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The flood of 2011

The first thing that came to mind when the news broke that the Brisbane River had breeched her south bank was the thought of caustic muddy waters seeping into the Paladar and rising to contaminate her contents of fine Cuban cigars.

This writer discovered the Paladar quite by accident.  Four years ago, my daughter Leah, was on a bus heading down Merivale Street when she saw the place.  She got on her mobile and declared, “Daddy, I have found just the place for you.  It is called the Paladar and they sell Cuban cigars and coffee.  You will love it”.

She was correct.  I was taken with the place instantly. The colours and shapes of the establishment were altogether unique.  She looked as though she had been plucked from Havana and wedged into the convention district of Brisbane…a bright accent in a muted environment.

Before entering, I thought about an appropriate greeting in Spanish.  I even wore my Panama hat.  I was sure that a Cubano owned and operated the Paladar.  Who else could give it that look and feel?

Filip Pilioras was at the machine.  He brewed a great coffee and showed me an unusually perceptive selection of cigars…all from Cuba.  I bought a good one and insofar as it was a Friday afternoon and the city was vacating, he took one as well and a friendship began over a mellow Cuban cigar in his small courtyard.  In short, This Yank felt welcomed in his newly adopted city.

I consider myself a noticer.  I saw that this place was more than a transplanted Latin establishment.  It was an object of art and original thought. The seemingly random arrangement of objects was not random at all.  I deduced that Filip is an artist of shape and form and a man who could think laterally.

Most of us cannot create a Paladar.  Still some of us can appreciate it immediately.  And, I am drawn to people who can.

I like those rare places where one can find conversation with those who do their own thinking and speak in their own voices.  That is why I go to the Paladar to talk with Filip, Deanna and the other “Usual Suspects”.  That and the sense of community that Filip has fostered…  In the same way as he has collected practical objects d’arte, and puts them together in a way that makes sense, the Paladar attracts a varied clientele whom I find interesting and informative.

Cigars and coffee, like wine, absorb their environment and pass it into the taste and character of those organic products.   A flood would extract an especially high price on an establishment like the Paladar.

In anticipation of such a dread event, Filip, his, his brother, Mitch, his father, Louie and some good friends emptied the Paladar and moved everything upstairs and waited for the waters to rise.

I checked the Brisbane Council list of streets that were predicted to be flooded.  Both Merivale and Fish Lane were on the list.   I was concerned by the news.  I heard that Russell Street was flooded and saw on an aerial photograph that Merivale Street was getting the floodwaters.

After some failed attempts, I was able to reach Filip.  The waters that had started up Merivale were thoughtful and stopped short of the front door.

Today, I stopped in for a cup of coffee.  The place was crisply put back together…not exactly the same.  Which, I suppose is the point of Paladar.  Her character, I am happy to report, is intact.

Mark Salo
aka The Paladar Scribe

Paladar meets the Brisbane floods

on the eve of the flood, not knowing what to expect, i walked out of paladar with a firm set of priorities. the most important thing…the cigars…

when the waters didn’t rise overnight as first predicted, we decided not to waste the second chance. dee and i went back into south brisbane at 6am predominantly motivated to save the large cabinet that functions as the paladar humidor. preservation of the integrity of the seasoned timber in the humidor was critical, as cigars are very absorbent and take on the characteristics of their environment. once the timber had tasted poo water, no amount of gurneying would recover it, and there was no chance of it ever serving as a humidor again! poo water and cigars, not a good idea.

as dee and i readied to shift the humidor to higher ground in the apartment block next door, we were surprised by the arrival of my brother, my father and gerard (the crazy frenchman who lives upstairs, pictured above) offering their assistance.

seizing the opportunity…

2 hours later, paladar was stripped of anything not permanently attached, plumbed in or electrically connected. everything else was loaded into dad and mitch’s respective utes. gerry offered to mind the cookies, and other brick-a-brick, as well filling as every landing between the ground floor and gerry’s top floor abode.

when we arrived at 6am, the floodwaters were two city blocks from paladar. by 8.30 when we left, water was lapping at the corner of melbourne st. we departed for home, and were later advised by dad that in the 20 mins he spent helping the neighbours, the waters had moved across melbourne street. ferocious!

the rest of the time during that flood period we spent constructing an almighty barricade across our driveway at home to prevent water filling our subterranean garage. having already moved the cavalcade of old girls (vintage cars), there was not much left to do but consume the chilled 1999 vintage champagne and wheel of brie left in the fridge when the power went off, as we maintained a vigil over the petrol pump that was keeping our basement dry.

in the following days as the floodwaters receded, we drove to paladar to realise that our worst fears had fortunately not materialised. time for a spring clean and to replace all the paladar accoutrements. 2 hours to pack up, 4 days to reconstruct! thankfully all we lost was power for a few days – it could have been much worse.

i would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one (too numerous to list) who offered their time and enthusiasm to help us get back on track. we were absolutely inundated with phone calls, texts and emails, and it was quite overwhelming to realise the extent of paladar friendships. our thoughts were and are still very much with those who lost so much more than we did, and are continuing to rebuild their lives.

paladar dodged the bullet and lived to serve again!