Pea and feta toast from The Shack in Raglan. Picture / Liz Clarkson.

5 Great Holiday Brunch Spots

Heading away for the weekend? Have brunch at these beachy spots, recommended by Anna King Shahab, author of New Zealand Cafe Cookbook.

THE SHACK, 19 Bow St, Raglan
Justin Thomson grew up surrounded by the hospo trade; his parents owned restaurants in Auckland and he earned pocket money working in them, both in the kitchen and out front, while Justin’s wife Alix spent years doing front of house at Prego. They moved from Auckland to the family farm near Raglan and decided to take over this Raglan café in 2011.

They’ve steered the menu away from the heavier foods, lightening it up without turning it too fancy. The rustic surrounds — Formica tables and surfboards on display — suits the eclectic customer base. The café makes the most of the growing food producer scene round Raglan, says Justin: ‘We use organic Kaiwhenua produce, honey and coconut yoghurt from around here.’ The couple are starting to use lamb from their small farm, where they have also put in an orchard that one day will also supply their kitchen.

THE COVE, 910 Cove Rd, Waipu Cove
The head chef lists Andiamo and SPQR on his CV, and the owner cut his hospo teeth serving Champagne to the British royal family (the student job to end all student jobs!) and running a top London gastropub owned by Tamsin Olivier, daughter of Sir Laurence. But while there’s quite a pedigree behind The Cove in sleepy Waipu Cove, nobody here is resting on their laurels.

They’re hard at work, with the eatery open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Owner Lloyd Rooney and his partner own a sheep and cattle farm in the Waikato and all the beef and lamb at The Cove comes from there — logistically gruelling, but a fantastic point of difference. Head chef Craig Estick’s food is, without any trace of cringe, New Zealand on a plate: beautiful fresh scallops, bluenose and snapper, that beef and lamb from the farm — made into sausages, too. The Cove sits right on the beach, the view is out to the Hen and Chickens islands and the design is rather spectacular — Lloyd also owned his own interior design businesses in London.

WAI KITCHEN, 1/149 Oceanview Rd, Oneroa, Waiheke
With three young children and six (and counting) sites retailing food both here on Waiheke and in Auckland city, Steve and Sarah Vanderput are kept more than a bit busy. They manage it with poise — they’re a well-oiled machine, the Vanderputs and their staff, which is why when you visit Wai Kitchen you leave feeling sated in every sense. The staff at Wai Kitchen are helped a little in their job of ensuring happy customers by the view — my, the view!

Wai sits on the ridge that is Oneroa’s main strip and large windows look out to the sparkling azure Hauraki Gulf, peppered with sailing boats and, in the distance, fellow islands. The classy, airy interior helps one relax a little further. The Vanderputs live on the island and Steve is head chef here. His food is clever; it has a lightness and he uses plenty of seasonal produce, yet there are decadent touches that make every dish feel special. The couple’s bakery, Scratch, makes all the bread, pastries and sweet treats, and they’re especially worth seeking out (their pies are particularly moreish).

FRANK AND ALBIE'S, 24 Gladstone Rd, Gisborne
While so many cafés are pushing their opening hours longer, Frank and Albie’s owners David Whitfield and Amy Campbell are all about the reverse. After 15 years working in hospitality, David explains, they knew they would be far happier working hard and with passion during sensible hours that allowed them and their staff to have family time to enjoy. They know their customers are busy people, so they’ve cut back on the ‘frilly café service’ and instead pour their efforts into the food, all designed to be eaten easily — better yet, with one hand.

The range on offer is compact, well honed, and changes every day — in recognition that many of their customers visit several times a week and are enticed by the variety. By making only enough food to be sold each day, David says they avoid wastage and keep their prices pleasantly low. The couple opened the first Frank and Albie’s site on Gladstone Rd in 2012 and two years later a second on Ballance St. They’re certainly on their way to their aim of having a chain of sites around the North Island.

ELIZABETH CAFE and LARDER, 247 Cameron Rd, Tauranga
It’s a big 247 metres square and sits at number 247 Cameron Rd, but Andrew Targett and Annemarie Cambie managed to avoid their beautiful café being named a rather vanilla ‘Café 247’. Just as well, because Elizabeth suits her name, decked out as she is with colour splashes of regal yellow, a classy natural wood ceiling and fireplace and thoughtful details such as good lighting.

Andrew had 20 years of chef experience under his belt and Annemarie a wealth of skill in retail management, which is probably how they survived their bumpy start. ‘Long story short, we opened with an absolute hiss and a roar, the kitchen was only fully installed two hours before trading commenced and none of our staff had had any training,’ laughs Annemarie. But they were an immediate hit, and now boast awards for their famously good customer service. One reason might be their dedication to the bean supreme. ‘We are so passionate about coffee. Our head barista Courtney Buckland and her team might knock out over 400 coffees a day — many of them at the 10 a.m. rush!’

• Extract reproduced with permission from New Zealand Café Cookbook by Anna King Shahab. Published by Penguin, out now. $50.00.

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