Cafe Elixir

There’s just something about – what I would call – second generation talent that doesn’t quite match the first generation. I’m referring to the generation that ‘settle’ after the ‘pioneers’; those that live abundantly after those who sacrificed; and those that reap where others have sown. I won’t name them here, but you know the sort of people I have in mind; they’re the musicians, sports stars, actors and actresses, politicians, preachers, and even public servants that we know of. Even my own career path followed my fathers own footsteps for some 20 years after leaving high school.

Or sometimes we don’t know of them at all. Sometimes they have something to prove and sometimes the world ‘owes’ them. And sometimes we hear about the second generation for all the wrong reasons. These were thoughts and initial impressions that ran through my mind as I visited Cafe Elixir recently for a weekday breakfast.

Located in the Library and Cultural Centre at Wanneroo, the first thing that struck me was that car parking for cafe visitors is an issue; be prepared for a hike to the cafe once you find a carpark. The cafe has a rather spacious dining area with a choice of internal and external tables, however if the cultural centre and library are busy, and the cafe even partly so (as it was on my visit), then like me you will need to park the car in the general carpark some distance away and wander back. Fine for a lovely spring day, but I would hate to do the walk in inclement weather.

The next thing that struck me was the din inside the cafe. Raising my voice to the counter staff to enquire if a table was available, the sound generated from within, and the traffic outside, reverberated around the oh-so-modern decor of glass, glass, glass, polished concrete and other hard surfaces; just one of my pet hates about modern cafe design. The nonchalant staff told me that I could sit anywhere and gave me a menu. Unsure of the ordering process, I was advised that the cafe had table service with payment after the meal. After a quick scan of the menu the waiter came to take my order and this morning I settled on the Turkish Eggs. This was a dish that promised me toasted turkish bread spread with hummus, grilled cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, dukkah, lemon infused yoghurt, two perfectly poached eggs, and all drizzled in oil. And a small skinny flat white coffee.

The menu was huge. Impressive; but huge. The menu includes a dinner menu and really seems to be catering for anyone at all – the traditional cafe menu favorites sit along side the modern healthy hipster options, with another three pages just for beverages. At first glance the pricing didn’t seem to make much sense with seemingly basic dishes priced on par or above what appear to be more elaborate and/or complicated dishes. Overall though, the pricing seemed fair and on par with the best of the rest I have visted.

While waiting for quite some time for something to arrive, I quickly jumped on the internet to get a better appreciation of who Cafe Elixir was. Yep, a generational cafe owned by an ex-Melbournian who is out to show West Australians what the best cafes have to offer. The website smacks of DIY website-out-of-a-box technology that could do with a bit of a proof read. While reading the website a kindly waiter offered me the mornings newspaper to read and some water to drink. After another lengthy wait while reading the newspaper, the coffee was served.

The notes in my notepad simply read ‘mild – weak and insipid’. Meaning just that; it was a mild roast, brewed rather weakly and leaving an unusual aftertaste on the palette. It was borderline whether I would continue drinking the coffee, but I persisted by telling myself I would order a long macchiato next time.

After some more reading and waiting, breakfast was served just as three quarters of my lukewarm coffee had been drunk. Why do cafes only rarely bring out the meal with the coffee?

The (let’s face it) eggs on toast was a pretty picture. Toast stacked in a trendy manner on top of each other at angles, the colours of the hummus – smeared and latticed with the lemon infused yoghurt – contrasted with the spinach and tomatoes, and then again with the eggs sitting on top. A sprinkle of dukkah over the top seemed to pull it all together. I’m not sure where the olive oil had been drizzled though. As pretty as the meal was, I could tell immediately it wasn’t what I was expecting. Nonetheless, I couldn’t wait to break the eggs and see a hot golden lava flow run down the stack.

‘Toast’ to me implies some sort of heat from charring. The cold toast was smeared with a hummus paste that was incredibly tasty, but was as smooth as smooth peanut butter is, and chilled – a shame as I’m quite a fan of hummus with some texture remaining. But the hummus wasn’t as cold and chilled as the grilled cherry tomatoes were. And there was nothing special about them either; no smokiness, or being brushed with garlic oil, or anything. Cold charred tomatoes sitting among baby spinach leaves that had not been wilted or blanched. I’m familiar with store bought packaged spinach leaves and that is what these leaves resembled – hopefully they had been washed.

Right about now I was looking forward to breaking open the eggs and letting the yolk mix with the tomato juice and olive oil to form some sort of dressing to the handful of spinach leaves – but where was the oil? The eggs were – granted – perfectly poached, but the last few degrees of warmth were quickly waning out of them. What had happened? This had all the makings of a truly scrumptious hot breakfast on a chilly spring morning, but the cold and chill in the prepared food elements and lukewarm eggs, undressed garnish, and lengthy wait all suggest that there is no love in the kitchen.

The website and cafe all suggest that money was no object in establishing a presence, right down to the classy thick paper napkins printed with the cafe name – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Somehow though, the ‘look’ they were after just wasn’t happening in my mind. Similar to my observations with the menu, there just seems to be something lacking in the final finishing touches to the cafe.

The payment was made at the counter and only then was I asked if everything had been to my satisfaction. I just had to mention the coffee and the cashier acknowledged my comment by saying that it was a particularly weak roast and that they hear that sort of comment often. I was also told that I should have ordered a double shot of coffee in my skinny flat white.

If only I had known before ordering…

And so, is this how Cafe Elixir is going to show West Australians what cafe dining is all about? What had happened? Had I arrived at a bad time of the morning just after the office workers breakky rush? Was it a bad day in the kitchen? Had I ordered a dish more suited to a hot summer mornings brunch? Who knows…

At the end of the day what I paid was a fair price, but for a bit of a walk and a meal that was as unspectacular as the service.

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