Friday, December 18, 2009
Day 10: Caffe L'Incontro, Gays Arcade
Deck the halls with boughs et cetera! Adelaide Arcade is looking grand as MMC and friend sweep in for fingers-crossed fabulous coffee. At 8.45am on an otherwise frantic Friday, we're the first of only two tables filled at Caffe L'Incontro, the sprawling central cafe in Eastern offshoot Gays Arcade. If Christmas carols are playing, they're the classy ones. The ceilings are high, and our expectations are higher. The (first) Order: one regular skinny cappuccino, and one large flat white. The Prices: $3.50 (despite menu listing $3.00) and $4.50.
Caffe L'Incontro = Italian for 'coffee meeting'. Perfectamundo. The shiny shopspace sure is suitable. Gays Arcade is a swift sidestep from the main Arcade bustle, and helpfully accessible from the trendoid Twin Street. Never heard of the place? You're not alone. MMC will never forget the morning a stranger requested assistance locating "a shop called Tarts in Gays Arcade". The random (R-rated?) question met splutters of ignorance, and searching glances for 'candid' cameras. Without noticing the nomenclature, a younger MMC had actually spent many happy student lunchtimes a sugar lump's throw from textiler T'arts.
A little less the starving student, MMC is now all over the Gays Arcade story. Way back in the day, the entire Adelaide Arcade space was a furniture factory owned by a Mr Peter Gays. After it burned crispy in December 1884, construction started on what would become Adelaide Arcade and Mr G's next-door namesake. It's rumoured to have used two million bricks, 50 000 square feet of glass and some crazy futuristic thing called electric lighting. 125 years later, it's the 1880s birthmark of the Rundle Street boom.
Approaching the coffee station, we're surrounded by iconic Italians. The Blend: Icon # 1. Worldwide, Lavazza Coffee is sold as 'Italy's Favourite Coffee'. In Australia, it is 'the Italian Espresso Experience'. The Greeting: Icon # 2. Friendly owner/authority figure Federico oozes Italiano, particularly in his habit of repeating orders back in la lingua madre. The Service: flying solo, he's drawn our first coffees within minutes, and Friend of MMC is serene enough not to object when he receives a gutsy cappuccino instead of a Flat White.
Friend of MMC slowly savours his size-up, and quality leads to quantity as MMC breaks the rules with a second order. Question: Why did a flat white chaser seem necessary at a dangerous 8.53 am? Was it a) The Temperature: instantly drinkable, b) The Pour: well-creamed milk meets its no-nonsense brief, c) Flavour: robust, and with good reason? Our first blend of both arabica and robusta beans in weeks finally delivers that bodied Italian mouthfeel, and the chance for MMC to show off some new words. Acidity, that dry tickle under the tongue, sharpens a smooth but persistent postpalate... Answer: d) all of the above.
The lesson: today, we got what we paid for. It's generous presentation that sets the L'Incontro experience apart. Our orders may have been placed barwards, but they're gallantly delivered to us on a round tray. Each coffee comes with a glass of water and a piece of biscotti, perhaps explaining the upwards pricing.
The latte word: A festive four beans out of five. For full marks, MMC will keep shopping for a trendy topping. Is Waymouth Street the mouth's way? Find out tomorrow during My Morning Coffee.