Words by Alice Harbourne, photos by Ken Downie
The TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre at Pah Homestead is home to a rotating selection of over 8000 works of contemporary art owned by James Wallace. It's located is at the end of a grand, tree-lined road, nestled in the middle of the slopping Monte Cecilia Park. It's peaceful, as you'd expect, but nowhere near as stuffy as the words "stately home" and "private art collection" might suggest. That's in part due to the fantastic and unusual art exhibited, and the trust's commitment to nurturing emerging talent. It's also due to the newly revamped gallery cafe, Homestead, the work of best buds Connor Nestor and Charles Williams, owners of Ceremony, and their new business partner, food writer and cookbook author Sam Mannering.
The ex-Dawson's Catering-managed cafe has been stripped back to its handsome, heritage shell and decorated with a simple bright scarlet and white colour scheme, inspired by the Stedelijk restaurant in Amsterdam. The interior was designed by Nick Sayes of Daniel Marshall Architects in collaboration with Nestor and Williams. Deciding which artwork to hang involved a fair bit of back and forth with the trust's curators, Ben Abdale-Weir and Reece King; which could sometimes feel like "too many cooks in the kitchen", according to Abdale-Weir.
No brew appears to be spoiled, however, the contributions of like-minded makers such as Mavis & Osborn (who designed special plaid picnic blankets for guests to enjoy on the property's lawns) and the team behind I Love Ugly (who designed shirts worn by the staff) merely adding to Homestead's aesthetic cohesion.
Food-wise, Mannering has used some of Auckland's best suppliers to create a menu that will be familiar to readers of his regular food columns and cookbooks. I'd describe his style as Italian in philosophy, Kiwi in execution: the kind of comforting, classic dishes you might be served at a fancy friend's dinner party. The homemade crumpets have taken a while to perfect ("not even the Edmonds recipe could deliver the result I wanted!") and are fashioned for breakfast with sweet and savoury toppings. "Toast" gets relabeled "bruschetta" at lunchtime; the boys rave about the salt cod and parsley topping.
Scottadito is a signature Mannering dish, his veal version in Food Worth Making is indeed worth making. Here though, we've lamb "burned fingers" on a bed of cannellini bean mash, cauliflower and artichoke pesto. There's home-baking in the cabinet inspired by family recipes, and a dedicated kids menu (chocolate and peanut butter crumpet is reason for anyone to want to regress).
Williams has made the wine list easy by offering just one New Zealand wine by the glass in each variety; sometimes it's nice to have the tyranny of choice taken away. Flight Coffee and juices, fresh smoothies, and soft drinks from the Karma Cola gang make Hillsborough a desirable school run stop-off (there's ample parking).
For now, the cafe will operate standard cafe hours, though there are plans to extend this to weekend evening dining in the future, as well as talk of exciting one-off events and summer Shakespeare on the restaurant's lawns. It's so wonderful to have even more reasons to visit this special place in Hillsborough.
72 Hillsborough Rd
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