The Great New Zealand Cafe

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We’re on holiday in Wellington this weekend. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee which envelops us as we meander around the CBD will soon tempt us into a cafe. It’s one of the things that I love about this city.

It’s hard to imagine Wellington without cafes. But they only began to make an appearance in the 1950’s when European immigrants were homesick for a good coffee. To fill the gap they established cafes in Wellington where they brewed strong coffee in imported Italian espresso machines and served exotic food. These were places where you could enjoy a leisurely conversation and sometimes live music.

Soon there was an explosion of café culture as cafés spread all over the country. They have become  an intrinsic part of our culture like jandals and fish and chips.  Meeting a friend for a good cappuccino and a muffin or slice is one of life’s affordable little indulgences.

In search of the best character cafes to be found in New Zealand today Matthew Hawke and Niki Grennell   took their family on the ultimate summer road trip and then wrote ‘The Great New Zealand Café.”

The hardest part must have been to finally narrow the list down to 70. They relied on word of mouth recommendations from people who love good coffee: baristas, café owners and passionate locals. But if a café did not live up to their expectations they refused to include it.

The chosen cafes, dotted throughout New Zealand, often in scenic spots, have a lot in common. They are run by people who are passionate about providing great coffee, food and service and have worked hard to create a special atmosphere which makes their cafe stand out from the crowd. There are lots of evocative photographs to give readers a sense of place.

'We have the best country in the world to do a great café crawl while exploring our beautiful scenery’ suggest the authors who invite us to follow in their footsteps. But even the most ardent coffee lover might well find that visiting 70 cafes in one summer could turn into an endurance test.

When we go on holiday my partner is always keen to make a beeline for our final destination and can’t usually be persuaded to stop until hunger pangs hit. Then we head for the nearest café. If we strike gold and it turns out to be a café with great coffee, food and friendly service it adds a lot to the pleasure of the day. But a bad café is a real disappointment.

On our next trip I plan to take a copy of ‘The Great New Zealand Café’ along for the ride and instead of taking pot luck persuade him that we should drop into some of the great cafes that have been recommended.  As he loves a good coffee and food as much as I do this should not be too difficult.

And to further encourage him I shall bake him some of the signature café recipes which are also in this book such as Mrs Clark’s Lemon Delicious Muffins, Midnight Espresso’s Vegan Chocolate Cake and Little and Friday’s doughnuts. In eager anticipation I have already bookmarked some of my favourites:

Sugar Juice Café, Tasman St, Opunake

All the breakfasts here are called after the local surf spots, and Sugar the resident mannequin acquired from the Wards Department Store in New Plymouth is dressed to suit any local occasion or event.

The Funky Fish, Baylys Beach Rd, Dargavile

To see the murals and to catch one of their quiz nights.

The Flying Fox on the Whanganui Rive

Only accessible by jet boat or flying fox which would be a little adventure in itself. There is retreat accommodation as well as a café. I would love to spend the night in the cottage dedicated to poet James K Baxter which is available to rent.

Lambreth’s Café and Bar (Nelson)

Here the salads are reputed to be a treat for the taste buds  and  you can look up as you eat to view the  collection of scooters which have been mounted on the wall ( the first rather memorably acquired from a bike gang in Blenheim)

The Packhouse, Roxburgh

Which as well as homemade jams and preserves, real fruit ice-cream and mini-golf on offer has a resident parrot called Peck-a-Toe

Provisions in Arrowtown:

For one of their what Master Chef judge Matt Preston called “obscenely good sticky buns.”

The Great New Zealand Café by Matthew Hawke and Niki Grennell is published by New Holland – RRP $34.99