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Moka, Ashley Centre, Epsom

By This is Surrey  |  Posted: May 22, 2009

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Moka, Ashley Centre, Epsom

Epsom was as busy as always as I motored into the Ashley Centre car park to do some shopping.

After manoeuvring into a tight space in the multi-storey car park, I wandered around the shops in the centre, which offer a leisurely browse without the rush of people you get in centres like Guildford, Croydon and Kingston.

I had read earlier something curious about the centre.

After 23 years as the Ashley Centre, its owners wanted to change the name to the Epsom Mall, or similar, and bright pink signs went up in a bid to get shoppers to convert to the new name.

However, Surrey is a traditional place and townsfolk and visitors wanted the name to stay the same and refused to conform.

So now, the centre is marking its 25th anniversary by being re-branded and re-christened the Ashley Centre once again.

I do remember the Queen opening the centre in 1984.

After a little window shopping, it was time for a bite to eat and a drink and the al fresco style of the Moka cafe appealed.

The grey clouds of early afternoon were giving way to some warm sunshine, even though the breeze had an edge to it.

I took a seat outside and an attentive young waiter, who hailed from Slovakia, handed me a menu and politely left it with me to choose what I'd like to order.

On the next table, a man with a mobility scooter was engaged in conversation with a lady who had a similar conveyance.

The man told her: "We was in Spain when they changed pesetas to euros and the price went uumph, just like that. Suddenly everything cost a lot more just like it did here when we went decimal."

The Slovak gentleman was keen to hear of my holiday in his home country a few years ago and smiled as I mentioned where I had visited.

I placed an order for a three-egg omelette, served with fries and salad.

I ordered extra fillings of mushroom, ham and cherry tomato and the meal came to £9.90 but it turned out to be so hearty, there was no need to think about having to eat for the rest of the day.

After a few minutes it was brought to the table, along with a latte.

The lady in the scooter, who had been enjoying a snack, struck up further conversation with the gentleman she had been chatting with earlier.

"My husband was spending £60 a week on tobacco so he gave up and now he's got £480 saved up because he puts the £60 in a tin each week. I told him, that's going to pay for our holiday this year. It was only a few weeks ago he gave up smoking."

The omelette was particularly tasty, with savoury, crispy corners.

College students sauntered past, along with school children and hurried mothers fetching in provisions for the evening meal.

"We're going to the Dominican Republic in September. It's a lovely time to go," the disabled gentleman was told.

"Where we are staying they've got three à la carte restaurants you can go to when you like and that's included in the price.

"The cheapest place they are doing it is Thomas Cook."

They went on to discuss their weight and how they needed to cut down.

The lady had trimmed from 24 stone to 17 stone and the man from 20 to 14 stone. Diabetes was an issue.

The Slovak lad persuaded me to have afters and I opted for a walnut and caramel tart with chocolate ice cream.

Afterwards I felt quite sleepy. The other two had scooted off and a cheeky-looking young chap in jeans and dirty trainers accompanied by his girlfriend had replaced them.

A mobile phone rang and a young woman behind me talked loudly into the receiver.

"We could go round Jamie's with a pizza. Those single guys don't cook or eat. They just have takeaways and stuff."

Another waitress arrived and took an order from a man who took a seat nearby.

"Hello my darling. Do you want sugar?"

He replied in the negative and the waitress chuckled and said: "You're sweet enough, eh?"

I perused the menu and was impressed by the range of all-day brunches, wraps, oven-baked potatoes, pastas and salads available throughout the day.

The premises is licensed to sell wines and beers with the food.

Soon it was time to pay the bill and depart.

The young Slovak was getting ready to go home and we shook hands as I thanked him for the meal.

There was a convivial atmosphere inside the cafe.

I took a stroll into Epsom town centre and browsed at the market stalls, some of them selling plants to put into the garden for the summer.

The iconic clock tower towered above the market and seemed to have been refurbished.

Funny to think I was born in this town.

The traffic was as bad as ever and buses and cars jostled for positions as the rush-hour got going in earnest.

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