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.
Mum only has three taste buds left, but she stills loves coming to the café. In fact, we’ve had some lovely times in here ever since it opened. We used to drive all the way to Ethel’s Teashop out on the fringes of town, mostly because Mum and Ethel are old friends, but I’m so glad we can come here now. Ethel is a cranky old bat and her tea just taste like she dropped a few gum leaves in some water.
There’s also the fact that Ethel’s place just never seemed safe. It was basically a shack in the middle of nowhere, and her husband is an arborist for fun, so you could always hear him chopping down trees on the property. I’m not sure if he ever used to do arborist work around Melbourne– as in, as an actual job- but now he’s slightly off his rocker and just chops down trees because he thinks its fun. Mum and I used to go there on Friday mornings and politely listen to Ethel complaining about something or other (mostly the government or her ungrateful children), sipping our leafy water and wondering if our lives would soon be ended by a random act of unlawful tree lopping.
Maybe one day he’ll get too old to pick up a chainsaw, and thus take up tree pruning instead. Until then, I’m quite happy here at Johnny’s. The place is done up like a proper, inner-city café, the coffee is nice, there’s always something soft and jazzy playing…and we don’t fear for our lives. That’s probably the best part. Mum has destroyed her sense of taste from the period of her young life where she ate curries for breakfast lunch and dinner, for a period of sixteen years, but she still just about likes the coffee.
That’s the key to a good café atmosphere in Melbourne. Tree lopping kept to minimum. Also, friendly service.
One thing I really like about cafes: you can go to them alone, and it’s not weird. I mean, you usually need something to do, which is why I’m on my laptop right now, but there are a number of ways around it. Bring a book, write in a notebook (makes you look extra studious), or bring a miniature chess board and play a game with yourself. That’s, like…next level impressive.
Right now I’m looking up terms related to the Melbourne stainless steel fabrication industry, because I am in deep trouble and I’ve no idea how I’m getting myself out of it. Well, short of moving to Abu Dhabi. I hear it’s nice this time of year…
I saw an ad online and I was a little too hasty to reply. I’ve been single for ten years and it’s really eating away at me coming home to my empty apartment every day. My job pays well, but it’s pretty boring and every day is the same: train, office, idle lunch chatter, end of the day, go home and wallow in loneliness. So when a girl popped up in my dating profile asking for a good, polite man involved in the stainless steel fabrication industry…I didn’t think it through before replying. We’ve had three dates, and every time I’ve had to bluff my way through, pretending I know all about snapper racks, fishing rod holders and the proper way to construct a plate alloy boat. I’ve actually been desperately committing a few key sentences to memory before each date and then getting away with it by asking her all about herself for most of the time.
So SHE’S okay with it, and I love hearing her talk because she’s the greatest girl I’ve ever dated, but when will the charade end? Do I have to quit my job and go to work in marine fabrication?
Oh…oh, that’s an idea. I mean, I’m sick of what I do right now. It’s wearying and I hate it, and I need a change. Maybe I can change careers, confess everything and she’ll be smitten by how I’ve changed my entire life just for her. I’m a connoisseur of plate alloy boats now! Maybe then, Stella will truly love me for who I am…and not who she thinks I am. Worth a shot.
Sometimes I like to sit by the window of the café and imagine what people have written into their will. Not in a weird way. Just like, taking a good, long, unflinching look and trying to imagine all of their earthly possessions in the form of writing.
Can’t help it. I have strong understanding of everything to do with Melbourne probate and now I have will-o-vision. Back when I did the job- as in, when I interned at a place for three weeks- I used to do the same thing with the clients who came into the office. Best thing there was that they’d actually go on to draft a will, and I’d know if I was right…which most of the time, I was. Definitely one of my better talents, although I was asked to leave after those three weeks because apparently I was making people feel ‘uncomfortable’. Never figured that one out. I’m pretty happy with my current career, though. Coffin-making is just rewarding in so many ways that people don’t realise.
I still think about wills a lot, though. I used to be in the industry, so I’m well aware of how important it is the leave all your earthly possessions in safe hands. Also, if you’re making a will, you should specify what kind of coffin you’d like, if that’s your thing. A lot of people don’t, and they end up getting something that’s pretty cheap and doesn’t really suit their personality. That’s also a service I offer: I can look at a person and tell you their exact coffin size and type. I don’t share it unless people ask- someone told me that wasn’t a good thing to do, especially to strangers in a café- but it’s pretty useful.
It’s come up a couple of times in here, though. People around the café who need to make a will, and don’t know a single place around Melbourne for estate planning strategies. I help out however I can, you know?
So I recently came into possession of a ute. Really not sure what I’m going to do with it, since I work in the city, in an office. I’m not even sure it would fit in one of our designated parking bays, and I take the train in most days anyway. That, and…well, everyone would think it was hilarious, me pulling up in a ute when they’re all driving their fancy sport-ish cars.
So now I have to figure out what to do with this thing. I know a few people around the cafe who do that sort of work- you know, ute stuff- so maybe one of them could take it off my hands. In fact…most of the people around here do that kind of thing. I’m only in here in the mornings, and I only stay if I can get myself up in time.
I guess I don’t know the people here all that well, not enough to know if they’d be interested in a ute with removable service bodies. There’s also a really nice aluminium toolbox on the back if anyone’s reading the guestbook and they’re interested. Going really cheap, because I don’t own a single tool outside of the tiny toolkit I keep in my garage.
I really just need to ask Johnny. He’s like one of those innkeepers you meet in old video games who knows each and every person in the town by name and can tell you everything that’s going on. Like, suspiciously well-connected, except this is real life and he’s just a rarity. Seriously, I just need to ask and I’m sure he knows someone around who needs a ute, especially in this crowd. There might even be a stampede, who knows?
Or maybe it’s a sign I need to quit my office job and follow my true calling as a purveyor of Melbourne’s best aluminium ute canopies. But let’s not go crazy…
I just LOVE seeing a place with some juicy potential, and this café is FULL of it. Seriously, just…full to the seams. It’s a lovely place and I told the owner myself. Slipped it on one of those cute little response cards and put it in the box. Still, it’s not like I’m going to leave it there. I’m an interior designer by trade, so I won’t stop until everything is perfect. And I see perfection in this humble café on the edge of nowhere, to be sure.
So strange to find such a gem all the way out here. However, one of the greatest flaws is that the décor just doesn’t quite fit together, if you get my meaning. It’s nice enough, but something is missing. Lighting could be changed a tad, since right now the light is slightly more white than yellow. I used to specialise in commercial lighting, before I realised I could be stifling my talents by just focusing on the one thing. I remember it all like it was as crystal clear as a fine chandelier, however. Not that I think a chandelier would work in a place like this, oh no. People come into a café to feel relaxed, not like they have to stand on ceremony for fine dining. I wouldn’t even recommend a proper chandelier for some of the finest restaurants in the business; they’re quite niche in what they can offer.
However, like all the very finest things in life, there are always lighting options. If we’re talking designer lighting, you can get chandelier-style lights that lend an air of grace and sophistication while coming across as relaxed and chic. It’s a fine line, but one with my expertise might be able to recommend such a thing. Otherwise, there are some excellent standing lamps. When it comes to Melbourne’s designer lighting industry, few things are finer. Although don’t even get me STARTED on sofas. I need to make another visit, clearly.
I came to this country to look for gold. I found a number of other good things- really weird wildlife, great coffee and the know-how to barbecue basically everything- but no gold yet. I just reasoned that people in Australia had all lost interest in the gold craze, mostly because the market has moved on to other things. Coal, for example. And it’s not like the gold rush unearthed EVERY lick of gold under the soil, right? There had to be loads of it left.
Well, maybe. Haven’t found any of it yet, hence why I’m sitting in a coffee shop trying to make adjustments to my metal detector instead of returning to Seattle a rich man. So far I’ve managed to find a bunch of tin cans from the seventies, a cache of rusted coins and a lot of building sites. Makes sense, I suppose, all those steel and aluminium work platforms throwing off my readings. As it turns out, Melbourne has a lot of construction going on, hence all the work platforms, and hence why I’m trying to rework my metal detector to avoid certain types of metal that may be a bit more…common. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.
The guy who owns this place suggested that I go and look in Ballarat, which is a legitimate strategy if I get desperate. But I reason that if there was gold in Ballarat, there has to be gold elsewhere. That’s the thing about the formation of gold; it’s a random occurrence. And then there’s Ballarat, and I can guarantee that a million people are already scouring the place. It’s been picked clean, so I’m looking further afield. Also, they probably have aluminium platforms up there and I’d really rather avoid them.
So that’s why I’m down here, in this rather rural area of Melbourne, whacking my metal detector against the desk and desperately trying to make it find gold and not bailey ladders. We definitely have those back in Seattle. Useful as they probably are, they’re not going to make me rich.
I can’t be the only one motivated by classical music. Classical music is wonderful in general, but I work in copywriting, so I’m constantly writing product reviews and descriptions that can be so dull they drive you into a coma. That’s why I try to give myself as much extra kicking as possible. I’m here at the cafe (which has free wifi, thankfully!), I’ve got my extra-strong espresso, and my earphones are in playing some really terrifying classical music to keep me in a state of readiness.
My preference at the moment is with Beethoven- you really can’t beat him when it comes to pieces composed to get your heart thumping- but I’ve recently discovered Mussorgsky. Something must’ve happened in that man’s childhood, because phew, all of his music sounds like it was composed at gunpoint. Perfect for me, though!
I’m on a major project at the moment, actually. I’ve been commissioned to write reviews for all kinds of Melbourne steel products, and since I’m no steel expert I have to do my research. I’m technically kind of a foreign correspondent, since the company is in Hungary. Why am I writing on Melbourne-based steel? No idea. But it’s a big job and I’m their only correspondent in Melbourne, so I got first dibs on the job. Helps that I live in a pretty industrial area, so there are just steel lintels and fabrication all over the place. Also, a really nice cafe that doesn’t make sense with the surrounding area.
It makes a lot of business sense, don’t get me wrong! This place is a hub, but also a place people pass through a lot…and everyone wants a great coffee. So you get a mix of locals, regulars, passersby, construction workers and visitors. I’m a regular, myself, but it can be hard to get a table in the peak times.
Anyway, better focus on these quality Melbourne structural steel fabricators. Maybe I can just talk to one of the construction guys. I know pretty much ALL the regulars, and Johnny definitely knows them all.
A year or so in, and I’m pretty happy with how things are going! Just putting the finishing touches on the plans for the Christmas party, but I already have a bunch of RSVPs from regular café visitors and I’m wondering if we’re going to fit everyone in. Might have to clear the chairs and open up the space out the back. Ah well…at least this means that people do like the place.
Someone suggested that we add games to the event, which is taking things a bit far. I want everyone to come along, drink coffee, have some mulled wine, eat mince pies and just enjoy themselves. But that’s Dale…he’s one of my regulars, teaches cricket down at the park. The kind of guy who’ll talk your ear off about cricket nets for hours on end; or he would, if I didn’t remind him about his own appointments. Sometimes I wonder if people rely on me too much! I have a good memory, and if someone tells me they’re doing something or working somewhere, I’ll remember it. My short term isn’t as good, but that’s just swings and roundabouts, right?
Take Dale for one example. Basically, he comes to the café now to have his life run. We feed him brunch, coffee, remind him that he’s got to pick up the sports netting for today’s lesson, give him a nudge that it’s his wife’s birthday or anniversary (Sara comes in as well…) and generally kick him out when he needs to go to work. It’s the same with a few of our regulars; they treat this place like a second home. I really like the idea, but it’s as stressful as parenting sometimes. Feels like playing den mother to a bunch of well-meaning coffee addicts.
Well, if people love the café, then I’m happy to go beyond. It’ll be great to chat to all the regulars at the party, even if Dale spends most of the time on cricket netting and forgets his kids when he leaves. They’re a funny lot down here. But they’re our customers. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I became a beautician for a reason: to make the world beautiful. I mostly deal in nails, so I’m not quite there yet, but I can’t help but sit in the café, sipping my coffee and thinking longingly about what I’d do to people walking by if I owned a café and they came in, sat down and said ‘make me look fabulous!’.
Oh, the possibilities. But with the way beauty therapy is going, I’m going to need more than a TAFE degree to keep up with the latest tech. Nowadays in Melbourne, cosmetic tattooing is all the rage. We never even learned about that when I was doing my beautician course, either because it was barely a thing or it hadn’t yet reached Australia. And don’t get me wrong: I love it. Gosh, cosmetic eyebrow tattooing…that sounds thrilling to have done and do to someone else!! But right now, I’m just not qualified. Maybe I could learn- I’ve done a lot of that in the job so far- but I don’t know…the whole procedure sounds so permanent, I’d hate to mess it up. Like, sorry honey, you now have eyebrows that look like caterpillars. But we’ll make this one free. See you next time!
I was never that good at the ‘school’ part of school. I was always a girl who got more done by doing, and learning from that. Always got top marks from all my practical exams, not so much when I had to write stuff down. That’d be why I went to TAFE in the first place. I asked Johnny and he said he’s the same: always had to be doing, not so good with writing. And look how he turned out: best coffee shop around for miles. He’s basically a businessman, and all he had to put in was hard work.
I can do it. I know I can. I’ll wrap my head around Melbourne’s new anti wrinkle injections, laser hair removal…and then I can really start making the world a more beautiful place! Just don’t ask me to write stuff.