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August 28, 2020
Habits

The people you meet at Hey Jupiter

While a café is known by the quality of its coffee and croissants, its character comes from the patrons who call the venue home. Adelaide writer Kurtis Eichler spent an afternoon getting to know the regulars at Hey Jupiter.

  • Words: Kurtis Eichler
  • Pictures: Johnny von Einem

As the morning sun hits the front of Hey Jupiter, waiters are setting the restaurant for that day’s lunch service. There’s a table on the other side of the window. It seats two, and it catches all the sun. It’s warming, inviting.

The staff of the petite East End French bistro know it’s the must-have spot of a dedicated regular. They place down a metal ‘réserve’ sign.

They know the favourite spots of all their regulars. There’s art-aficionados Don and Carolyn Rankin, who hold up the restaurant’s back corner booth. Outside, tattoo artist Heath Crowe and partner Elyse Crowe sit by the door. A prominent local real estate agent, and his wife, will always request an inside table, near the kitchen pass.

When Frenchman Christophe Zauner and partner Jacqui Lodge opened Hey Jupiter in 2012, many of these regulars started migrating from other East End coffee shops.

Their café was tiny. There was a long, high table down its middle. After some years, those who showed dedication to turning up daily got a plaque on the table.

The humble café was transformed a few years later into the Parisian bistro it is now, a large kitchen was built and the table was tossed. Regulars found new places to perch but none of them left.

CityMag spoke with a few of the punctual patrons to whom Hey Jupiter is the centre of their own universe.

 

Robin Burns and Carol Allen

There is an outdoor table that is special to Robin Burns. It is the farthest from Hey Jupiter’s door. It was the spot that, for at least four years, he sat with his late wife Andrea McGuffog and their beloved cocker spaniel Ruby every morning.

Robin would have a coffee, Andrea an espresso and a cigarette. Even after her diagnosis of malignant gastrointestinal stromal tumours, they kept turning up.

“Andrea decided that rather than people coming [to the house] and chatting with her she’d actually like to meet them at Hey Jupiter,” Robin remembers.

“Because she was okay in the morning and then would gradually fade out. Friends and family would come in and meet us at the furthest table on the eastern side.”

Before Hey Jupiter existed, the couple went to SAD Café. They loved the barista, Nick. Then, one day, they saw some work up the road on a new café. They went inside. They never left. Robin says it was Jacqui’s cassoulet that won him over.

“It got a bit difficult to go back and have coffee at SAD with Nick because we knew they could each see each other,” Robin says.

“We would go to Hey Jupiter first and then hopefully Christophe wasn’t watching and we would go and see Nick.”

The couple made the most of their last years together. There were trips to exotic locations. They rode a bus through Russia. Their last trip was to New York. They stayed in Brooklyn, caught a subway into Manhattan every morning and walked the city.

Robin, knowing his wife of 20 years would not make her 60th birthday, threw her an “early” one at 58 at Mother Vine on Vardon Ave. Many of the traders along Ebenezer Place attended. It was something she wanted.

“The initial life expectancy was about 12 months and she died after about eight years. She was a survivor.”

Andrea died in November 2016 aged 59, one week after her last visit to Hey Jupiter.

Not long after, Christophe mounted a plaque in her honour. Its inscription is simple: Ruby is looking after your table.

 

“Christophe and Jacqui were really sad to see her go,” he says, “and they wanted to recognise she was a fairly special person in their lives.”

Before her passing, Andrea made one request: that their long-time friend Carol Allen meet Robin for coffee every now and then.

Robin says it “gradually built on” after his wife’s death and the couple began dating a year or so later. They lived in separate houses until this year. Carol sold her Parkside house weeks before the COVID-19 lockdown and moved in with Robin’s place at Maylands.

“We would come in for a few takeaway meals a week when they were doing takeaway. It tasted just as good, it was just in a Cryovac pack.”

The move, and the slight interruption of COVID-19, did not stop coffee. They found a new regular spot. Still outdoors, still with Ruby, who is now five.

Robin says Andrea always wanted a dog. A cocker spaniel, just like the one she had as a child. It also had to be red.

Ruby is a hit with patrons and obliges for photoshoots. But her aversion to the local birds has seemingly got worse, Robin says.

“She thinks she needs to keep them away, if anything else,” Carol says. “We saw a Murray magpie take food out of her bowl and she is a cocker spaniel, it’s in her breeding.”

 

Don and Carolyn Rankin

Don and Carolyn Rankin went to Paris for a holiday one year. When they returned, they were welcomed with bad croissants and distressed timber.

The couple’s regular haunt on Rundle Street had been remodelled in their time overseas. Don says they gave it a few weeks to adjust.

“They had high benches and rubbish croissants, and the croissants were the most important thing,” the 73-year-old says.

“I said to them, ‘These croissants are rubbish, what are you going to do about it?’ We let two weeks go by, nothing changed and we decided to look for somewhere else.”

They didn’t have to look far. Hey Jupiter had hot coffee, the decor was cosy and the croissants were crisp.

“We used to sit at this long table, and in fact, Christophe put a little plaque on the table where we sat,” Don says fondly.

The couple, who drive over and park in a nearby laneway every morning from Kent Town, come every day except Christmas Day. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, they would come, get a takeaway coffee and pastry, and sit on the kerb outside.

So regular are the Rankins that a painting of Don’s hangs above the kitchen pass – a still life depicting a torn apart croissant.

Don’s torn croissant

 

“We got to know Christophe and Jackie and we talked about what we did, and they knew I was an artist, and it was Christophe’s suggestion to do a painting,” Don says.

“I thought about it, and I thought about what would be appropriate and it was bleeding obvious: paint our breakfast.

“I wanted to show the interior of the croissant and the crunchiness of it and the crumbs and I try and get a lot of geometry into my composition.”

Don, a retired mathematics teacher who turned to art professionally upon his retirement, says his relationship to Hey Jupiter is based around loyalty. Carolyn, a former arts policy adviser in the state government, agrees.

“I’ve made a lot of sales through my connections here. My best mate has a standing joke which is this image of me here doing deals in the corner daily for my work. Huge exaggeration of course.”

 

Huw Morgan

Huw Morgan is paying for his morning coffee when he glances at the lamp near the eftpos machine.

The light fitting is elegant, very French, but its date at the bottom is wrong. He shows one of the waiting staff. The little wooden calendar underneath the lamp, with marble numbers, was donated by Huw.

“I bought that on holiday in Vietnam,” the gruff 58-year-old says “a bit of France in Vietnam.”

Every morning the former The Advertiser journalist turned CSIRO spokesman rides from his home in Norwood through to Ebenezer Place, gets a coffee, and then it’s on to work.

His favourite time of year is when the Tour Down Under is on and the café is full of cyclists. He, like Don and Carolyn, started off elsewhere, but found Hey Jupiter’s coffee was better.

He also couldn’t keep away from the staff, especially Christophe.

“I’m probably as French as a Chiko Roll,” Huw says with a wry smile.

“The thing I like about it is the staff are no-bullshit, you’re always guaranteed a table, it’s warm and the coffee is good.

“Also, if you’re a regular and it’s busy, they’ll find you a spot. I think I remember coming here one Christmas Day, even, when they were shut. But I’ve come for after-hours things.”

 

Tricia Ross

Tricia Ross talks about the morning routine of getting coffee with whimsy.

“We are social beasts and it’s long been my regime to go out for coffee somewhere in the morning,” the 58-year-old lawyer says.

“It gives me my social connection for the day when a lot of the time I’m sitting in an office or in a studio and getting on with the job. It’s a morning thing and sets me up to get me on my way.”

If it was not for coffee, Tricia, who also has an art studio in Bowden, would not have met her husband, Neo Douvartzidis.

“There was a fabulous coffee shop on Rundle Street called Alfresco and I would be travelling from my home in Mayland’s down to Finlaysons where I was working,” Tricia says.

“I was also on St Peter’s Council and doing a Masters in Law and busy reading and we just happened to notice each other, and he had just come back from studying in North Carolina.

“We still don’t know who picked up who. It was literally a very chance thing, and it was very timely because I was meant to move to Sydney and I never went.”

A lot has changed since then. The couple now have five children and have “had all sorts of excitements and stuff” along the way.

But coffee has remained.

Tricia enjoys talking with the people she comes across. She found Hey Jupiter to be “appealing to all ages” and somewhere that had a “sense of intelligence about it”.

“That’s how I connected with Don and Carolyn. We are likeminded beasts with an art background and we are now coffee shop buddies,” she says.

“Art has a voice in a time of climate crisis and it’s all about raising awareness that we need laws to govern us through this process.

“I’ve always been someone who has made things and I’m someone who is pretty busy and always enquiring how to do things.

While working as a lawyer Tricia began studying visual art at the Adelaide Central School of Art in 2010. She then joined the Central Studios in 2014.

“I also got the opportunity to work in a warehouse that I ended up transforming into Studio Bowden and along the way climate change sort of haunted me a bit,” she says.

“I’ve watched it with a great sense of gloom the way CO2 emissions are rising. The legal and artistic me wanted to find a way to raise awareness towards doing something as a population.”

One of the paintings on Tricia’s website depicts a court jester, walking the tightrope towards a coal-fired power station.

“I like to use a mix of process to find the right visual message to make and I like to learn how to do different things.”

 

Heath Crowe and Elyse Crowe

Heath Crowe and his partner Elyse Crowe will always remember that first autumn morning brunch at Hey Jupiter.

“Sitting outside in the morning sun was just beautiful,” the 33-year-old tattoo artist says. “I first came here when I was visiting Adelaide and I just loved it.”

“It is unapologetically French and they provide a product and service that they believe in, without compromise, and we love this.”

Heath is from Melbourne and Elyse was raised in Byron Bay. Heath started doing tattoo “guest spots” in Adelaide about six years ago.

“He loved the community and culture so much so we decided to move here three and a half years ago,” Elyse says.

“We have since opened our own tattoo studio, Golden Crow Electric Tattoo, in the East End, around the corner from Hey Jupiter.”

Elyse’s first trip to Hey Jupiter was when she was pregnant. Heath took her out for Mother’s Day brunch and has since made it a tradition.

The couple have two children – Harlem, 3, and Odette, 1. Harlem has an addiction to madeleines – a small sponge cake.

“Harlem is also very proud of the basic French he has learnt here,” Heath says. “We consider the staff family.”

“I think most importantly it has provided a place where local business owners and their staff can come 364 days a year.

“We would spend Christmas Day here as well if we could.”

 

Emily Palmer

Cambridge-born Emily Palmer arrived in Adelaide about two years ago to do a Masters in Wine Business.

It was a Sunday evening. Adelaide was cold, rainy and uninviting. Emily had rented an Airbnb atop a restaurant called Hey Jupiter.

“I was a city dweller and it was quite a shock to me, how little was open and now I realise this is normal,” Emily laughs.

“Hey Jupiter was open downstairs and I sat outside under the heaters. Koen was my waiter and we got chatting because I was brought up in Holland, and chatting about football weirdly.

“Then I started coming in a bit more, mostly in the morning, and I got to know the staff. Christophe completely ignored me for months on end, then we just became really good friends.”

Emily’s spot is just inside the window, where the sunlight seems to last the longest. Her order is a long black in what appears to be a soup bowl, sometimes breakfast, and always The Australian.

Her father worked in the oil industry, and the family would travel a lot. After attending school in London, she attended university in the US, studying an undergraduate in Geography.

“Then I worked as an investment banker, I then worked in executive search, really senior head-hunting and started my own business and then I came here when my 18-year relationship ended,” she says.

“I really needed to do something really, really different that was about me, so I came here initially for three months.”

The Airbnb atop Hey Jupiter turned into a long-term rental, and Emily’s gregarious nature and skilled background was suddenly in demand.

One day a week, she sells truffles to Adelaide restaurants. She freelances in marketing for an alcohol and beverages company and trades wine and the stock market.

“That’s why I’m always at Hey Jupiter. I don’t really have fixed hours. But I haven’t got to the point of taking my laptop down there.

“I think I’ve done it once, but I don’t really want it to become a place where everyone is sitting and working and people who are sitting working and taking up space over one cup of coffee.”

Emily admits breaking into Adelaide and making friends has been tough.

“I’m a woman on her own here, with no kids, no husband, not easily put into a box of where I went to school.”

But she has made some “very close friends” and found herself adopted into a very welcoming new family, downstairs at Hey Jupiter.

“They are my Adelaide family,” Emily says. “They know everything. They see everything. They are very good at keeping secrets.

“Part of going there is being part of a carefully curated community. It takes a while to be accepted. Everybody goes there and gets great service.

“But if you want to be part of the ‘gang’, you earn that. That’s not given. You earn that, and I love that.”

 

Christophe Zauner and Jacqui Lodge

Hey Jupiter was never meant to be French. The name has more significance to Tori Amos than it does boeuf bourguignon.

“It was just a café with great sandwiches – one of which was a croque monsieur and one out of the two owners happened to be French,” co-owner Jacqui Lodge says.

“Literally because of that everyone started referring to us as ‘that French café’.”

The bistro’s story started in Europe, where Jacqui and her now partner Christopher Zauner met in 2000. After two years they moved to Melbourne with the dream of opening “something”.

“We didn’t have much money, we had recently spent a bit of time in Adelaide and loved it, and back then there wasn’t that much around compared to Melbourne,” she says.

They opened Hey Jupiter in 2012, a year after they moved to SA. Initially it was just a single-fronted shop along Ebenezer Place, with Christophe on the coffee machine and Jacqui in the kitchen. They employed a barista for three hours a day.

Once customer loyalty built up and the recognition was there, the French part came. The couple toyed with moving the café to expand it, but decided to stay put.

“It’s not based on any particular place,” Jacqui says.

“It’s just us, mixed with the fundamentals of any French bistro or brasserie. It’s not that they all look the same in France, it’s just that different types of restaurants in France have ‘uniforms’.

“The food we do, the hours we are open and the general ‘mission’ of the restaurant as a neighbourhood place has the uniform of  – the facade, the awning, the furniture, the zinc bar.  So when you are in Paris, every corner has a bistro that has those fundamental design elements and does the things we do.

“It’s your local.”

Jacqui believes the reason they’ve garnered such loyal clientele is simple: they remember people.

“You come a few times we know who you are,” she says.

“We engage. We really, really appreciate these people. Fundamentally, having the regulars is the exact validation that we created a true corner bistro/brasserie, without the corner.

“They are community neighbourhood places and we definitely have created that community.”

When COVID-19 restrictions forced the restaurant’s closure, they opened for takeaway for some months. Regulars would still roll up, sit on the kerb, and have a coffee.

Faced with their toughest predicament as business owners, the loyalty was heartwarming.

“We wanted to be there for them too,” Jacqui says.

“Christophe said immediately that he would just come in every morning anyway to do the regulars’ coffees and pastries for a few hours.

“The community is there for us and we are there for them too. In a way that period was what made us realise we had a popular business.

“The support really shone through.”

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