May 25, 2015 Cafes
By Catherine McGregor. Photos by Ken Downie / supplied.
With Takapuna Beach Café, Jam, Mimosa, Zomer and Regatta, to name just a few, Takapuna is beginning to threaten Ponsonby’s long-held position as the suburb with Auckland’s best eats. And now Takapuna has a Ponsonby Central-style dining precinct of its very own, the battle is officially on.
Fortieth & Hurstmere lives in a long disused laneway at 40 Hurstmere Rd, opposite Hurstmere Green. A couple of years ago the Fortieth & Hurstmere concept started to take shape: a place where locals could meet for a casual meal from breakfast until late, featuring lots of shared courtyard space and small-scale vendors dedicated to great food.
Great food, and excellent coffee. Ben Story’s Kombi Coffee was originally a coffee van at the base of the Ohakune skifields. His new digs are a lot warmer but just as quirky, with Ben pulling shots from behind a recreated Kombi-van façade. Story thinks of his place as a “slice of Wellington” in the big smoke, and he’s filled it with some of the capital’s best boutique brands including Wellington Chocolate Factory chocolate bars, Gelissimo ices and Siggy’s pies. Coffee is Havana, of course. “Havana coffee is everywhere in Wellington,” he says. “But, other than Al Brown’s places, it’s pretty uncommon up here.”
Next door, and opening this weekend, El Humero Colombian Grill is run by best pals Esteban Erazo and Alejandro Garcia and their partners. Reminiscent of Ponsonby Central’s El Sizzling Chorizo (though that’s Argentinean, not Colombian) El Humero is all about very slow cooking and lots of meat. Beef is the star here, cooked for four hours over a traditional charcoal grill, then served with a choice of sauces.
Kevin Morris’ Dantes Pizzeria Napoletana is a larger version of the Dantes Pizzeria at Ponsonby Central, with indoor tables, a separate bar area and a hand-built wood-fired oven imported direct from Naples. “These are the best pizza ovens in the world,” says Morris, and he should know. His is the only pizzeria in New Zealand to make pizza to the strict standards of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and next week he’s off to Parma, Italy, to represent New Zealand in the 2015 World Pizza Champs. Dantes’ Margherita pizza is famous, but do try the amazing Calzone Nutella – folded pizza filled with Nutella and strawberries.
At the front of the complex is another Ponsonby fave, Bird on a Wire. This branch has a coolly modern fitout and more to eat, including breakfast options (toasts, sandwiches, house-made muesli, breakfast salads and more), an afternoon snack menu, and beer and wine. In a hurry? Stop by the Juice & Java window to grab a coffee or fresh-pressed juice on the go.
Fortieth & Hurstmere is still growing – two more tenancies, including a large restaurant space, will open in the next couple of months and there are plans for live music and other events once spring arrives. Longer term, there are plans to extend around the corner into the alleyway at number 46. Forty-Sixth & Hurstmere? It could work.