Take me back to bargain coffee and cake

I’m reminiscing again, random thoughts over poached eggs on toast. It’s 1996 when five dollars was all you needed for a round of coffee and cake.. ahh good times!

I’m sixteen again and there’s so much going on..

-If my maths are correct, I was in year eleven at the time with plans to become a journalist like my dad. Okay not exactly like my dad, his focus was wine and spirits. My focus? Well I didn’t really have one (typical teen really). I just figured journalist seemed like a pretty damn cool career aspiration at the time and so I thought I’d roll with it. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll know my career path deviated ever so slightly..

-I was studying a lot of stuff that unsurprisingly I barely used past high school. Okay English was the exception obviously but maths methods? Aside from basic algebra (to explain that yes, I knew some basic algebra) and forgetting too many times how to calculate compound interest, I never used it ever again. History? I learnt and forgot plenty about the French and Russian revolution. I remember sans culottes hilariously meant ‘Without pants’ and there was something about cake? (Not coffee and cake sadly.)

I forget what happened here but I don’t think it had much to do with five dollar coffee and cake.

-Thanks to my best mate Heath I landed a Saturday morning job at a local newsagent. I helped man the counter, sold a lot of papers, ate a lot of freddo’s, woo’d the bosses niece and got hit on by the occasional creepy old man (it was that kind of area). On occasion I’d serve celebrities such as Rob Sitch and Jane Kennedy (who I ended up meeting again through radio years later funnily enough) and white witch and Playboy centrefold Fiona Horne (she came in for some kind of magazine singing promo day).

-My take home pay for that job was $72 a day so that was it, $72 for the week (oh and ten bucks additional pocket money for emptying the dishwasher and walking the dogs). So you can really see the appeal of five dollar coffee and cake when there wasn’t much going on in my wallet.

-A bourbon and coke at a pub or club was roughly $4.50 back then. Obviously at my age I shouldn’t know that fact but sometimes we look a touch older than we should be..

But about this five buck coffee and cake deal..

Now I have to point out that this wasn’t in every cafe across Melbourne back in 1996 (oh god, how I wish this was the case!) But the fond memories of five dollar coffee and cake actually stemmed from the pop up cafe’s along Bourke Street Melbourne.

Usually found on Bourke Street between Swanston Street and Russell Street, these were literal ‘set up in five minutes’ operations comprising of a little cake fridge, a small coffee machine, some fold out metal chairs and tables (usually painted British Racing Green and largely uncomfortable), maybe an umbrella to sip your brew under and that was about it.
I never saw them get setup (I was never there that early) but I could only assume a van would pull up on build up and pack down and everything would easily be thrown in the back.

No what I was there for was being able to get a small cafe latte for 2 bucks. I know, hilarious right? A two dollar coin netted you one of these, hot to trot and ready for you to wrap a napkin around just to be able to hold it.

Coffee and cake

Apparently these are now called ‘Piccolo lattes’ but back in 1996 these were lifesaving caffeine boosters when you’d had a big night on the Sub Zero’s and didn’t want to fall asleep on the train home. And somehow as broke as I got after a big night, I always seemed to have a handy $2 coin floating around for such a treat somewhere.

Of course back in 1996 if you had a handy five dollar note burning a hole in your wallet when you passed one of these pop up cafes, you could go the coffee above and..

A slice of cake! Okay, now the serving size was smaller than what you see on the plate above, after all it’s a five dollar coffee and cake deal we’re talking here so the cake wedge was relative to the size of the glass. Also it was mostly chocolate cake on offer (like devilish dark chocolate cake or triple choc etc) but since I loved chocolate back then (and still do now!) it was the perfect addition.
And all for five bucks!

Sadly the flux capacitor is on the fritz again..

Now we need books to find coffee?

And there’s the fact that I haven’t converted my Mazda 6 into a time machine (yet) which means I can’t go back to 1996 with $200 in my wallet and live like a coffee and cake king. So now I (along with the rest of the world) am forced to deal with single cups of coffee that cost even more than this glorious time. Thanks to inflation a medium coffee is now just $6 around at my local cafe ($6.30 if I pay by card which is ridiculous) and that’s before you get into the fancy milk side of things. Add a slice of cake to that? I know my last ten dollar note isn’t going to cover things here.

Luckily the machine at work is up to snuff and that my barista wife insists on good coffee going into the peculator on the kitchen bench. So there’s that. Sadly when I look in the fridge, there’s no partially eaten devilishly dark chocolate cake looking back at me waiting to be sliced up and served on a plain white plate.

Still, it’s good to remember those heady classic days, back when we all looked this sharp..

And one final note on…tea.

I was very sad to read the news about a great little cafe just a couple of blocks up from where I live:

We would like to take a moment to express our deep appreciation and thanks to all of you who have supported Vintage Rose during our almost 5-year existence.

However, it is with great sadness that due to staff shortages & rising costs, we must announce our decision to close our doors permanently.

This has been a difficult and emotional choice for us, as we have invested so much of our hearts and lives into Vintage Rose.

Thank you so much for all of your love and support. It has been such an honour to be a part of your lives, whether it has been through your morning coffee, catching up with friends, or celebrating your special moments with High Tea.

Vintage Rose will close on Sunday, January 28th, 2024.

-Vintage Rose Tea House

Back when it was Connor’s Cafe I used to swing by for a big cup of the brown stuff on my weekend walk to work. Then when it became Vintage Rose Tea House, my entire family loved going there for cups of tea (Melbourne Moments was pretty awesome!) and plenty of sweet treats (coffee and cake? Of course, but plenty of tea and treats too.) They even did Puppacino’s for furry friends which our Border Collie Willow got to enjoy one time.

Given the great setup in there, I can only imagine (and hope) that the premises stays a cafe. Perhaps (and I’m just thinking out loud here), the new owners when they’re good and ready might kick things off with a 1996 era five dollar coffee and cake deal?

I’ll be first in line with my 26 Red baggy pants and Pheonix Suns basketball top on naturally.

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