A&J’s on South Hunter Street offers possibly the most social café experience in the city thanks to wall-to-wall consoles where you can play some of the finest games ever released, completely free.
But A&J’s isn’t drawing crowds with gaming gimmicks. Owners Adam and Jaymes nurture a simple philosophy of providing high-quality dishes and excellent customer service all set to a social theme they grew up with and loved.
After all where else in Liverpool can you go for a Legend of Feta: Hummus of Time; a juicy paprika and mint-infused lamb burger topped with hummus and melted feta?
Drinks are labelled as Mana Potions while Power Ups come in the form of extra toppings and sauces. Super Smash Nachos sit in the Multiplayer section of A&J’s creative menu alongside a tasty LittleBigPlatter and more.
SevenStreets has recently had one of Bowser’s belly-busting all-day breakfasts which fully replenished our health. Recently launched was the Pac Man Patty while Spyro’s Soup of the Day remains a favourite with customers.
A&J’s excellent food is complemented by generations of Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and Sega consoles and internet access from PCs by the counter.
It’s all part of A&J’s philosophy of building a true social community through a shared love of gaming.
“The café isn’t just ours, it’s everyone’s. People know they can escape the rat race and indulge in some nostalgia,” Jaymes tells us late last Friday as we grab them at the end of service.
Adam agrees. “If some groups get talking to each other then they become good friends and come down together. It’s a common theme that people had from their childhood that they can approach from the same point of view and say ‘I could never do that level’ or ‘did you ever see this bit?’. It’s 50/50. As many people come in for the food as they do for the games, but so many people come in for both and have a game while they wait.”
”It gives our customers a chance to intermingle while they wait for their food and play together,” adds Jaymes.
Adam and Jaymes both came to Liverpool from the south to study and stayed in the city post-degree when, by chance, the opportunity to own their own café fell into their laps.
“I got a job here working as the chef when it was Sam and Joe’s, which was here for ages and traditional for students having breakfast in Liverpool, and I managed to get Adam a job here, too,” Jaymes tells us. “The guy who had it last wanted to do other stuff and mentioned he was thinking of selling it so Adam and I put our heads together, managed to get some cash and put an offer in.”
“It felt like fate, really,” says Adam, “and chance circumstance. We had the cash and he wanted to sell – it happened and we would have regretted it if we didn’t bid.
“It was just a case of taking over the lease. It was perfect for us, we knew how it was run and just had to rebrand it and put our own A&J’s stamp on it.”
A&J’s has recently celebrated its first birthday but the duo aren’t stopping any time soon. There’s a sound business plan in place here, with the pair looking to franchise their café – and its community philosophy – across the city, explains Jaymes.
“We’re established now, we’ve been here for a year and it’s all going well.
“We do all the marketing ourselves because it’s just the two of us. We use social media, but the majority of our business comes from word of mouth. There’s nothing like us in Liverpool.
“We’re looking to franchise out and expand in the future while [keeping the South Hardman location] going. We want to get it to the point where we can have more units and can employ local people to put jobs back into the community. The plan’s been in place for more than a year and a half. It’s nice that it’s coming to fruition.”
A&J’s locals have really bought into the café’s message. Customer donations happen regularly, even from some sources you may not expect…
“A lot of the hardware and software is our own collection but we have people coming in and donating stuff which is really nice. We have a 360 in there which someone donated to us! The donations and support we’ve got from our growing community has been incredible. GAME on Lord Street has helped us out a lot by giving us posters and other merchandise, helping us out and just being nice.”
“The store managers at GAME have a lot of jurisdiction and have been brilliant – much better than a lot of other retail places…” points out Adam.
There’s no gaming license issues from the council as the games are free for anyone to play and the artwork in the café, created by contributions from Danny at TheGamingReel and Koen at Lucid Games, take creative licence. The huge homemade gamepad table by the entrance is especially impressive.
SevenStreets accepts Adam and Jaymes’ challenge on Mario Kart 64, brushing off the cobwebs to win the first race and graciously accept defeat in the rematch.
Just as we’re leaving Jaymes gives us a glimpse of the passion driving A&J’s to build a new café community within the heart of the city, and it fills us with joy.
“Games often get negative press. No-one tells stories of how couple get together through their love of games and people getting into careers because of them.
“Everybody has the right to play games.”
A&Js Internet Cafe
4 South Hunter Street