toast
Chapel Market, the spiritual heart of Islington life, is thrown into marked relief by its neighbour, the Mecca of Un-fun that is the 'N1 Centre'. As is eye-bogglingly evident to anyone with even the most boggle-resistant eyes, this botched, vainglorious plaza is vile and depressing, and thus when in the area, you must head across the road in protest and purchase a few pears, a bunch of carrots, a twin pack of brillo pads and possibly Phil Collins' latest oeuvre. And then take breakfast at Alpino's.
For of course, every spiritual centre needs its inner temple. It's a period masterpiece, a quiet, steamy-windowed haven. At the entrance, a hissing tea urn, and the friendliest welcome this side of your mum's house. We take our seats in one of the many booths, the banquettes stained a dark porphyritic red, and cast our eyes around the endearingly wonky fluted wall panels. We check the breakfast specials. The menu says, 'Open Since 1959'. Our breakfast has nigh-on 50 years of previous.
"Right, who's hungry?" calls Steve the amiable chef, emerging from the back with our laden plates. The beans, soggy scourge of the newly-buttered slice of toast, are husbanded expertly by flanks of mushroom and a handsomely sturdy egg. The ratio of sauce to pulse is professional, as is their temperature – as toasty as a cat-warmed blanket. The sausage – firm, with nary a hint of dryness; pork perfection in a membranous sac. The bacon – ample, neither floppy nor desiccated. The tomatoes – tinged with carbon, piping hot and firm.
Altogether, a breakfast compiled by a champion, demolished by a pair of star-struck wanderers, as around them hangs the hush of half a dozen traders, slurping their tea and checking the Racing Post. Praise be.