I had a realisation in Paris; sit down to eat in a cafe, or a restaurant, and you’re not just paying for the food and the labour that went into it, you’re also paying for the physical space in which you eat. I sort of knew this already. It’s the same everywhere. The cafe owner has to pay rent, and some of that gets built into the price of your meal, but it wasn’t until I was in Paris, and I’d been to the National Archives to do some research on the rebuilding of Paris in the 1800s, that I realised just how dense the city is. Easily as many people in the same small area that you get somewhere like Shanghai. But Paris managed it better.
Still, that’s why, if you choose to sit down in a cafe, you can pay $10 for a cup of coffee, but if you order takeaway, it’s a much more reasonable two or three dollars. You are literally paying for the space you’re taking up. (For some reason, it can be even cheaper than that if you get a takeaway from a tobacco shop, but I’m not sure why.)
It’s the same in Italy. If you order a basic pastry and a cappuccino to sit down and have at a table, you could be looking at $30AU. But have the same order standing at the bar where the coffee is made, and the price collapses.
A really good example is Cafe Torino in Turin. It’s one of those shiny marble caffeine palaces you can expect to get gouged $20 for a brew… unless you just have your coffee and pastry standing up. We’ve been doing that since we got here, and it’s almost like having breakfast in Darlinghurst in the 1980s. Great coffee and surprisingly cheap. Same at the other end of the day. You can drop $300 sitting down at a restaurant to have some pasta and a bit of protein or you can roll into one of the older cafes and drop $10 on Aperitivo - a cocktail and some finger food. From what I can see, it’s what all of the locals do, and it’s only us International schmucks paying the full weight