In the western suburbs of Sydney, cafe experiences are limited to Gloria Jeans and The Coffee Club. Not exactly the intimate artisan feels of my former haunts in leafy Lilyfield. But today, as I made my way to the riverside setting of The Coffee Club, any disparaging thoughts about its RSL-vibes were squashed by the anticipation of meeting my Great Aunty Meryl for lunch.
At 80 years young, this little lady can spin a tale with the best of them, and I get much enjoyment from entertaining her colourful bursts of wisdom. She’s the type who, with all the confidence in the world, tells my husband (who worked in an underground mine for 15 years), all about the coal pits he spent half his life maintaining. For she learned much during a six-week secondment to a country mine as part of her nursing training in the early 1950s(!)
A Surprising Menu Choice
Aunty Meryl is a Seventh Day Adventist which also makes her a staunch vegetarian. At least that was until lunchtime today when she turned Table 6 on its head. The waitress approached the table to take our order. I opted for a latte (extra hot in a take-away cup) and a chicken, avocado and macadamia salad. “I’ll have the same” comes a clear, confident voice from the other side of the table. I immediately go to protest thinking she may have missed the one-part chicken in the chicken, avocado and macadamia salad. But I check myself, knowing better than to question the wisdom of a lady who has been doing lunch for eight decades.
With two chicken salads on approach, I am already anticipating my wilted bed of spinach leaves while we wait for the chef to whip up a replacement vegetarian pide. But the only hint of protest comes when our waitress is a little stingy with the cracked pepper. So instead I wait for her to rouse the adjacent tables with some spirited thanks for the food we are about to receive.
Disguising the Domestic Fowl
Then comes the knockout play I had been waiting for. Great Aunty Meryl takes her napkin, unfolds it to two-ply thickness and rather than placing it on her lap, she (not-so-subtly) shapes a little shield around the back of her meal. The balsamic-soaked poultry farm camped on her plate has been sent into partial lock down. It is clear to me that this is a secret indulgence she doesn’t want to share with anyone – not nosey members of her congregation some 300km away, not the big fella upstairs, and not even her Great Niece sat opposite her. (I see no evil, Aunty M!)
At no point was the word ‘chicken’ mentioned during our lunch conversation. In fact I would have felt more confident to weave in a four-letter word than to raise the subject of her standing toe-to-toe with the flesh of a feathery friend.
Valuable Lessons Learned
My one regret is that I didn’t snap a pic of the little pop-up tent sat opposite me. It was A-Grade family sharing material and it did make for a hilarious re-enactment over dinner.
So the moral of this story is, don’t ever write-off The Coffee Club (or chicken, even when you’re a 30-year vego veteran). I officially just wrapped the most entertaining lunch date of my life.