Strop was worried. “There’s never anyone in there anymore. It used to be popular, but now its nearly always empty.” She was right, for a long time now Astino’s has looked pretty empty whenever we’ve ambled past. It’s a cafe with a big room and large windows onto King Street, so it takes quite a few punters to make it look busy. When we first moved to the area it seemed to be popular, but not anymore.
So we arrived for breakfast without particularly high expectations. Our first surprise was that there were no tables outside. In my memory Astino’s always has tables outside, full of people sipping coffee and trying to converse over the noise of the traffic. Not today. But there is a blackboard outside. Specials. Smashed avacado on bruschetta. Poached eggs with stuffed hashbrowns(?), bacon and eggs on brioche. What’s going on? We were expecting bog ordinary brekkies again.
All of the customers are occupying the tables lining the windows onto the street, leaving the rest of the big room empty. Strop and I join this trend and squeeze onto a corner table at the front. It’s a beautiful sunny autumn morning, and King Street is its usual noisy, entertaining self. In light of the fact that Astino’s has menu items approaching the interesting on its shortish breakfast menu, I have decided to break the cafe suite rule and ignore whatever version of the big breakfast Astino’s do. Also, this is my second breakfast for the morning.
We start with a couple of coffees – which aren’t brilliant, it has to be said. Not awful but… this is Newtown, there is a lot of very good coffee around (although as we are finding, the best stuff is not actually on King Street). Our food arrives quickly which is good, and appropriate given that the place is not exactly heaving.
Strop’s smashed avacado is a very tasty mix with lots of coriander and red onion. My bacon and egg on brioche is exactly that, with a generous (possibly too generous) dollop of very nice tomato relish. Yum. By the time we have finished our food it becomes obvious that our juices are not going to come without some prompting.
The waitress is hand-over-mouth apologetic. “I forgot. I’m so sorry. Do you still want them?” Well, yes we do, that’s why we ordered them. They come quickly, with more apologies, and they are good. We are refreshed. We decide to forego a second coffee and leave on a orange-and-pineapple-juice-induced high note.
While I go outside to try to take a photograph without looking too uncool, Strop pays, which is only fair.
Strop has a habit that freaks me out: engaging people in conversation. She’ll talk to anyone and it worries the hell out of me. Luckily, I’m safely out on the street this time. While it is a risky habit she’s got, it does mean that she finds stuff out. This time she’s found out that Astino’s has just changed hands! And soon they will close for a week for a makeover!! We clap our hands with glee. Maybe new Astino’s will be wonderful.