PEOPLE OF EQ – Niraj

10 Mar 2022

Azure Cafe

Before the Sydney Football Stadium was demolished in 2019 for redevelopment, Azure Cafe was serving coffee and food to patrons in the members area.

The cafe has now temporarily relocated to Entertainment Quarter and its long-serving barista/waiter/all-rounder, Niraj has come along for the ride.

Niraj, who hails from Nepal, has been with Azure Cafe for 12 years. He began with them part-time and liked it so much he decided to stay. During those dozen years, the cafe has moved through several locations and a name-change. When it moved to the EQ precinct, Niraj wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of clientele and vibe.

“We thought it was gonna be a little bit different, we never knew how the place is gonna be. We thought maybe it would be quiet,” he says.

It wasn’t.

Niraj was used to being frantically busy when they were at the stadium, thanks to frequent sports events and concerts, but didn’t expect it would still be busy once they moved. He likes it, though. Many of the regulars still come in, and he has met a lot of new people.

Azure is open from 6:30am and is one of the first cafes people pass when they enter the precinct, so it gets a lot of the early morning crowd.

What are coffee-drinkers like at that time?

“Some, you know, are really rushed,” says Niraj. “We try our best to please them…you can’t please everyone but we try to learn what people like.”

Typically, the day starts off busily at Azure Cafe. Customers come in for coffee, breakfast, mid-morning coffee and snacks, and then lunch.

There are three chefs in the kitchen and a constantly rotating selection of menu items.

“We got Asian noodles, we got pasta…we have today, Mexican, and we got curries, like Indian or Nepalese style,” says Niraj. “And we have salad – we have 25 kinds of salad!”

They also have a very popular range of burgers which is the only permanent menu.

The venue is licensed, so you can enjoy alcohol with your meal or opt for a more work-friendly shake, juice, or coffee. If you order a coffee from Niraj, make it a latte; he has mastered the technique of latte froth art.

Since moving from the fairly predictably environment and crowds in the stadium to the streets of EQ precinct, Niraj has experienced daily discoveries and met lots of new people.

Every week there seems to be a show or event or exhibition happening. There are markets at least twice a week as well as private events at various venues. Azure Cafe gets a lot of local regulars too, from the creative studios, retailers, offices, and other businesses in the precinct.

“I didn’t know it would be like this,” says Niraj about the vitality of EQ.