Jun 12, 2015 Cafes
On a sunny midweek morning the Cornwall Park Cafe is packed, and it’s been that way since opening day three weeks ago. This, it seems, is the cafe park patrons have been waiting for.
And wait they have, after the cafe burned to the ground last October, just a couple of weeks before the scheduled opening date. Operator Andrew Bell, who also runs Herne Bay’s Andiamo, remembers that day well. Staff had been hired and the kitchen was about to be installed… and then, early on a Sunday, he got the call. “It was devastating,” he says. “But what can you do? We just started again.”
Except for a few tweaks, the cafe standing across the lawn from the band rotunda is the same as the one destroyed last year: low-slung, light-filled and surrounded by greenery. Outdoor tables line the north-facing wall; over on the carpark side there’s a portico space for playful children (crayons and paper supplied).
The menu, by James Kenny (formerly of High St’s Chuffed café, and before that international restaurants including Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café in London), is way more ambitious than at your average park caff. House-made granola comes with pomegranate-poached pears, Earl Grey yoghurt, honeycomb and “orange fluid gel”. The duck breast, at $26 the most expensive thing on the menu, is sauced with Valrhona Manjari chocolate, parsnip, mandarin and brown butter.
Before Sir John Logan Campbell gifted the park to Auckland in 1901, Cornwall Park was farmland; before that, Maori lived here, cultivating land on the nearby Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill pa. Now produce is again being grown at the park, the plant nursery having turned some of its land into a vegetable and herb garden for the cafe. When the Cornwall Park restaurant up the hill (also run by Bell) reopens later this year, the self-sufficiency drive will increase: bread, pastries and honey are just some of the staples they plan to produce in-house.
Cornwall Park Cafe