The Corner by McCafé

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

“I’ll pay you more if you get a photo of the server with the top knot in front of the menu board” I say to our photographer, who accepts this challenge with the vigour you’d expect from a freelancer in his early 20’s who never gets paid on time. We’re at The Corner, the latest million dollar experiment by everyone’s favourite ginormous international corporation, McDonald’s. A spokesperson from McDonald’s will tell you that it’s a lab for them to experiment with exciting new and healthy food items, but The Corner has already been labelled by writers all over the internet who hate trying too hard as ‘the hipster McDonald’s cafe’.

But you can’t blame them. The Corner is almost a parody of the Australian cafe in 2015. It feels like McDonald’s have used one of Miranda Devine’s annual rants about what a hipster is as a checklist for what The Corner needed. I wanted to check if the whole cafe was powered by a fleet of skinny men on unicycles, but instead I had to use all of my brain power to figure out how to order before running to the hospital next door so they could remove the other half of my appendix.

You order your drinks, pastries and breakfast items from one counter and your actual lunch items from another. Drinks include random words thrown together and carbonated, like the balsamic strawberry soda and the mango coconut iced tea, one of which was sold out and the other of which I wish was sold out so I didn’t drink it. They take a lot of pride in their coffee at The Corner, which is cold drip, and the cafe is emblazoned with the slogan “EAT GOOD FOOD, DRINK GREAT COFFEE”. So their coffee is great, but their food is just good? Let’s find out.

Once you’ve ordered your drinks, you make your way over to the lunch counter where you begin the fun voyage of choosing what protein you want and whether you want it with salad, with rice or on a bun. At The Corner, meats are referred to as proteins, which I assumed was because there were proteins you could choose that were not meats, however the only proteins available are meats. Why didn’t they call just call them meats? It gets especially confusing at the end of the counter when you are given the option of ordering a ‘protein ball’, which is not a meatball, rather a dry-textured nut-sphere, perfect for throwing at a photographer or complaining about in a review.

The meats and salads themselves aren’t bad. McDonald’s have used all their trillions of dollars to make a one-of-a-kind food lab, capable of serving food that you’d be pleasantly surprised to eat at an airport. I’m sure at least a million dollars was spent coming up with the genius idea of removing “Mc” from the front of all their menu options (McProtein does have a nice ring to it though).

As you leave The Corner, smiling back at the 30 staff members that just seem to walk around smiling for their entire shift, you’ll think about the salad you just ate, happy that you’ve saved a few calories and been a part of a fun experiment. Then you’ll realise that you’ve never felt like eating a Big Mac more in your life.

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