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.
aka The Paladar Scribe