Sep 28, 2016 Cafes
Words by Kate Richards, photos by Ken Downie.
Nigel Cottle moved his family to Morningside nine years ago. At that time, the inner-city suburb was predominantly industrial. Wanting to offer those who lived there a place to meet, Cottle and a 15-strong collective opened Crave. Auckland can be a lonely place, but connection with other people, says the café’s website, is something we all crave.
“There are 85 apartments across the road,” says Cottle. “And when someone moves into one of them, no one knocks on their door with a plate of muffins saying, ‘Hey, welcome to Morningside it’s great to have you here!’. That’s just not how it works. The way people feel like they belong is by things like being recognised in the local fish and chip shop or the dairy.” Cottle’s goal is to find a shortcut to neighbourly familiarity by making an effort to get to know each customer individually, and in turn connecting them with other customers.
To work at Crave you usually have to know someone who already works there, or eats there, or you have to live in the area. So naturally, front of house is mostly staffed by friends and family. Many people who pass through the kitchen do so as part of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) programme, which helps reintegrate would-be prisoners into the community through voluntary work. At Crave these placements often lead to full-time employment.
Once a tyre warehouse with a lofty ceiling and mezzanine levels (formerly offices), the space is reminiscent of a church. It’s echoey and loud, with long, communal tables and a mix of pew-like seats and mid-century furniture. A massive wraparound deck, I’m told, enjoys plenty of afternoon sun. The showstopper is an enormous, lacquered teak tree root suspended from the ceiling and, adjacent to that, a giant monochrome painting of the Virgin Mary.
Generally speaking, a café’s success pivots on the quality of the food. At Crave there isn’t yet a great deal to say about that; the selection is limited until Monday when they’ll serve all the usual café favourites– eggs bene, caramel slice and so on, alongside Coffee Supreme espresso. So far, no surprises.
But starting on October 27, and for the first time in seven years, the café will open for dinner. Tables will be pushed together and food shared. Master sommelier Cameron Douglas has put together the wine list. Cottle wants to add even more faces to his ever expanding list of friends and neighbours by giving people who work 9-5 – those who can usually only pop into Crave on the weekend – the chance to spend more time in what has essentially become a community centre with food.
6 Morningside Drive