Once a week my daughters and I step through an old green door on North Street, Bristol. When we step through that door we enter a different world. A world all three of us love.
The room we enter is dark. Even in the blazing sunshine, some artificial light will be needed inside. The room holds an unusual collection of ornaments and pictures. Attached to the walls are such items as skateboards, squeaky toy pigs, an –ironic statement- set of ‘homeless people’ figurines to go with a train set, a jokey sign saying ‘all unattended children will be sold to the circus’ and my daughters’ favourite, a doll called Ginger whose eyes light up bright red whilst an ear-piercing alarm goes off when you press a button. Not everyone’s favourite as you can imagine…
The room we enter is usually occupied by about five to ten other people, we know some of them, not all. But we know that we will leave that room knowing everyone there.
We are greeted by our favourite non-family member male in the world. He is most likely working his socks off, simultaneously attending to several people’s wishes, but he always makes us feel special. He is truly interested in how things are in my world. He’s so good at engaging with my two girls, he should be charging babysitting money.
This man’s social skills are off the scale. He can hold several conversations with different people at once. His ultimate social skill is his ability to link different people together, so different conversations that are going on in the room become one. In this room everyone has conversations with complete strangers of an age and demographic they wouldn’t come across on a daily basis. I’ve had conversations about local house prices with a teenage boy, about living in Spain with a middle-aged man and, believe it or not, about setting up an unusual funeral business with a young couple from London.
The rather amazing man I’m talking about is Mike. And his rather amazing place is Hennesseys. To call Hennesseys ‘just a café’ would be an insult. Mike is the opposite of your usual twenty-something coffee-chain barrista whose disinterested gaze says it all; they’d rather be at home watching a series on NetFlix. No, Mike is the proud business owner and dedicated first-class barrista, and he’s so much more than that. This local ‘raconteur extraordinaire’ is attentive, interested, caring, knowledgeable, funny and modest. He is Sam Malone and when you walk through that green door you enter the bar of eighties sitcom Cheers (admittedly without the alcohol).
The fantastic fact that Mike and his equally lovely colleague Sarah serve the best coffee and tea in town, (don’t start me on their works-of-art babychinos and off-the-scale amazing hot chocolate) all at affordable, non-Starbucks prices, is to me secondary to the refreshing experience that is Hennesseys.
Time stands still at Hennesseys. Demographics do not exist at Hennesseys. Connections are made at Hennesseys. Friendships are forged at Hennesseys. The purpose of social media friendships is defied at Hennesseys. The human spirit lives at Hennesseys!
Check out the wonderful world of Hennesseys on Facebook or, much better, in person by visiting 18 North Street, Bedminster, Bristol.