Jun 5, 2014 Cafes
Story: Catherine McGregor. Photos: Ken Downie.
For a month or two now, certain city workers have shared a lucky secret: at the back of a nondescript office lobby, towards the less-fashionable end of High St, sits the CBD’s most exciting new café. Chuffed is a small room, its walls decorated with murals by Auckland painter and illustrator Erin Forsyth. Outside, a surprisingly large courtyard stretches the length of the building, made cosy with an open fire and piles of blankets.
Right now the outdoor space is covered by an awning that’s seen better days: it’s set to be replaced within the next few weeks by a retractable version, making the most of sunny days and the courtyard’s unique urban-oasis setting. Owner Scott McLean is almost as passionate about High St – “I really think it’s got the potential to be great again” – as he is about coffee.
Before Chuffed, he and his wife ran The Bunker, a favourite among the coffee snobs of Sydney’s Darlinghurst neighbourhood, and when they came home they brought a little of Sydney’s coffee geekery back with them. Chuffed uses a variety of brewing methods, including pour-over, cold-drip and batch brew, and once his own roastery is up and running he plans to serve carbonated coffee on tap. Yes really: first seen on the menu at Sydney coffee mecca Coffee Alchemy, carbonated coffee is a foamy, stout-like drink made from chocolaty dark-roasted Ethiopian Nekisse beans.
As for food, it’s a major cut above the standard CBD café fare. Chef James Kenny has an impressive CV, including stints in Paris bistros, under Gordon Ramsay at the Boxwood Café in London’s Berkeley Hotel, and running his own tapas bar in Melbourne.
Back here, he’s cooked at the Takapuna Beach Café and Richmond Rd Café, and those eateries’ light, flavourful style of cooking is a clear influence on his menu. Breakfast dishes include an omelette with kale and Whitestone Windsor Blue cheese; wild mushrooms and white bean puree on toast; and house made crumpets with smoked fish and poached eggs, blueberry jam and ricotta, or beetroot-cured salmon and crème fraiche.
Sandwiches are stuffed with delicious things like pulled pork, roasted wild mushrooms (with slices of pear and more of that Windsor Blue), and smoked fish with sweet corn and chicory. There’s a short menu at lunch: a fish dish, a hand-made pasta, a healthy-as cauliflower, barley and hazelnut salad, and “green eggs and ham”: wild boar ragu with smoked feta, pea salt and baked eggs.
Scott and James buzz with ideas for the future: once their liquor licence is approved they’ll offer a short wine and craft beer list, and there’s talk of a regular Saturday degustation lunch, where James’ culinary skills can be given free rein. For now, they’re open Monday to Friday, 7am to 4pm. A gem.
43 High St, CBD. Chuffed on Facebook.