The Cafe 8 Experience
To get to Cafe 8, you first have to find it. It rests atop Pier Number 8 in Central, as a part of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. You can reach it via elevator from any floor on the pier, or via two sets of stairs on either side of the pier. If you take the stairs, you can look at the surrounding harbor as you head up to eat. The elevator has marine decorations, as is suitable for the Maritime Museum. A small sign at the floor of the Maritime Museum helps people note where the Cafe is, as well as posters that hang from the side of the Cafe's public viewing deck.
No matter which way you enter, the first thing that will hit you will be some aspect of the atmosphere. This could be the changed temperature from the outside harbor, the scent of fresh foods being served, cooked, and eaten, or the overlapping voices of many different people chatting as they enjoy their own meals.
Cafe 8 tries to keep its indoor temperature more reasonable than the outside Hong Kong weather, especially with all the heat and humidity of summer. However, there is also the public viewing deck just outside the Cafe which offers seats and tables of its own under umbrellas if you wish to eat outdoors. This place of seating is especially preferred in the twilight hours, or with evening events, as the surrounding sights, sounds, and smells of the harbor provide a comforting sense to customers.
There are several different seating options, depending on how many people you are with when you arrive. There are tables for two, and for four, at the bar area (the first big area you see when you step into the Cafe), and smaller sets of such tables in the kitchen area (beside the cash register and where the different foods are on display). Also, each corner (save the storeroom where only the staff are permitted to go) has a set of sofa chairs, two small and one large, that can support up to five people with comfy pillows. The Cafe also has infant seats for families with babies.
If you need further seating arrangements, such as for an event you plan to hold at the Cafe that requires specific table setup, you'll need to call into the Cafe beforehand to book arrangements for the event. However, larger parties who arrive at the Cafe on their own can have tables and/or chairs added to where they choose to sit on the fly, provided the Cafe isn't too crowded with people at the time. Some tables may be reserved, due to prior booking, but most of the time you can sit wherever you wish that is open; the staff will inform you if this is not the case.
Once you take your seat, copies of the Cafe's menu will be brought to you by one of the staff. The contents of these menus changes every so often, which merits coming back again to see what's new to try. The menus include appetisers, main courses, dessert entrees, set lunches for the lunch hour, and beer and cider menus that are especially sought after during the Cafe's Happy Hours.
One thing you should take note of, and that the staff will notify you of as you get the menus, is that you'll need to order, and pay for, your meal at the cash register between the bar and kitchen. However, the food and drinks you order will then be brought to your table by the staff. If the place gets quite crowded when you place your order, such as during the lunch hour, you may be asked to take a table number card when you order, so that the staff know where you are sitting and can bring your food that much faster. Efficiency is important at the Cafe, for all customers.
Another thing to take note of, and that new customers ask about often, is the location of the Cafe's restrooms. They are actually on the ground floor of the Pier, and getting there requires a bit of know-how if you are coming to the Cafe for the first time. Fortunately, the staff set up a series of information slips each day for customers to take as to what you need to do, and where you need to go, to reach the restrooms.
If you are eating at the bar or kitchen areas, you may notice the mellow, comforting music in the background, coming from speakers at the bar. This music is a series of classical, smooth, and ambient tunes designed to produce a calming atmosphere for customers. The marine images on the Cafe's outer doors, and several of its windows, provide further comfort for the eyes.
The staff will be moving around you if you are eating indoors, whether bringing food and drinks to other customers, cleaning up areas where customers have been, or taking away dishes they have left behind to be washed. Do not be alarmed if they move quickly around or by you; they will come to you at some point if you have a problem you need their help on. They may also ask you if everything you ordered is to your liking, and will help you out as best they can if this is not the case.
Once your meal is done, you can leave your dishes on your table; you don't need to bring them anywhere. The staff will notice your departure and pick up the dishes you used. These dishes will then be washed, dried, and re-stacked on the shelves/counters for other customers to use. Unless the staff are busy, you will also receive a goodbye as you leave, and also the wish to come again.
Cafe 8, as a social enterprise, is open to new and regular customers alike, and all are welcome for a simple atmosphere, good food, and the chance to spend good time with friends and family.
(Written in the summer of 2016 by CT)