A few years ago I was sitting on a stool at the counter of Jed’s. Roberto Weil, the cafe’s owner-barista revolutionary, was telling me a story. The people from APRA [Australasian Performing Right Association, the copyright collective that licenses music and collects royalties] came by the other day and told him he wasn’t paying the proper fees to play music in his cafe. “So I said to them,” he says in his distinctive South American accent, “‘all I play here is reggae. If you can tell me that my money is going to Bob Marley’s family, if you can prove that, then I’ll pay your fees. But otherwise, get ‘outta here. I’m not giving you money to make Coldplay more rich’.”
That’s the kind of no-bullshit place that Jed’s –which shut down with next-to-no warning on Wednesday last week – was. The type of establishment that gave you your bill with your cutlery before you even received your food. Where the breakfast specials usually arrived flanked by a chilli big enough to level an entire town. Where the playlist never deviated, dogs were welcomed and you could kill an entire morning on one coffee, shooting the shit with Roberto and his wife and manager Megan. They were both in the cafe every single day for the last five years.
I was about 10 when Jed’s opened, and in the early days my dad used to bring me in to sit up near the counter and drink hot chocolates. Only last week, as I sat writing another piece for Broadsheet, a father and son next to me were performing the same ritual.
Jed’s certainly earned the title of “institution”. In one of the most fickle food suburbs in the country, where new eateries crash nearly as quickly as the waves down the road, it lasted for nearly 20 years. A true original, from its fair-trade coffee, to its insane Zapatista eggs (scrambled Chiapas-style, served in the pan with corn tortillas and pickled cactus), Jed’s has been around long enough to see generations of families pass through its doors. In many ways, the place represented what Sydney’s cafe culture used to be like; no wi-fi passwords, shared tables and never rushing anyone out the door. You might come to Jed’s alone, but you almost always ended up meeting someone interesting. Half the time that was the staff.
You’d always find the best personalities in Bondi there. Decidedly unpretentious, sourcing sustainable produce well before it was common and pretty much offering the same menu for years, Jed’s built a loyal following by genuinely refusing to give a shit about what was cool. That’s precisely what made it so cool: a refuge from Bondi, in Bondi.
I will genuinely miss Jed’s. The corner at the end of my road will never be quite the same.