We've featured top Auckland cafes like Good One, Espresso Workshop, and Supreme Seafarers in previous articles on Sprudge, and in this feature, Sprudge NZ contributor Dianne Wang shows us three cafes in Auckland—two in the CBD and one in the Mt. Eden neighborhood—doing exceptional food and coffee service together in perfect harmony. New Zealand's got a kicking little food and coffee scene, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Previously featured on Sprudge in 2014, RAD has just celebrated its first birthday, and is only getting better. It's home to one of Auckland's best presentations of Flight Coffee, a microroaster located in Wellington, and home to 2013 WBC finalist Nick Clark.
There is no doubt RAD has lived up to its name, both as a popular local cafe in the Mt. Eden neighborhood and as a destination that draws back loyal customers from around sprawling Auckland. This owes much to the food service, focused around a seasonal menu that combines classic cafe dishes with Vietnamese technique and ingredients. For example, RAD's popular Black Stack Burger features a squid ink brioche bun, crispy braised pork belly, and homemade pesto.
Barrett Jones, head chef at The Grove restaurant in Auckland, has done extensive consulting on the food menu at RAD, and it shows. This menu plays along with the shop's “f*cking good coffee” service (yes, that’s what it says on their takeaway cups) which now includes a custom-made AeroPress brew bar, the likes of which is very uncommon in New Zealand (or anywhere in the world, for that matter). RAD’s head barista BK Kang has just won the New Zealand AeroPress Championship, and will be representing the country at the World AeroPress Championship in Seattle.
Chuffed is located on High Street, parallel to Queen Street in Auckland’s vibrant Central Business District, or CBD in the local parlance. Fashion boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars are all around you, with office towers floating above. Named to Metro NZ's recent Best Cafes in Auckland list, Chuffed has the loveliest little courtyard, making urban wanderers feel like they've stumbled upon a kind of downtown oasis. Like many a Kiwi before him, owner and head barista Scott McLean traveled a bit before opening shop in Auckland, including a stint in which he ran a successful cafe in Sydney. That experience is mirrored by Chuffed's chef, James Kenny, whose food experience includes time in Melbourne, Paris and London.
McLean likes to offer his customers a diverse range of Auckland-roasted coffee beans, including a custom espresso blend from Be Specialty and filter options by Espresso Workshop. This roster gets a bit of a twist now and then, with the occasional guest roaster cameo. For his part, Chef Kenny believes New Zealand offers the freshest produce available, and so the menu at Chuffed is a bit of a playground for that. He and McLean have worked closely together to create a modern, exciting menu of Kiwi cuisine, and the end result means offering their customers a cafe that feels at times like a bistro, or even fine dining.
Sitting in the cozy, tropical, utterly Auckland courtyard, sipping a cup of flat white under the canopy, it's hard not to fall in love with this place. I won't make a chuffed pun to describe this cafe, although surely every writer who has ever attempted to write about this place has struggled with the same. Suffice to say that if you visit Chuffed and feel quite pleased, blissful, or delightedly glad with your experience, well, there's a word for that.
On one side sits Prada. On the other, Dior. Sandwiched between them on Queen Street is The Lunchroom, a newly opened space designed by Ignite Architects and Ctrl Space. The kitchen is open with spectacular views overlooking a marvelously busy downtown intersection. Speaking with co-owner and head chef J.J. Holland, I couldn't help but ask how much was spent on the beautiful marble benches. His reply? “A lot!”
Queen Street is in the very center of Auckland, filled with tourists, students, and business workers walking up and down everyday. On a Tuesday morning, right after the rush hour, I attempted to find this new cafe, but because of some ongoing construction work I initially walked right past the entrance. Gradually, the scene of experienced head barista Adam van der Hoeven manning a chic espresso bar came into sight. He's serving coffee from Auckland’s Kokako, an organic-focused roaster featured previously on Sprudge. Espresso is brewed on a matte white La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, and served in striking Acme & Co. cups, designed in Wellington. Kokako owner Mike Murphy is working with the team at The Lunchroom to install a filter brew bar later this year.
Chef Holland has been in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years, and knows his way to the good stuff. Instead of having one supplier for all the ingredients, he strictly picks fresh produce from farmers' markets and finds various boutique producers for tea, juice, olive oil, and pottery. A big part of the menu is organic, giving customers healthy options and a dose of connectivity to the producers and purveyors. I tried the pancakes, served with local honey, juicy organic blueberries, and coconut yoghurt with cacao nibs and edible flowers sprinkled on the top.
By 10:30am the entire place was packed with well-dressed corporates. Good coffee and food abound here, but the interior design of this space is absolutely irresistible. An open kitchen can be a chef's worst nightmare—and Chef Holland is still getting used to it—but here it works to great effect, creating an intimacy between guests and staff and forging an added layer of continuity across the food and coffee menu. The Lunchroom may be one of Auckland's newest cafes, but it's also one of the city's best.
Dianne Wang is a Sprudge contributor based in New Zealand. Read more Dianne Wang on Sprudge.