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First Look: Bestie

Jan 15, 2016 Cafes

 Longtime Metro illustrator Tane Williams and his ex-Coco’s Cantina partner Emma Lyell are opening a new cafe together in the former Alleluya site in St Kevins Arcade. They’ve opened a pretty pink coffee cart serving eighthirty coffee while they build it.

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After living in London, a city with 8.5 million inhabitants, the typical reaction of returning Aucklanders is usually one of sudden claustrophobia. Tane Williams and Emma Lyell experienced the opposite, craving small-town life after a year and half in the chaos of London. On their return to New Zealand six months ago they skipped Auckland entirely, heading straight to the peace of Napier with plans to open a cafe.

And they nearly did; but then St Kevins Arcade was bought by Paul Reid (see Russell Brown’s K’Rd at the Crossroads feature in the current issue of Metro for a full examination of the situation) and the opportunity to open a cafe in the space Alleluya cafe had occupied for over 20 years came up.

“When I first started thinking about opening a cafe, years and years ago, the Alleluya space was the dream, but not one I thought was realistic,” Lyell explains, whose hospo experience includes long stints at other establishments held dear by locals – Maranui cafe in Wellington and Coco’s Cantina.

In the space of two weeks, the duo packed up their (very happy) set-up in Napier, found a house in Auckland and opened a coffee cart beside their work-in-progress cafe.

St Kevs is itself undergoing restoration, the floor has been completely lifted and is currently bare as the builders await a delivery of fancy Italian tiles. It already feels brighter, though, the dusty white concrete reflecting light from the iconic Myers Park window.

Inspiration for Bestie came from canal-side London cafe Towpath. Owned by food writer Lori de Mori, its unpretentious menu has inspired the couple to do things simply. “Take the best tomatoes, the most amazing bread and beautiful olive oil and you can’t do better,” Lyell says, which is why their menu will feature unfussy breakfasts and lunches made with quality, seasonal produce. A full kitchen menu will be available alongside a cabinet of takeaway lunches, ideal for local office workers to picnic in the park.

The coffee cart idea was a clever one; it means that Williams and Lyell can meet future customers while they do up the cafe. Lyell also thought the arcade seemed odd without life at the end of it, they’ve provided it with a 7am-3.30pm hum, which will eventually continue into the evenings when Lebanese restaurant Gemmayze Street, with whom Bestie shares its seating area, opens next door.

For now though, Bestie’s offerings are simple: a warm welcome, eighthirty coffee, tea and scones. The fact that customers looking for Alleluya have stayed for a drink is testament to Williams and Lyell’s warm welcome – they get K’Rd, phew.

St Kevins Arcade
179/183 Karangahape Rd
Until further notice coffee cart open 7.30am-2.30pm, weekdays only.

Photos and words by Alice Harbourne.


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