Saturday, March 07, 2009
  Vivas Cafe Review
Today was a special breakfast, Thomas (our son) and Melissa (his wife) were joining us (on holiday from London - where they are greatly enjoying their OE). So we thought we'd try Vivas on Dominion Rd, it's new, and it got a superb review and a rare five out of five score from the Herald last week. We thought we couldn't miss.

However, we wondered if we'd visited the same cafe as the Herald's reviewers. According to the Herald reviewer "the tables are not too close together" - when we wanted the salt we could reach over the empty table next to us and collect it from the the people another table over. When neighbours arrived the people on the end of the row had to get up, to allow one in, as there was not space between the two tables even for a slim woman to pass. Canvas the weekend Herald's colour supplement said: "the service was warm friendly and prompt" we thought it was a chaotic muddle. They found that "the coffee was hot and strong" we thought it was bitter. Though the Soya milk (in the Soy Cappuccino) was nice, the next cutomer was told (at 10:30am that there was no more soya milk - strange as it does not need refrigerating till opened and there is a supermarket just avccross the road (in Eden Quarter). The Herald bragged "you can choose how well-done you like you eggs" I chose SOFT, one poached egg was still (just) able to ouse the other was hard poached - quite a feat for a soft egg. The mushrooms were dry, though the sausages were tasty. Redeeming feature? If you do try Vivas, take the crepes they were good, or the Melemen (Turkish Omlette) which both Barbara and the Herald agree was good!

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Saturday, October 04, 2008
  Cafe Trends

Not where you'd expect, in the Ellerslie main drag but over the motorway almost in the office parks of Penrose, Cafe Trends is easy to miss, who knows how many times I've driven past without spotting it? But to miss it would be a pity, the food offers a standard cafe menu with few surprises - except the price, which is not high - but the quality is good. Barbara chose perhaps the "most surprising" item a breakfast burritto with bacon, egg, potato and other goodies burritto wrapped and by all reports delicious. I had the mushrooms, lashings of creamy sauce (I am picky, I'd have preferred a higher mushroom to cream ratio ;) and delicious smoked bacon.

The coffee was good to very good
The food was very good
Overall excellent

Cafe Trends
49 Main Highway

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Saturday, July 05, 2008
  Columbus: Onehunga (revisited)
When we visited Columbus: Onehunga last year I commented that though part of a chain they do the job well. That opinion remains unchanged by a return visit. Actually it is deepened, this is how a good franchise chain works. Each Columbus we've visited has been reliable, coffee good (if not great every time) with a range and choice that could be familiar to a visitor used to another branch, food differs from place to place, but of solid cafe standard. The decor has standardised elements, but as in this old post office (what it was before becoming Blue Strawberry). Reliable and pleasant - just what you need from a chain, but often do not get. As for Steve's comment last time (that as an old Onehunga hand he missed the "soul" of the old blue fruit), perhaps he's right, but we have visited plenty of cafes now where the "soul" fail to deliver decent coffee, or sometimes food :( Columbus does.

This visit I'd rate the coffee slightly less than last time's at just Pretty Good, my long black was a touch bitter and made long by running the water through the grounds rather than adding hot water to standard espresso. Though B's Soy Cappuchino was pronounced "very good" and was superbly decorated with a hand drawn fern ;)

The food this time was good, very good "Jose Breakfast" with a delicious blend of flavours including guacomole. The eggs benedict came on sage flavoured potato cakes, a nice touch! Though not "very good" as the bacon was a workmanlike supermarket style rather than the more risky but usually more tasty butcher's special.

The service was again superb almost too attentive!

Columbus: Onehunga
120 Onehunga Mall
Phone: 09 622 2819
Fax: 09 634 3337

PS: We'd meant to try the cafe at Bunnings Warehouse, but they did not open till 9am, and we did not fancy 20 mins waiting after buying our kitchen jars. Maybe next time...

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008
  Auckland cafe reviews and coffee in NZ
As well as mine, Rhett has just started a series of Auckland Cafe reviews, since he covers a totally different part of the town if you like my reviews you will want to read his, though not in this case follow in his footsteps :( Esquires seems as bad as the name suggests!

On the other hand, if you wonder how I can be as hard on the coffees we've had, please be aware that the supplier we usually use for our beans at home: Zeke's Serious Coffee, is not only shade grown, fair trade and organic, nor merely got a regular annual string of bronze and silvers at the NZ Coffee Festival but this year added the Gold award for best NZ Espresso for the Howler Monkey (the blend we buy). Coffee that does not rip off the producers just tastes better!

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Friday, June 20, 2008
  Riva Cafe
We went for a drive along the waterfront to celebrate Barbara's thesis oral, or to encourage her that merely having some small alterations to make was not a disaster - it all depends on how you look at such events how you see them, like looking at an ascending rise in the road through the car windscreen (a small rise) or over the handlebars of a bike (a small mountain).

The day was clear and sunny, not wintry at all. In fact I sat on the pavement in shirtsleeves and was almost too hot! They put up the sunshades just as we were leaving. The setting is stunning, at least on a good day, with views across the harbour to Rangitoto, and plenty of interesting people wandering by (even on a Friday) so that people-watching is fun. (I wonder why that wee girl seemed determined to throw herself under oncoming traffic, thank God her mother got her safely inside the large ATV before she succeeded ;-)

However, though we arrived well after the lunchtime rush, just as the cafe was turning from packed to empty, we waited over 25 minutes to get to the stage of cutlery and glasses of water arriving :( though to be fair the food was not far behind.

I had scallop and bacon salad with banana, the scallops and large chunks of bacon were satisfying after the wait, and the banana was an interesting addition. (I am still not quite convinced, but almost!) The salad was less impressive, supermarket mix with some rather chunky tomato, cucumber and capsicum added - I wonder if the chef was having a break after the lunch rush? I could have done with some carbohydrate, perhaps a nice slice of bread with the salad.

Barbara's seafood chowder was fine, though a bit thin and accompanied only by a small slice of white toast.

The coffees were fine. My long black came only slightly long but with a china jug of hot water to add to taste - well done!

Coffee: good.
Service: slooow.
Food: OK
, what could have been really good was spoiled by the details.
Overall: disappointing, slow service and disappointing food.

Riva Cafe
89 Tamaki Drive
Mission Bay
Auckland City
09-528 8566

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Sunday, June 15, 2008
  Occam Espresso Bar

Occam Espresso Bar Kitchen
135 Williamson Avenue
Grey Lynn
Auckland, 1002
Tel: +64 (0)9 378 0604

On a side street corner opposite Foodtown (with street parking nearby), the location is not impressive, though the venue is well designed and pleasant. The staff is friendly and efficient and the atmosphere is welcoming. Plenty of pavement seating is available, though we preferred to sit near the gas-log fire. Which all sounds ideal for a local cafe, and we "seemed to remember" it had got a good write-up in the NZHerald, too!

Sadly on Saturday, neither the food nor the coffee lived up to this promise. The coffee was bitter. The only good thing I can say about it was that it was good and strong. (I have read other reviews that praise the coffee, so we may have hit a trainee barrista, but I can only tell it as we found it, and both Barbara and I were slower than usual finishing our long black and soy cappuccino.) The food sounded good, basically the usual breakfast menu, but with some unusual touches. I chose herby hash cakes with poached eggs, wilted spinach and hollandaise. I imagined a crisp coat over aromatic potato mash, with the eggs and spinach to complete it. The eggs were fine, the spinach was good. The hollandaise was ladled on with a heavy hand, so that I had to act quickly to prevent the hash cake from drowning. A shame because the stack looked pretty. Yes, the hash cake was singular, and it made a stack. It was a tall pile of potato mash that had indeed seen the frying pan, though it was not crisp - even on its outside.

Barbara's corn fritters were cool inside, and got a cool reception. :(

So overall poor food that was not redeemed by either the nice presentation or the waiters with three foot pepper pots, and coffee that was disappointingly bitter. We do remember the Herald reviewers as liking Occam so if your experience was different to ours, please let me know and we will give it another try in a few week's time.

Till then:
  • Coffee - Poor
  • Food - Poor
  • Ambience - Good

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Thursday, June 05, 2008
  Blues Cafe: examining the dental equipment of an equine present
PhotoBlues Cafe
Building C, Ground Floor
602 Great South Road
(09) 579 2585
Get directions

Open Weekdays 7am-4pm (nb. this cafe is NOT open for weekend brunches)

The Carey staff were treated to breakfast at Blues this morning, a fine and fun sort of staff building exercise. Some of us got physical exedrcise as well, with a brisk (because of the cold frosty weather) walk there and back, Brian also got some extra exercise - parking is so difficult at Blues that he drove there and then almost back to Carey before he found a space ;-) on the return we walkers beat him home!

Setting: in the middle of an office park Blues does not feel industrial, it is open light and airey, with plenty of space around the tables. I'm told by a conniseur that they have a particularly good selection of magazines.

Overall: Good (but arrive on foot)

Food: here is good value, with the eggs Benedict coming out at $11, though the menu is fairly restricted and conventional. My eggs were a little cool and firm, but with a party our size this is not unexpected, cafe kitchens are not set up for 15-20 orders all at once.

Overall: Probably good (but do NOT arrive in a large party)

Coffee: full marks for offering large, medium and small, though lose a point for also offering double shot, which suggests that a "medium" long black just has one shot and extra hot water - I wish I'd seen the double shot upgrade before ordering. Though for the sake of all my colleagues who ordered "large" I'm glad or several would have developed the jitters during the following staff meeting ;-)

The Latte drinkers seemed happy, but my black was thin and a little bitter, with almost no crema.

Overall: Poor (unless you like milky coffee)

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Saturday, May 24, 2008
  Kings Garden Cafe
We began our Saturday the morning with nearly 90 minutes of hard gardening, instead of the walk up one of Auckland's volcanic cones, which has become our habit. We needed to remove the bark mulch on the little bed at the back. It has begun to rot down nicely and recently has produced a fine weedbed. Later we'll put down new weedmat and top it with some scoria to match the rocks around - which should be easier to care for than the bark (when the birds scratch in it it goes everywhere).
Photo of pots at King's Plant Barn
Alexander Todorenko of FotoNewZealand
So for our cafe we tried Kings Garden Cafe St Lukes at the local garden centre. You enter through the rows of plants. I spotted small figs on special, so we now have two to plant on pots on the deck, since small though they are they arready have a couple of tiny figs each I am hopeful that next year we might get to eat fresh figs! (Does anybody know how long figs take from small to fruiting?)

The cafe is surrounded by plants so does have a pleasant "garden" feel, and there were some beautiful orchids being used as a divider. The space is open and airey, the sparrows love it, and a couple of beautiful fluffy young ones came an sat on the chair backs near us. Cocking their heads as they examined the new-commers. Garden centre cafes presumably attract a lot of customers with children, as there were a good supply of high-chairs. And indeed while we were there several families did stop by.

Barbara's pancakes with bacon and banana were pronounced good, though to me the "pancakes" looked more like giant pikelets. The bacon looked very good, especially as we have been eating nearly vegetarian for the last few weeks ;-) My mushrooms on toast (with tomato and "creamy spinach") were tasty, the spinach with a dash of cream delicious. But, Mrs King, six small mushrooms is not enough! I am still ravenous. If the flat mushrooms had been good big ones six would have been plenty, but I have never seen such small field mushrooms... why is it that we call mature flat mushrooms "field mushrooms" when the tight round young ones are "buttons"?

The coffee was very good, not bitter, but strong. I was asked if I wanted extra hot water with the black.

So all in all:
  • Food - pretty good, but skimpy portions on the mushrooms make it expensive.
  • Coffee - very good
  • Millieu - gardeny and open
After breakfast we bought the weedmatting, scoria and figs, so there is plenty of work for later when my back and legs begin to recover from the early morning exertions!

:846 2073

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Saturday, April 19, 2008
  Epicure: Auckland Cafe Review
Today we tried Epicure in Upper Queen Street, not least because they have a deal for the rest of April so when you buy one breakfast you get another free! Otherwise the prices are "city-centre" and allow for extras like 50c for a long (not short) black or 70c for soya milk.

The parking is, even on a Saturday early, not good. Though as it was before 9:30am we managed to score a spot round the corner (just as well as it was drizzling). Inside the cafe is well designed and feels spacious. I am not sure why they also label it as a delicatessen, it does not seem to stock much in the way of sausages or cheese to buy and take home. The menu is restricted, and we stuck with the Big Breakfast. It was pretty standard, except: the bacon was good, the potatoes needed longer in the pan/oven to make them different from boiled spuds, the mushrooms would have been better with just the herbs (rosemary and thyme - no sage I think ;) and not a basil pesto as well (OTT). The eggs were great! The biggest surprise was the sausages, they tasted strange, almost as if they were going off :( So overall a very mixed reception.

The coffee was bitter - even through the soy cappuccino despite all the milky stuff - though they did make the long black not too long and serve hot water to add. It was so bitter that I am sure the average cup from our home machine is noticeably better.

The coffees came quickly, but our food took a long time (I think we must have got lost, or the cook had popped out for a smoke when we arrived, everyone else seemed to get theirs quicker).

So, in conclusion -

Service: Variable

Food: Variable

Coffee: Fair


Sunday, October 07, 2007
  Perk up revisited: Auckland cafe review
Back in May we visited the punnily named Perk Up" in Kingsland, the menu (the physical object, not the items on the list) has changed totally with no a "striking" almost garish vaguely 50s style laminated item. The actual items on the menu have not changed so much except that now several are grouped into an invent your own section. This is superb value, I had:
  • "chicken liver and bacon" (one item) beautifully cooked, almost as good as last times' dish,
  • "mushrooms" small ones, conveniently sliced in a very mushroomy gravy (I imagine made using the juices of the mushrooms with some of the mushroom concentrate we tried at the Food Show - note to self, must find the brand and supplier) which were also superb,
  • "five grain toast" what can I say, crisp, tasty, with a soft core
  • "hash browns" the nearest to a disappointment, beautifully cooked, but "merely" from a Watties packet!
The combination though was beautiful, varied and filling, and cheaper than Sarah's corn fritters or Barbara's spicy potato cakes, which themselves were well done and priced.

The service was also superb, friendly, welcoming and without being intrusive solicitous. The only missing step was failing to ask Sarah how she wanted her eggs. Still they came what I would call "between" firm enough so she ate most of them, but still slightly soft.

The coffee was good, the mochachino and cappuccino were quite happy, my long black was good and strong, hot water on the side, the only quibble was a slight bitterness (perhaps the beans were nearly but not quite as highly roasted as my last batch) but overall better than last time.

So, in conclusion -

Service: Superb

Food: Excellent

Coffee: Good

Perk Up
438 New North Road,
09 815 0434

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Saturday, August 18, 2007
  Return to Okra
Okra Espresso Lounge was the first of my cafe reviews, back in March (was it only five months ago!?) then we felt it deserved its proudly displayed Metro 2006 award. Much has not changed. It is still:
a narrow fronted corner shop on Sandringham Road. The menu is as narrow as the shop-front...
Someone should tell the kitchen firmly that basil pesto does not enhance delicate flavours like smoked salmon!
My Eggs Royale (poached on toasted bread, with spinach and smoked salmon) came with a "hash brown" actually a mashed potato croquette - but the mash was fresh and lightly spiced (corriander and cumin I think) the frying crisped the outside nicely. Yum.
Today the Eggs Royale (chosen without peeking at the first review - I am SO consistent, about some things!) still come with a potato croquette (alias hash brown) but sadly it was soggy not crisp and the spicy fragrance was heavy handed, worse the eggs and smoked salmon were accompanied by a hefty dose of strong basil and pine nut pesto. I managed to leave most of mine, but the first taste had done its worst to tie my tastebuds into a hammer lock, unready to appreciate the delicacy of eggs and salmon. Though that may have been as well, since the salmon though once cold smoked was cooked through waiting for the eggs to solidify.

So this time: Food: average - poor (Last time "Good")

Coffee: very good but not quite up to the excellent of the last visit (a slight hint of bitterness to the black).

Service: excellent we were asked what we wanted, and assisted as needed (like spotting we needed a third water glass and bringing it).

I suspect this means that in small local cafes the quality of the food and coffee depends a lot on who is on duty when you go. Though the quality of Okra was hinted at today in the service and smoothly running busy little cafe, the food did not deliver.

Okra Espresso Lounge
161 Sandringham Rd
Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 846 6662

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Saturday, August 11, 2007
  Deve: Auckland Cafe review
Deve looks good. The kitchen and bar jut into the cafe at an angle which has the air of being efficient, breaks the seating onto two somewhat separate and so more intimate spaces. The light shades are printed with photos that are also displayed on the wall, an interesting feature and nice touch. The design of the bar shows many "nice touches".

It is not really a breakfast place, so from 9-9:30am we had it almost to ourselves. We both had Spinach Potato Cakes – served with poached eggs and topped with a mustard lime hollandaise and your choice of the following:
Honey cured Bacon: $14.50
Cold Smoked salmon: $15.50
I had salmon and Barbara bacon.

The presentation was superb, a fine looking stack, with a delicate ring of concentrated fruit syrup round the plate and Italian Parsley to decorate the stack. I so much prefer edible garnishes! However, the Spinach Potato Cakes were too ambitious, the moisture from the spinach caused the potato to become a soft mash, little of the nice crisp outside. It would have been better to do hash browns with a layer of spinach. And (at least for the smoked salmon) the fruit syrup did not quite "go" with the delicacy of the salmon, which anyway was half cooked from the hot potato and spinach under it.

So: Food, taste only OK but presentation excellent.

The coffee was fine, Barbara enjoyed the Moccachino, except the chocolate powder had settled Memo to barristas, do NOT assume all customers will add sugar and so stir the mix themselves! to the bottom. My long black was good and strong, made with a dark roast so full of flavour. But looses "points" for making it "long" by simply leaving the cup under the head till it was nearly full. This results in a slightly bitter brew, even if you can't bear to serve the extra water in a little jug - and I imagine a tray of them takes up space behind the bar and in the dishwasher - at least add it after you have brewed the coffee!

Coffee: could do better.

Overall: The food and coffee did not live up to the ambiance and thoughtful touches. Though maybe their most experienced staff are not on to serve the early customers, so maybe someone who has tried them during the rush hour and let me know...

Deve Bar & Brasserie
460 New North Rd
Region: Auckland

Phone: 09-846 9997

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Saturday, June 16, 2007
  Columbus: Onehunga

Once the Blue Strawberry (go figure!) now part of the Columbus Coffee franchise chain, this is a big busy shopping mall cafe. It does the job well with plenty of efficient waitstaff. The menu is small and conventional, but backed up by a good selection in the cold cabinet.

Coffee: Pretty Good - Good Barbara pronounced the Mochaccino good and not too sweet <aside> </aside> The long black was tasty, not bitter but with a smooth bite, but too "long". <aside>

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Saturday, June 09, 2007
  Kenzie Cafe: Manukau Rd
The Kenzie Cafe is just a step from Greenwoods Corner in the heart of Epsom, a few steps from Cornwall Park. Parking is easy in Empire Road. Somehow I'd expect an Epsom cafe to be trendy and contemporary. Yet stepping into the Kenzie is a blast from the past. It is, and has the air of being a "corner cafe", then there are those "modern" bentwood chairs. There are not many other cafes within a kilometre or three in most directions, and perhaps this lack of competition shows.

Service: was slow, made slower by having to sit and work from printed menus, rather than a cafe-style blackboard. However, it probably makes sense to work this way in view of space restrictions. There is a kiddie corner up some stairs, well out of the "way" of others, but perhaps worryingly out of sight for parents? Bringing us glasses and a 70s lemonade bottle of chilled water, without being asked is a nice touch.

Coffee: The younger generation's moccachino was somewhat short of foam, and ultimate failure lacking the obligatory marshmallow. The cappuccino was also somewhat "flat" and the long black (despite separate hot water in a nice china jug) was reminiscent of 70's Cona machines - I assume it was made "long" by running the boiling water over the grounds through the head till the large cup was full, thus stewing the grounds and imparting a bitter and almost stale taste! Verdict: Poor.

Food: Sarah's French Toast was the star, with nicely toasted banana and good butcher's smoked bacon, the maple syrup came in a neat little side dish rather than pre-drizzeled (a nice touch). However Barbara's Corn Fritters did not sparkle, the guacamole looked tired (perhaps from having been kept till needed in an unsealed container?) and the tomato relish was fridge-cold. The fritters themselves were OK, but not great. My Eggs Benedict had suffered by being kept hot (not merely warm as the plate was too hot to handle!) while the other dishes were prepared, the smoked salmon was cooked medium rare, and the Hollandaise Sauce had an unpleasant skin over the surface. A pity as the eggs (even after their heat treatment) were fine, and I suspect the salmon would have been tasty. Verdict: Poor

Overall: if you are at Greenwoods Corner and looking for breakfast, be willing to travel a few Ks to somewhere where the competition keeps cafes on their toes! Though it seemed popular, with the locals, so perhaps when we visited they were having a bad hair day!

Kenzie Cafe
557 Manukau Road,
Epsom South,

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Saturday, May 12, 2007
  Circus Circus
This week's café has its own website, and a strong "theme". Though where we were seated , in the window to catch the sun (it is busy, so we were lucky people left the table as we came in). It's a busy and well organised place in Mt Eden "village". Service was quick and efficient. However, our ratings are lower than for most of the others we have tried, and the prices were on the higher side.

Coffee: OK My long black had a good flavour and came straight with no choice of water to add or refrain from adding. Some was dribbled down the side of the cup, probably from the speed with which the barrista was operating, he was churning out the coffees like a factory or a circus act ;-) Barbara's moccachino was reported "OK, but not as good as several of the others". Its presentation was careless, with the milk simply slopped in and the less than aesthetic effect covered with powdered chocolate used as a disguise. More care less speed... is my recommended motto!

Food: Dull By chance we both chose the Kumara and Riccotta Fritters with Avocado Salsa. These were solid and worthy, like 70s "vegetarian" options. The dish lacked any spark or excitement. The riccotta was so blended with the kumara it was indistinguishable as a flavour and the blandness of the avocado did not provide a contrast with the solidity of the kumara. The side salad baby spinach leaves and a few snow pea sprouts as decoration was unimaginative and needed a stronger dressing (there was none on the table to add).

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Saturday, May 05, 2007
  Perk Up

Today's cafe, in Kingsland because we have "finished" Sandringham Rd ;-) has the punny name "Perk Up" it's small and busy. The style and menu are fairly typical, with two nice touches:
  • free coffee with your breakfast (not supposed to operate on Saturday, do you think someone is spotting us as influential reviewers ;-)
  • interesting items on a "specials" list - I've been getting bored by the same-old, same-old menus, eggs benny is great, big breakfasts are fine, but whatever "creative" names you call them they are much the same everywhere!
Food: Excellent Barbara had a pile of corn fritters with bacon and egg, and pronounced them "Very Good". I had Chicken Livers with Bacon and Spinach in a rich tasty port and mustard gravy on toasted Ciabatta, it was superb, the best food I've had in a cafe so far. Perhaps a little heavy for the last sunny Saturday of the year (we sat outside and enjoyed people-watching), but so deeply savoury and balanced...
Coffee: Pretty Good By Karajoz, B's moccachino was only OK or Quite Good, my long black (with jug, though metal) was strong with deep flavour but just a touch bitter.

Perk Up
438 New North Road,
09 815 0434

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Saturday, April 28, 2007
  WKA cafe
The other week we tried Voila on the other side of Sandringham Road, so we thought we'd try the cafe on the opposite corner. It goes by the name WKA whether we are meant to pronounce this: Orca? Weka? Walker? or just say the letters, I don't know. Maybe cafes with obscure names should provide a guide ;-)

The small and interestingly shaped space has a cottagey feel, there are tables outside, and apparently a partly covered courtyard (it was cold when we went, so we did not venture out). The decor is comfortable and there is a good supply of magazines. Though given the small space no couches.

Coffee: OK my long black came with water in a china jug (extra points) but the Allpress beans had been extracted giving a slightly bitter taste (so not an "excellent", or even quite a "good"). Barbara's Moccachino was "good, but a bit sweet" perhaps too much chocolate syrup or not the best syrup?

Food: Good I had "Lamb's Fry and Bacon" (Liver and Bacon to non-Kiwis) and B. the pancakes. The pancakes were Kiwi/Scottish style thick ones with blueberries in the mix and generous fruit as a side to the stack. The liver was (in both senses) well cooked (those who fear parasites in under-cooked liver need not tremble, but equally it had not been toughened by over-cooking either) and the gravy pleasantly spiced (perhaps a touch of juniper as well as orange) and spicy with a little chili. The bacon (with both pancakes and liver) was a tasty streaky.

WKA Cafe
572 Sandringham Road
PHONE: 0-9-846 1967

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

The lower half of Sandringham Road used not to be cafe territory, and the "village" is still dominated by good cheap Indian restaurants, 2 dollar shops and Lotto outlets, but Voila! offers a standard cafe, with the extra twist of French crepes and a selection of patisserie. The service, menu and prices are typical of other cafes of this type, with the prices on the upper end of suburban Auckland - but it was humming when we arrived, and only quietened about 10am the people of Sandringham must rise earlier than the rest of central Auckland. As with Eifel en Eden Voila! gets a lot of people calling in for bakery, as well as breakfast customers.

Coffee: good. We could not see the brand identified, but it was organic and fair trade. The barrista was in training, but even so the result was good, with only a slight touch of bitterness betraying a beginner - she was closely supervised ;-) the long black came with a water jug, though not full points for presentation as the jug was metal :( however the decoration of chocolate syrup on the moccachino made up for this small lapse!

Food: Good: Barbara's big breakfast was almost too much, and my mushrooms were big, fat and juicy, and there was plenty of tasty added bacon. (Not as smokey as I like, but that's a rare find nowadays.)

573 Sandringham Rd
Auckland City
09-846 8393

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Thursday, March 29, 2007
  Cafe Review: Eiffel en Eden
Yesterday we tried Eiffel en Eden which came highly recommended. (An award this year from Metro [the magazine is so "hip" it has no web presence, so read the Wikipedia article!], as well as friends...).

The setting has no street appeal, Eiffel en Eden occupies a large shed alongside a bed factory. It backs onto a large hole in the ground where gravel has been quarried for so long that the entire neighbourhood has fallen measurably because the soil is drying out from the water that is pumped out of the hole! However, the decor is good, light and airy with the food cabinets as the focus. It was a nice morning, so we sat outside and people-watched, lots of folk come for a takeaway from the patisserie.

Coffee: Not bad. My long black came (bonus points) with a separate jug of hot water (though a steel jug which cooled quickly - so less bonus). The beans are (I believe) from Atomic roasters, which I think are among the best. However, the brew though rich was slightly bitter. So overall, not really good, but not bad either.

Food: could do better - but maybe we could have chosen better. Perhaps, judging by the takeaway clients, we should have chosen patisserie.

But I didn't. I chose bacon and eggs. The bacon fat (it was streaky bacon so lots of fat) was not crisp, but soggy white. The eggs were OK, though the yolks were only semi-soft and I do like a really gooey yolk over my spinach and toast. The toast was some soft bread, perhaps corn bread, which did not offer the crispness that poached eggs need. (It would have been better to toast rounds of baguette...)

I am not convinced by the patisserie claim though, because Barbara says her croissant was cold (as in straight from the chill-cabinet) and "not quite as good as the ones from the Vietnamese baker up the road" - he's almost on the corner where Mt Eden meets Duke St, or Landscape Rd, and his baguettes and croissants are superb). However, the patisserie cabinet did look mouthwatering, and all those takeaway people must know something...

Maybe it's a case of good pastry chef, let down by poor service? Or maybe we'll try it again and take away a different impression...

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Sunday, March 18, 2007
  Boost! Cafe review
Today we tried Boost! on Dominion Road. It is another small local cafe, again people who live or work nearby seem to pop in for a takeaway. It was quiet while we were there and the couches are comfortable.

Again the menu is short and straight forward. I had "Bacon and eggs" and Barbara had pancakes.

Coffee: OK

The coffee was OK, Barbara seemed to really enjoy her Moccachino (choice of glass or mug) but my Long Black was neither as strong, nor as smooth, as last week's at Okra I was offered hot water, but the coffee was already pretty wet, so I declined ;-)

Food: Good value

The eggs (poached) were done well, though the eggs were not as fresh as they might have been so the shape was poor. [A really fresh egg will pull itself into a nice round shape when it hits the boiling water, so you can always tell!] The bacon was nice thin enough to be crisp, but not too thin, smoked and tasty. Accompanied by a tangy tomato relish/sauce. BUT take off points for white toast, and no choice offered.

Barbara's pancakes were reportedly good, with a good variety of fruits.

The total bill, at about $26 was good value.

245 Dominion Road
Mt Eden
Phone: 0-9-630 0103

Verdict: OK no prizes, but a competent and good value small cafe - and a big plus it was the only one open on Dominion Road at 8:30am!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007
  Okra Espresso Lounge
This is the first of a new series! Barbara and I have decided that now that the children are pretty much grown up, we can sometimes enjoy the treat of a breakfast out. So, over the coming months we plan to visit and try quite a few of Central Auckland's cafes. We've already visited some before I decided to blog them, some of those we'll be glad to return to, and then review, a few ("Oh the shame!" - though to spare your blushes, we'll not name you ;-) we don't plan to return to, unless someone suggests they have improved!

Yesterday we visited Okra Espresso Lounge a narrow fronted corner shop on Sandringham Road. The menu is as narrow as the shop-front (but as you will see below, this is no bad thing), but has a reasonable range of standards, often with an interesting twist.

We chose to sit on a couch while reading the menu and waiting - you order from your seat, not at the counter (there's hardly room!) and then moved to a table for the serious business.

Coffee: excellent

The coffee got extra points from me even before I sipped, they served my "long black" with the extra water in a jug on the side, and in a china jug so it would keep its heat till I was ready to add it. (A nice touch, so often even cafes who realise that not everyone who orders a "long black" wants their esspresso drowned in a liter of hot water, serve the water in metal jugs, which though they look nice cool fast!)

Barbara said her cappuchino was "a bit strong", but surely this is a good failing :) mine was near perfect, strong dark and fragrant!

Food: Good (small menu but done well and with some nice inventive touches)

Although the menu is fairly short, there were some inventive touches. The basics were well done, poached eggs soft, but not too soft, frying crisp and not too oily, presentation good...

My Eggs Royale (poached on toasted bread, with spinach and smoked salmon) came with a "hash brown" actually a mashed potato croquette - but the mash was fresh and lightly spiced (corriander and cumin I think) the frying crisped the outside nicely. Yum.

Barbara's pancakes with blueberries were good, and large enough that she was in doubt if she could finish the whole helping.

Okra Espresso Lounge
161 Sandringham Rd

Phone: 09 846 6662

Verdict: We'll be back! (apparently Okra won an award from Metro in 2006, I'm not surprised.)

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