• Pope Joan commits the cardinal sin (Nicholson St, Brunswick East)

A few of my cycling friends went to Pope Joan and were talking about how good it was. We decided to go on consecutive Saturdays so I could experience the goats cheese omelette which they were giving very high marks.

First impressions were good: we sat out in the courtyard which had a very relaxed ambience. We were given the menus. The menu had changed from the previous Saturday: prices had gone up and no sign of the goats cheese omelette. On enquiring about the omelette and asking if it was possible to have it, we were told by the waiter: “It’s no longer on the menu and the kitchen doesn’t have the ingredients”. Cardinal sin number one: don’t treat your customers like idiots. The kitchen doesn’t have eggs and feta???? Oh really!!!!

We settled for the poached egg (note singular) on a corn and sweet potato cake with avocado, hazelnuts and yogurt ($19). There were three of us and one of the plates came out with a serving of 2 half rashers of bacon. To make things easier for the waiter my friend said it was OK to leave the bacon rather than replating the dish. The dish as featured on the menu was not a large serving, but it was an interesting combination of textures and flavours.

The coffee is by Allpress ($4) and my friends enjoyed the smooth richness of the coffee. I had an orange peel and cardamom tea ($4.50). This was interesting, full of flavour and with lots of orange peel.

The bill came, we paid it, were leaving a tip and then I checked the items on the bill. To our surprise we had been charged $6 for the 2 half rashers of bacon that my friend had never ordered. When we enquired about the charge the waiter became quite combative: “you accepted the dish. You could have sent it back. If you’re disputing the bill you’ll have to see the manager.” Cardinal rule number 2: if a café is going to charge high prices then make sure the full offering (including the service) is exceptional. Cardinal rule number 3: the market is crowded with cafés and you need to befriend your clients and not treat customer with disdain if you want your café to prosper.

Pope Joan has the basis for a great café. It has been opened since July 2010. In the early days it was getting some good reviews and awards. Perhaps past glories are still bringing the punters in, but our experience is that it has got way ahead of itself and is not delivering on its promises. In the course of seven days our group went from celebrating a very good dining experience to prices increasing, menu changing and hostile staff. We vowed to never return. How can a café lose its way so quickly by not following a few of the absolute basics of running a café?

About the author
Michael is passionate about food and wine. He worked in the wine industry for 3 years (a dream job) and learnt about food through cooking with friends from extremely diverse backgrounds. Michael enjoys cooking a range of European and Asian inspired dishes, but his main passion is creating cakes, tarts and desserts.

Pope Joan
77 Nicholson St
Brunswick East 3057
03 93888858

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