Saturday, April 07, 2018

Café Society

Come on down to the Mermaid Café
And I will buy you a bottle of wine
And we'll laugh and toast to nothing and
Smash our empty glasses down
Let's have a round for these freaks and these soldiers
A round for these friends of mine
Let's have another round for the bright red devil, who
Keeps me in this tourist town. - Joni Mitchell "Carey"

Bluestone Lane UES Manhattan
To quote Big Bird, "One of these things is not like the others".

Little Collins, Brunswick, St Kilda, Fort Green, Flinders Lane, Northern Territory.

But they all have something in common - they are all Australian cafés, and all but one is in New York City.

Australian cafés are big in New York, especially in Brooklyn, though the trend trendiness is spreading.

Not all go by street or suburb names. There's Banter, Laughing Man,  Two Hands, Tony's Estate and Saltwater Coffee.

Fort Green of course is the odd man out. It's in Northcote - a suburb of Melbourne that has been in the process of being gentrified for the last twenty plus years.

A friend of mine tells me that it is nothing like the Brooklyn neighborhood after which it is named. Unlike the darkly-lit Vienna style hipster  hangouts,  Green Point Northcote is for healthy millenials Customers sit on stools at high tables, drinking smoothies surrounded by light and potted palms. So Northcote. So getting-it-wrong.

But I shouldn't be mean - I lived in Northcote for many years. At the even more trying-to-be-trendy Westgath end. No doubt this sub-suburb is now called WeGa after the New York City naming convention that became a model for the names of emerging and re-purposed neighborhoods in New York,  such as TriBeCa for "Triangle Below Canal Street", DUMBO ("Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass"), NoHo ("North of Houston Street"), NoLIta ("North of Little Italy").

Perk on Second - Great Coffee
I remember my parents - when they weren't throwing things at each other and burying each others' vinyls (or the fifties equivalent of) in the backyard out of spite, going to a coffee shop in Melbourne's CBD - Pelllegrinis. Melbourne has always been one step ahead of New York in coffee drinking.

Last week I went to the Australian-owned  Bluestone Lane on the Upper East Side. It is beautifully situated in the nave of an old church. The Church of Eternal Rest. My kind of place.

The food was excellent and lived up to the high standards of Australian cuisine. I had maple roasted heirloom carrots, spinach, lentils, pickled beets, feta, poached egg and avocado with turmeric ginger yogurt dressing.

But the coffee has been Americanized. It looks like real Aussie coffee but tastes like it is watered down. American as. Pod coffee.

Apart from the coffee and the compulsory tipping - the place is "cashless" and you pay on an iPad where the lowest tip is 14%, the place really is Australian.

The staff all spoke Australian when I was there and there was just that touch of Australian ageism.  Case in point -

When I went there it was busy and so there was a line (queue),  and you had to have the greeter person put your name down and wait till you were called. I noticed that I had not been asked my name and  when she walked past ten minutes later I saw a list of names with no "Kate" among them.

"How will you know when it is my turn?" I asked.  "Oh we will, she said. Don't worry my dear." Am I paranoid, or had she noted me down in her head as "old person".


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