I haven’t been on these pages for a few weeks. It’s just been one of those seasons. PC meltdown, workplace meltdowns, family and relationship meltdowns, spiritual meltdown…
Seasons come and go. We all go through them from time to time and often the most curious of things come along and put a little bit of spark back into life. Just remember that the biggest bushfires start with the smallest of sparks. Fortunately, I have found La Cure to spark my writing passion once again.
La Cure is a quaint little cafe, most peculiar by Darwin standards, and located outside/within the Australia Post complex in the CBD area. I’ll get back to the ‘outside/within’ bit in a moment. I have passed by the coffee shop 2 or 3 (or sometimes more) each week for the past several years while clearing my mailbox – each time I have been drawn to its uniqueness, but somehow always thought it was too ‘different’ for my tastes.
The cafe is the first thing you see as you approach the postal complex. The shopfront itself is accessed from the street side of the complex before walking into the arcade beyond the automatic glass sliding doors. The shopfront is small, crowded, cluttered. Menus and signs surround you, along with counters, fridges and food cabinets. A few tables and chairs outside on the sidewalk and a high window counter inside provide places for a small number of diners. The dark turquoise and burnt orange/near ochre feature-walls and black framed faux wrought iron and glass top balcony table settings shout period Europe, tropical and arid Australia all at the same time – really clever.
It’s not long before you realise that the proprietors want you to believe that they are really a small Parisian crepery (is that a word??) along the side walk. And darn, don’t they nearly pull it off…
I recently needed a break, an escape, from the usual humdrum and decided it was time to venture in and order a light lunch. Laminated menus are scattered about to peruse while standing at the counter or seated at your table. The day I attended the cafe was staffed by one person, and so orders had to be placed at the counter, and in between cooking and meal prep duties.
I know that when (pretending to be) in Paris I should do as Parisians do and order a sweet or savoury crepe, but I wanted something simpler and more familiar to start with. Deciding between a toasted sandwich or a jaffle, the bacon, egg, and cheese jaffle won out. Except the crepery was out of eggs. How is that possible? A ham, cheese, tomato and pineapple jaffle would suffice, along with a coffee.
And now this is where the outside/inside part comes into play. The tenancy next door to La Cure is also part of La Cure and appears to be the main dining area. It is only accessed by walking back out and through the sliding glass doors into the arcade. It is a peculiar set-up, and one the staff overcome by passing freely between the two tenancies through an open doorway in the party-wall between the two shop spaces.
There are subtle, moodier, changes in the dining area decor. Ripped vinyl flooring sits underneath more black framed furniture amongst black walls, black shelves, another dark turquoise feature wall, antique lights, antique fans and other paraphernalia of early 20th century Europe….. The visual aesthetic is complimented by a stale aroma resembling musty antique and book shops…
The bleak walls accommodate black and white photos featuring stark and depressed cityscapes of yesteryear. Large patches of chalkboard menus scattered throughout the dining area add to the black and white decor… The table was set with a serviette dispenser, a bucket of utensils and sugar sticks, and a jar of jelly beans. Overall the shop is a dishevelled, dark yet playful take on a quaint, nostalgic atmosphere. Emphasis on quaint.
Put it this way – if I had looked up from my table and seen Robert Smith from the namesake band sitting in the corner blending away I wouldn’t have been surprised…
The staff member (I suspect was not the proprietor) was pleasant enough, but not particularly warm or inviting. I waited a bit longer than expected for the meal, especially considering that I was the only customer apart from one other diner who left not long after I sat down, and one other guest at the counter who appeared to be a friend chatting….
Lunch arrived – the small skinny flat white coffee, accompanied by two mini scotch finger biscuits, was simply one of the best I had tasted in weeks. Why had I waited for so long before trying at least a take away coffee?
The jaffle, however, was a tad disappointing. Sure, a jaffle is a glorified toastie – I get that, but the edges should be sealed closed around a plump offering, with the outside of the shell toasted golden brown. Unfortunately, it was none of that – but rather a sad and flat looking toastie with no life left in the plain store brought sliced bread.
Perhaps I should have saved a bit of money and simply ordered the toastie instead.
In defence of the jaffle though, what filling there was was a perfect blend of cheese, tomato, ham and pineapple pieces. There was not too much or too little of one or the other. The ham was not deli sliced, but off the bone in random chunk sized slices, and the jaffle was served not too hot, and not too cold.
There was something sensual about sitting in this place that evoked all the emotions within the armchair traveller in me to want to get away and see the real thing first hand. Curiously there was no music. There’s always – generally – at least a radio droning in the background. But no – not even some cd playing something incongruent. Some moody Piaf, vibrant Grappelli, or even modern Alizee would have elevated the ambience.
Overall, it was an elegant and quirky experience with enough atmosphere to just about transport me to some corner of Paris….. I’ll choose something different from the menu next time.