48 hours ago I was nearly killed by anaphylactic shock in a (non-Beeston) chain eaterie that mumbled reliable blandness.

So much for brand being a guarantee of mediocrity.

21st century gastronauts all, skilled at reading the exterior of a café or other calorie-pusher, we kind of know somewhere is suitable for a lunch with family or pals. Really though – don’t those finessed choices just bore the arse off you sometimes? If you’re choosing a venue based on how photos will look on your ‘socials’, have a word with yourself.

Instead, take a fork on the wild side. You’ll find none better locally than Boathouse Café at Beeston Marina. Admittedly, the food selection is basic. But something about that place makes me smile, always has. It’s beautifully unmanicured, a shack with weathered picnic benches where walkers often sit with buoyant dogs. I hope they’re buoyant, given the river is just a few steps away, along with a genuine WW2 landing craft that also featured in Saving Private Ryan.

Anywhere else, that might feel like an unwelcome Planet Hollywood style corporate exercise. Not with Tony in charge. Tony is the café, the café is Tony. That’s how things are when they work. Tony loves local history, and once you know that you’ll make sense of the Boathouse Café. There is old stuff there. Pictures from decades old newspapers. Photos of old customers, not just past but passed.

I have some odd ideas about people and places. In many ways Tony and that café are interchangeable. If I wanted to sum up everything I love about the area –

 an abundance of charity shops

·Fred Hallam greengrocers

·a discount food stall run by a woman clear about what items she doesn’t like as well as those she does

 KC’s meals – not checked Delicious Dim Sum yet, but his enthusiasm when I bought dumplings and other streetfood spoke to me

Put all of that together, turn it into a particular place and person, and put it just where it needs to be? You get Marina Café, at least in my imaginal mapping. I have had memorable times there. An early morning cuppa when police came along and took a customer away for breaching bail conditions. Maybe he just wanted another coffee and a Wagon Wheel before succumbing to the inevitable. A relationship-shaping date – I’d lost my phone, she retraced our steps back through to a bridge where gravel barges pass and helped me find that and more.

Not everything needs to be memorable. Sometimes nothing beats sitting with a still-warm mug of your preferred brew, watching serious walkers sulk because there’s no need to crack open an O.S. map, nothing more on your mind than a wet dog shaking itself on a dry day.

AR