First rule of Johnny’s Café: talk about Johnny’s Café!
Yep, tell all your friends. Spread the word. Exalt the coffee bean choices.
Second rule of Johnny’s Café: do not talk about the kitchen!
Alas, it is true. We keep the kitchen clean, and it’s the one part of the building that none of the customers see, thank goodness. But it’s something of a sore point that we’ve never had the money to get it updated. There’s barely enough workspace for all the preparation and cooking, and honestly I think the stoves aren’t as powerful as they should be. And the oven is tiny. That’s why I bake all the goods at home and bring them in, ready to present.
Johnny has spent so long making the presentable parts of the café look fab that we haven’t really had the time to look into kitchen installation and renovation. And it’s the type of thing that…well, if you saw it, you’d know what we mean. It needs a serious facelift. Not just a facelift: we need a new kitchen, period. Maybe extend out into the garden a little bit, or a lot, because there’s barely enough room in there for three people and there’s only so much dancing on the edge of the disaster we can do before someone’s elbow gets bumped, and a beautifully-prepared brunch gets fed to the ground. Or a sleeve catches fire, smoke comes pouring out, there’s a visit from the safety inspector and they tell us in no uncertain terms that we need a new kitchen, or it’s curtains for the café.
And curtains in the kitchen are almost certainly a fire hazard as well, so…no curtains for the kitchen. Renovations for the kitchen. Melbourne’s best kitchen renovations. I could use the space for my baking, and everyone else could use it for their sanity while they work. Small spaces heat up quick, you know. And when temperatures are high, tempers are high, and people start setting fire to each other on purpose.
It’s actually not weird, going to a cafe by yourself. I noticed that today, after stressing about it for my first few visits. I’ve always just come here with my wife, but now that I’m actually here by myself, I see plenty of people just here on their own. They’re on their phones, reading a book, typing away on laptops…it’s fine. So that’s good to know, because I’ve seriously been needing some quality time away from the house. Debbie has been a little stressed at home, and with work the way it is…well, anyway. It can get busy here, but it’s always quiet.
That’s great, because I’ve still got stuff to do. The car isn’t exactly roadworthy…and I know I can get an RACV inspection in Mitcham, which isn’t TOO far, but then there’s the little issue of risking it to get there. I bet I could get a callout, but that’s more expensive and Debbie probably wouldn’t like that. We’re scrounging for the pennies at the moment, so spending extra money on the car…yeah, probably not a good idea. Maybe I can call Harry and get him to tow me. He’ll probably say i owe him, which I will, but that’s tomorrow’s problem. I bet they’re going to find problems with the brakes as well, because there ARE problems with the brakes. I’ve known that for ages, ever since I skidded through that red light and got the fine, which Debbie was ALSO not happy about. It’d been raining, but still, most cars can stop in good time even if there’s water on the road.
So…might have to dip into the budget for a car brake service. I’m pretty sure there are mechanics who can take care of my car brake service. Ringwood has a mechanic that I once got a roadworthy through, I wonder if they do brake repairs?
At least it’ll only be one trip. Funnily enough, I’m not stressed about any of this. I’ll work a bit more, and maybe drink less coffee. That’s fine. Just BEING in this cafe is a stress-reliever, for real.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been in a café with a nautical theme that I liked. I know that sounds like I’m being discriminatory against sailors and the sea life, but I’m really not. Maybe I’m slightly biased against cafes in coastal towns, but only if they try to dress themselves up like they’re the inside of a ship. Like, just…knock it off. We all know you picked up that ship’s wheel on G-Buy, and the anchor is probably from the gift shop next door.
I’ve no idea why I find the idea so tacky, but anytime anyone suggests something like that for this place, I just have to try to put my foot down. Fortunately, Johnny doesn’t seem too enthused with the idea either. Well, it’s that, and we’re mostly landlocked here. We can try to appeal to workmen in Melbourne servicing outboard motor repairs or whatever but I don’t think we’ll get many in.
Actually, I think my dislike of fake marine stuff might be from when I grew up in Mornington. I was an actual sea kid- in by boat, rain or shine. Always wanted to get a larger boat and go sailing, but then we moved away from the coast and I haven’t had the time or money to go boating ever since. Guess seeing all the memorabilia whilst it’s not connected to anything- or being flaunted by people who don’t understand that world- just really irritates me. Irrationally, I will admit.
Maybe I should just get over it. If you’ve repurposed an anchor winch and are using is as a flashy counter decoration for your café, I should learn to live with it. It’s not like I ever actually managed to break into Melbourne’s marine industry anyway. The people in Melbourne who do outboard motor repairs and all that are just a hardier sort. I bet they’d absolutely hate their craft being used as cheap decorations. And then there’s me…the guy making coffee who can’t let go of the past. I don’t really have the right to get mad over much.
One thing I’ll say about Johnny: he does nothing in half measures. He took a few weeks off to deal with that whole issue of a child being dumped at his doorstep, and now he’s back with a thousand ideas for the cafe. It’s like he was on a relaxing Parisian holiday instead of dealing with a major life change.
So now he wants to convert the loft space into an extra bit of seating, creating a multi-layer cafe. It’s ambitious, but he came to the staff meeting armed with blueprints and everything. Says he wants it to be really swish, so we’re going for glass balustrades and everything. Apparently he knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows someone who can do some quality glazier services. Okay…I just smile and nod a lot of the time when this kind of thing gets brought up. I’m not a visual learner and I have a lot of trouble envisioning things. I know we have some loft space that isn’t really being used for anything, and I can sort of see how- if you knock down the wall, clean out the space, do a whole lot of dusting, add some artwork, new flooring, and of course an actual stairwell instead of just a ladder- you could make a really nice little space. Not sure about the glass balustrading though. I thought we already got rid of the decorative glass guy a few weeks ago, but here we are, discussing glaziers. I hope Johnny didn’t actually want some decorative glass, because I don’t think he’s coming back.
So now we have a mad little idea from the man himself. We DO need more sitting space; often people just walk in and walk out, even when we can use the outdoor seating. The extra room along with the chic appeal of the upstairs space could do wonders. I’ve absolutely no idea how any of it is going to get done though. I’m not a residential glazier…I just make the coffee. And look after the cat that the cafe now basically owns. Just showed up one day; has a collar, but I don’t think it actually has a home. But who calls a cat ‘Tabby Crawshaw’ anyway?
Sometimes I’m serving and I just think…I shouldn’t be hearing this. I mean that people come in here and talk about sensitive stuff at the top of their lungs, and I never know what to do. Ask them to stop? Walk around with a suspiciously-blank look on my face to make it seem as if I don’t care? Johnny would know what to do, but…well, he’s busy now. I hope he’s back soon though, because it turns out this cafe is a magnet for weird, and I can only take so much.
Doesn’t help that I have the memory of an elephant. A couple of people had clearly come from court, or somewhere similar. Talking about how they were going to have to hire business lawyers from Melbourne since the case was getting out of hand, and I’m trying to put down the vanilla slices and cover my ears at the same time. Actually impossible, you know. So they’re talking about property law, and land acts, the meetings they’re going to have with the property lawyers, what their plan is moving forward with the firm…
Maybe they don’t care. Maybe it’s fine, and I’m just overreacting, but if you heard them talk, you’d think it sounded very secretive. And maybe it’s not. But maybe it IS. It SOUNDS very secretive. And if I’m hearing secrets that I’m not supposed to, perhaps people will come knocking on my door to try to find out what I know. Terrible people.
Maybe I should find an actual property lawyer who practices in Melbourne. I have this friend who does civil law, and she said that confidentiality in civil cases it totally different from criminal law, here everything has to be hushed up and people have to paint pictures inside the courtroom.
In the meantime, I’m just denying everything. I just serve coffee and vanilla slices, your honour. I don’t listen to private conversations like a *nosey* person.
I don’t really like kids, or children, or babies. So yeah, I can really understand the struggle of having a baby dumped on your doorstep and then feeling like you have to take care of it. I mean, not the second part. If someone dumped a baby on my doorstep I’d take it to the police, answer whatever questions they had and then I’d be off into the night. I have…absolutely no time for any of that nonsense. I still avoid tables with a crying baby while I’m working here, and there’s Johnny feeling like he has to take care of a random child.
Uh, no thanks. We deal with enough noise here, thanks. No, random salesperson who refuses to say what company they are part of…we do not need any windows. Our decorative window glass is already done, see? Johnny got some people in to give us this swirling pattern with coffee beans…heard to describe. There are pictures on the website. But for real, since decorative windows became big, the phoney companies have grown to the point where they don’t even care if you’ve already got it. Not that it’s a ‘company’…companies have websites. This is just people jumping on the bandwagon to make a quick buck.
Johnny is good at dealing with these people. Like, he just has a way of getting rid of them in a way that doesn’t give them what they want, but also makes them leave, pronto, while keeping them in good spirits. People skills: that’s what it’s all about. You’d think it would be coffee making, but you’d be wrong. Anyway, I wish I had that level of people skills, but instead, I just have to blank the guy until he gets the idea that he’s not getting anything from me. Him, and the guy who tried to get us to swap our coffee beans, and the lady who basically tried to join us into a cafe pyramid scheme. I’m learning. But, like…just look. We already have commercial decorative window glass, from a real company. Why are you still trying to sell it to us!
Some people are truly gifted. And yeah, sometimes that gift is obvious. For example, I’m good at baking. Not being immodest; I’m just aware of my own talents. People rave about the coffee here a lot, but if it weren’t for my slice and cakes, this place wouldn’t be half of what it is. Sold out every day!
Or take my brother. Car nut, knows everything, and if I ever need help with something, he’s on it like a shot.
And then there are some…who can hold a conversation. Talk, talk, talk forever. And not just that, but they can take the most interesting subjects and destroy them through pure attrition. Jenny is one such lady. What a gift, that woman. I HAD been interested in dry needling courses in Australia before today. My younger sister is the alternative sort, Mum is always on at her to find something that suits her, and this honestly just seems like her thing. I was going to tell her about it when I got home; she’d be so great as well. Hands of a surgeon. Made the mistake of mentioning that to Jenny before she had a chance to fill her face with vanilla slice (which is usually when I make my getaway).
“Oh, dry needling, so interesting! Did you know it’s not like acupuncture? A lot of people think that. I hear they have courses in Auckland. Oh, did you hear, people are protesting because they think it’s plagiarized? I’ve always thought I’d be very good at that sort of thing. Just yesterday I was playing pickup sticks…”
And no more work was done for about fifteen minutes. Jenny doesn’t even get it when I have a line of customers at the counter. Nightmare.
But now I know there are dry needling courses in Christchurch! How useful, thanks Jenny! I don’t remember anything else, because there was just so darn much of it.
What’s with all the people trying to sell solar panels recently? We’re a cafe; our energy needs are not massive. We’re open relatively normal hours, and we have mood lighting so it’s not like we’re blasting away with the energy-draining lumens. Johnny puts up with these door-to-door people far more than I ever could, I swear.
“YOU WANT TO BUY SOLAR PANELS?”
Dude, go somewhere you actually have a chance. Besides, unfortunately for him I actually know people in Melbourne’s commercial solar industry, and they’re not creepy door-to-door salesman. What would even happen if you went with one of those sham artists, anyway? They’d probably just install some painted white squares on your house and say that your energy needs will be whittled down to nothing in 2-3 years. By then you’ll probably have forgotten they were even there.
I’m all for solar power, by the way. The real stuff, that is, that actually starts to shave off your power needs. My parents had a few panels installed WAY back, when it wasn’t all that trendy or ‘in’. Maybe they could just see which way the wind was blowing, because now they pay basically nothing for their energy and everyone around is jealous. I don’t understand why more people haven’t gotten solar panels, especially for large business with high energy needs.
Makes me wonder what things will look like in the future. Maybe all our roofing will just be solar panels, with turbines sticking out of everywhere to maximise energy usage. I bet people will find a way to make that sort of stuff look good. I read recently that they’ve managed to make solar panels into roof tiles. They’re pretty expensive at the moment but in a few years everyone will have them.
But for now? We’re okay here in the cafe, thanks. It’ll be a long time before Melbourne’s industrial solar power becomes necessary to brew a few lattes.
We HAVE to do something about the soccer mums. Oh, you know exactly what I’m talking about; everyone does. They always come in here after the games, bored children in tow, and talk incredibly loudly about how their little Spencer, Cooper, Brianna, Sally-Anne or Dante just kicked the most AMAZING goal, or how they just smacked the ball so hard that it flew out of the arena, or something equally silly. Oh, and I really do mean loudly. Everyone must know, even if little Jemimah was the one responsible for setting up the indoor cricket nets.
“Oh, she has SUCH a way with her fingers, does Jemimah. So dextrous. Everyone at the cricket club says it; they won’t even set up until Jemimah gets here. She’s going to be a professional at setting up cricket netting, just you wait!”
Give me a break. Everyone has to have a thing nowadays. Even if your child isn’t actively part of the sport, they’ve got to have a gimmick. the only alternative is NOT showing up to the sporting events and not getting to gossip with all the other Mums. And then they all come in here because it’s the only vaguely nice place around, and I have to deal with them talking right over me when I try to take their order. Not that I don’t already know…it’s a round of skinny, soy, half-strength lattes with no sugar. Got to keep up the trend!
I mean, I’d be pretty happy with my child either way, whether they’re out there on the field or setting up the sports nets. In some ways, the net thing would be even better; shows that they’re not in it for the glory, and they just want to help out.
But would I go into a cafe a try to make extra sure that EVERYONE knows what my child did? No. I’d have more tact than that.
Initial impressions: the food menu could be more expansive. A chic café needs decent coffee, first and foremost, and this place does seem to have that one down. Still, the next thing I want to see are some actual lunch options. The cakes look rather nice, the slices adequate, and I’ve spied a few menu items that could pass for brunch. I’m not saying every nice café needs to double as a restaurant, but as a food critic, I know quite a bit about what people want, and the flavour of the month is brunch. Brunch, everywhere! Eggs benedict, quiche Lorraine, light sandwiches and wraps! COUSCOUS!!
I can’t help being critical; it’s my job. And when I’m nitpicking this much, it’s a good sign. I just came all the way from Frankston, and…oh my days. Such things I have seen in some of those seaside cafes. I wish I’d had business cards for all the places that did pest control in Frankston, because I could’ve saved myself the trouble of actually tasting anything. No soggy sausage rolls or watery coffee; I could’ve just dropped the pest control card, given the manager a pointed look and walked out.
I’m no health and safety inspector, of course, but part of the food critic’s job is to assess the surroundings. You can be served the most beautiful vanilla slice in the world, but if the table is covered in crumbs and there’s slime leaking from the walls, it all means nothing. A couple of places genuinely needed pest control- not because of rats, fortunately- but there shouldn’t be the slightest hint of a creepy-crawly in the house, and I saw several. Ants, spiders…and that’s just the first wave. A crowd attracts a crowd, as they say. You have to get on those pest problems early.
Maybe that’s an option. I’m off to Rosebud next. Perhaps I need to scout out the Rosebud pest control services, procure some cards and…well, it’ll just save time on a clearly hopeless visit. Savage.