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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The start of the day

I'm on two macchiato's a day. The first, now, comes from Cafe K (top pic) and the second from Sappho's in Glebe Point Road. The Sapphic mac is shorter - the milk lesser in quantity and liveliness. The atmosphere at Sappho's, the vibe, the decor is more appealing. Cafe K sits near a corner of the Bridge Road rat run, opposite a mediocre apartment building and close to a cement dispatch yard.

Trucks start arriving for cement early in the morning and the dispatcher announces well I'm not really sure what "Come in number seven. Your time is up", "Security to hardware please", "Cathy, price check at register three please"? The industrial equivalent of an early rising bird. Been part of the aural landscape in Blackwattle Bay for at least the fifteen years we've been here.

It looks to me as if the workers there are starting to appreciate good coffee two minutes from work. If I'm at Cafe K early enough I'm the only customer not wearing serious working clobber, hi-vis polos or bomber jackets, "I'm walkin' here" boots, can-double-as-an-ashtray trousers - not a chisel toe or pant to be seen.

The macchiatos differ greatly as well. The Cafe K one is smoother richer, the extra milk and air gently aiding the caffeines passage into my bloodstream. By the time I get to Sappho's with its more genteel opening hours I'm ready for a if-it's-too-strong drink a warm mikshake instead mac, or mach, or mack. My stomach has survived the early morning onslaught of a breakfast I craft to suit the aging digestive system. (Nobody told me that having children late in life meant a very very brief gap between my world being dominated by their digestive systems to it being ruled by the various indignities of the march of time - try and tell a 23 year old that with luck the worst part of a colonoscopy is the purging diet or try and tell an NRL player that a DRE is a medical procedure not a kind of tackle).

I've stopped eating breakfast at Sappho's. If they had a kilo of lukewarm spinach sprinkled with two cups of bran and Goji berries on the menu I'd be there but no, it seems they'll only make things people actually want to eat - go figure. Once they get the quirky antics of the night staff sorted it'd probably be worth popping in then as well. No one likes to walk into someone else's family squabble. You want that in Glebe you stay out on the street for a few hours. Or go to any bar about 3am.

The macs at Sappho's have been consistently good since I first started going to the new location when my oldest daughter was doing a pre-kinder course at GlebePS late in 2006. Her sister and I would wait at Sappho's before we picked her up. I'm pretty tolerant about coffee - simply put if you can't make a good short you shouldn't be allowed near a coffee machine - make instant or get a plunger, don't waste the coffee. The strongest coffees I've ever encountered were at Sappho's. A roaster/barista had the wheels of steam so tight and so finely calibrated that you were drinking hot coffee paste with a stain of water. This was fine for the people too dim to access the local illegal substance dealers but not so good for the people who drink why-bothers - the various buckets of slop that American chains have perfected. If it's got bean juice, de-anythinged anything and /or fruit of any sort it's no more a coffee than a marshmallow-laden chocolate sprinkled spoiltbratino. Drink water.

It's no wonder the Cobra had a sting in it's tail. You can run a cafe like a Fawlty Towers theme restaurant or the Soup Kitchen in Seinfeld but not every daytime customer got the joke. New coffee supplier, new baristas. Strong,narrow opinions will get you a blog but not a publishing deal or successful cafe. The customer is always right- especially when they're wrong. Service industries and retail outlets always have an element of amateur individual or group psychotherapy to them. It's not just stuff to eat and drink you're selling.

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