Local Business Review: Cafka

19 Mar


A Wednesday in March. What to do? Lunch on a park bench? Lank loom in a book shop? I decided to slurp down a quick coffee. But where to go? The choice: a cosmopolitan Starbucks, frazzled businesspeople, young mums – or slum it with the herbal freaks and bean-addled student crusties in one of the city’s independent coffee houses; slouched buildings with names like Café Caffeine, Bean-Cradle, Milk Lumps. For various reasons I chose the latter.

I meandered into an arty little place called Cafka.

At the door there were three sexless individuals who smelled of cumin. They were discussing an art installation being erected in the window of Cafka. One of them was smoking a roll-up, the other two were rolling roll-ups. Their clothes seemed to be made from curtains and their voices had the feckless drawl of those who smoke weed before lunchtime.

‘Yeah, that’s it man. It’s an … it’s an enigma.’

I glanced at the installation. It was about as enigmatic as a pube.

‘ A … presence.’

‘For sure, for sure.’

You’ll no doubt be amazed to hear that the piece was entitled ‘Enigma; Presence.’ It was a television with an ashtray on top of it. In the ashtray were three stubbed cigarette butts, each a different colour. On the screen there was a woman in a white dress walking three cats along a beach. The colour of each cat corresponded to the colour of one of the butts.

‘Yeah, it’s like… like…’


This was creative production at its lowest ebb (or so I believed at the time, having not yet seen the initial drawings for a giant fresco of Alex Salmond in Falkirk should Scotland go independent) it had the unexpected effect of making me feel better about my life. I had to commend these people: with their banal and deeply absurd exhibitions, they were inadvertently providing much needed comic relief to Edinburgh’s creative sector.

Inside I ordered a coffee (a coriander macchiato, the best on offer) and sat down on a rug-splattered chair that felt alive, alarmingly. The décor in Cafka is smothering; every inch of wall pasted with past installations and leaflets for obscure music events; D.J  Gadge and the Reindeer Egg; Derek’s Accordion Apocalypse; Cod Sounds. I sipped my drink and put it down, not intending to pick it up again. Sat opposite me was a bearded man wearing lensless glasses. He was flicking through Cafka’s bi-monthly newsletter: The Scene. I picked up a bedraggled copy.

It was trash.

The main article was a florid piece about ‘modes of expression’ which profiled a day in the life of the artist who had spawned ‘Enigma: Presence.’ There was a small picture of her standing alongside an older piece: ‘Presence: Enigma’. I squinted my eyes at the black and white image; were they?… yes … they were. The artist was definitely sporting a pair of lensless glasses. I looked up. It couldn’t be, could it? It was. I was sitting face to face with the artist. His name was Michelle X. He let out a high pitched cough through his beard. I noticed he had breasts.

I left Cafka in high spirits.


This review was commissioned by The Ancient, Honorable 
and Fragrant Order of the Pink Goats. If you would 
also like me to review a fictional venue, do not 
hesitate to get in touch.

2 Responses to “Local Business Review: Cafka”

  1. Sky email March 19, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Dear Alisdair,

    Upon learning via your website that commissions are welcomed I would like to request a fictional review of an establishment I happened to patronise. I had the recent pleasure of enjoying a chilled dark rum, loaded with fresh lime and ice in an interesting public house going by the handle ‘Carter’s bar’. This low lit friendly bar has more than rum on offer. I suggest, that not all is quite how it seems in this cavern which sits on a corner set amongst busy Morrison Street. On march 3 of this month, a Monday, I stopped at Carter’s bar for a refreshment having spent the day up close and personal with Edinburgh’s seven hills (that’s another story) Here is a list of a few of my observations:- – 4 scantily clad beauties in a row, admittedly a bit dated but still smoking hot – punk music – at least one certified killer – the most beautiful barmaid I may ever have seen – a quiz master not wearing a bow tie – beards,moustaches and hats – a tall dark lady, probably of gypsy descent mumbling something about Hamburg and the need to be cautious.

    As it will be your review and not mine- you being the professional, I shall refrain from further comment but urge you to visit at your earliest convenience.

    Regarding your fee for such a commission, I humbly ask you to fore go any billing as I am a pauper of Dickensian proportions but suspect you will, in the long run be most grateful for my recommendation.

    Yours in anticipation

    Elsbeth Lambert 1V

    SentFwd: Confirmation of your order of Matching Pair of Vintage Brass Wall Lights ~ Chandeliers… from my iPad


    • @alipeoples March 19, 2014 at 11:26 pm #


      I thank you for your eloquent letter and I am only too happy to undertake this tantalising assignment.

      Indeed, only the stoic could fail to be moved by the promise of chilled liquor by the glass, mercurial conversation and spirited barmaids.

      While I will not charge for my services in this singular instance, I will of course need to make several visits to the Morrison Street area in order to, shall we say, collate the requisite information for a comprehensive review of this intriguing locale. Naturally this will involve the consumption of a number of different beverages and I also feel it would be prudent that the ‘scantily clad women’ you refer to each take some time to participate in a private consultation. Perhaps some cheese & onion crisps might be laid out in anticipation of my arrival.

      Such sampling is customary in the fictional reviewing trade, as you are no doubt well aware of.

      Thank you for dropping by this blog, you are a clearly a person of taste and civility.


      A. Peoples MA MSC ESQ

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