Sometimes you want healthy. I mean don’t get me wrong it still has to be tasty as fuck, but healthy none the less. After a week of indulgence (my parents were showering me with love in the form of food) I needed to consume something that wasn’t full of sugar, carbs or alcohol*. Here however formed the dilemma, I wanted guilt free but I still wanted the café vibe. Enter Mondays.
Hidden down a driveway in Kingsland (hidden being the operative work, you have to be Sherlock to find it) is Mondays, a wholefood café that specialises in raw, vegan and simply delicious food. It is the darling creation of Eleanor the brains behind the Petite Kitchen blog and the cookbook of the same name. I actually went to primary school with Eleanor, and am glad that the old Mums network that keeps an eye on all the people you went to school with is alive and well; after all it led me to Mondays!
I went for a chia seed parfait (black chia seeds, coconut cream, vanilla bean and fruit) and my Mum went with the papaya boat filled with paleo granola. Mum was shocked beyond belief that hers was actually served in half a papaya. NB: for anyone who lives outside NZ fruits like papaya are redonkulously expensive. It was lovely sitting out in the sunshine with Mum, feeling angelic for eating this healthy food as we planned a trip to a vineyard.
This was also the ultimate in ‘oh my god bloggers are such a pain in the ass’ experience for Mum. Now, all bloggers know that bright direct sunshine is not ideal for food pictures. The light reflects weirdly and shadows creep over the food when you try to take an overhead shot. Not wanting to be too much of a bother I attempted to take a couple of photos but was dissatisfied with the results. I put my camera away giving up on the blog post, but Mum took that moment to get all… efficient.
Picking up two plates and a coffee she marched MARCHED from the small garden where we were sitting around to the front of the building. Picking another table (out of the direct sun) she put the food down and looked at me. Seeing the ‘hurry up I want to drink my coffee’ look on her face I took photos as fast as I could. Imagine how much better my blog would be if I lived with Mum full time…
*of course, if you asked my parents they would say that travelling with me is like traveling with a misbehaving 3 year old who demands ice-cream every ten minutes…
Because what is a trip to Auckland without a serious amount of brunch? Two highlights for me were Orphans Kitchen in Ponsonby and Dear Jervois on Jervois Road, both suggested by my big sister. As mentioned before in New Zealand it’s not about just getting the poached eggs right, its all about brunch innovation. I genuinely can’t think of a café in London that even comes close to matching these two in the innovation stakes. I think you could say that Duck and Waffle et al are comparable food wise, but they are high concept restaurants, these Auckland beauties are just humble cafes. Humble cafes that kick the London offering to the curb.
My visit to Orphans Kitchen got off to a sunny and entertaining start. The table next to us was obviously a group of old friends, but when the waiter went over to take their order there was a shriek and hugs all around. Turns out one of the group had just come back from overseas, but instead of a normal off the plane welcome had decided to pose as a waiter in Orphans Kitchen to surprise them, super cute.
The food here was tricky, I honestly couldn’t find anything I wanted on the menu. Talk about innovation, there was no easy ‘poached eggs with bacon’ offering here, and I just couldn’t picture the end product from what was on the menu. But getting hangry I let my sister choose for me, and by gods it was good. Mum went for the breakfast panna cotta with kiwifruit and buffalo milk (why had no one thought of a breakfast panna cotta before?!?!), my sister for the black rice pudding with tamarillo, blood orange, and banana (above) and chosen for me was the roasted avocado with bacon, feijoa and vine tomatoes…heaven.
Dear Jervois was an interesting one, I LOVED it and my parents had the opposite view. It was all down to how busy it was. In London I am 100% used to battling the crowds to get to food, and while I refuse to wait for brunch I find sitting cheek by jowl totally normal. My parents however are used to the kiwi luxury of a more peaceful spaced out brunch, which is not what you get at the very popular Dear Jervois.
But as always the food is most important. Well maybe not the coffee is important to and we had to send back the first round because they were cold. Eh. Anyway the food was yum, the highlight for me was the sage fried eggs that just did something stratospheric to my taste buds. I would have married those eggs if I could. And the interior was beautiful, for those who did have to wait they wrote their names in a chalk pen on the tiled wall. Love.
This might sound a bit hippy dippy, but I truly believe in having a solar system of friends. Imagine that you are the centre of your own universe (come on, as a Gen Y you should have NO problem with this). All throughout your life you will have people orbiting, some will be a constant always within reach, others will be heartbreakingly close for a short time before continuing on their own journey. This might be more obvious for expats reading this, but its also very true as people start to get married and have kids. It may feel like you have lost them, but actually life might just be waiting until your orbits come into alignment again. I told you it was a bit hippy right? But if Kim Kardashian has taught me anything, in 2015 being a bit hippy is in.
One of the shining stars in my universe is my friend Kylie who I only talk to through complete serendipity once a year. We went to high school together but were in different circles and didn’t have much time for each other. That was until one bizarre moment when we decided to run for school council together under the slogan of ‘vote blond’. Amazing right?
Since then we have been soul sisters. Together we have been through some serious up and downs, and throughout it all have just understood each other. Now she is living in Australia and is a midwife that has delivered close to 1,000 babies – I in comparison dropped a bowl of cornflakes on my foot last night as I attempted to make them for dinner. #fail
We are both useless at staying in touch. Yes we follow each other on Facebook so keep up with the major plot points in each others lives, but regular skypes/letters/texts just don’t seem to factor in our brains. And yet for the last two years we have happened through pure coincidence to meet up in New Zealand, our trips overlapping by a day and its like we have never been apart.
We met up at Good One coffee (amazing café by the way) and spent three hours catching up on those bits of our lives that weren’t major Facebook status making plot points. We moved from one coffee, to two, from smashed avocado to Little and Friday doughnuts. For that one café visit we didn’t live in different countries, we were back in Auckland just like nothing had ever changed. Well, I say nothing had ever changed, we are both happier than ever finally starting to live the lives we want. The conversations we have now on our yearly orbital collision are full of hope.
And the café? I can’t help but have a place in my heart for somewhere that a) serves Little and Friday doughnuts, and b) doesn’t kick out two girls who have been chatting for three hours. An absolute gem.
I was feeling quite cocky about the London cafe scene. After all our coffee roasters have some of the most impressive beards in the industry and we all know the relationship between beards and coffee:
Because of this I wasn’t actually planning to blog much while I was in New Zealand, after all what was the point writing about the poor backward brunch cousin. Queue awkward jaw dropping when my Mum took my jet lagged self to The Return of Rad on my first day in Auckland. First up was that it looked like a cool cafe, so different to the normal Kiwi white plastic table numbers I was expecting.
After sitting down and trying to figure out what time zone my stomach was in, I went for the eggs Benedict and a flat white (of course). Holy crap. Turns out in New Zealand having a ‘good’ brunch is no longer the aim. While in London I am rating eggs Benedict by a home made holindase and perfectly toasted muffins, in New Zealand it’s all about invention.
It was like going into a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for chicken: you know you will get a beautifully presented plate with unusual but perfectly complimentary flavours. And that’s what I got at Rad. Instead of the standard eggs benne, I got a ham hock and apple delight.
It was sweet and savoury and something I would expect as a main in a Heston restaurant not a cafe in Mt Eden. Forget your boring muffin, the eggs were on a crispy potato gratin, and along with the creamy holindase there was grated apple and melt in your mouth ham that was more akin to a slow cooked pulled pork. Mum had a pretty looking muesli presented in the Kiwi version of a mason jar. It almost goes without saying that the coffee was perfect.
So, turns out I might be blogging a bit on this trip…stay tuned it’s going to be a caffeine fueled ride.