First Look: Jess' Underground Kitchen
“We’ve got seven places to go now!” says a Herne Bay local proudly as he collects his takeaway flat white from a gable door on Jervois Rd. He’s not wrong, if you need caffeine in Herne Bay you’re spoilt for choice. Among the rose gold ornaments and tea-stained linens of the area’s homeware boutiques are a cluster of cafes, varying in quality, but united by the somehow always-brightly lit, seaside feel of the place.
Jess’ Underground Kitchen is one such business, the new bricks and mortar home for Jess Daniell’s home-cooked takeaway service, a black and white deli at the Grey Lynn end of Jervois Rd, in the building that previously housed the Rabbithole Cafe.
Daniells lets me in on a few of the decor secrets when I comment on how fresh it looks. The designer-looking lampshade is actually made from $5 upside-down fruit bowls, and the majority of plant pots, woven baskets and pretty trinkets are from a homestore that rhymes with Mario Kart. You’d never guess. There are bespoke touches though – Daniells asked a cabinet maker to design the furniture: “He asked me what I wanted it to be made out of, and I said ‘I don’t know? Cabinet-making-stuff? Wood?” They settled on American oak for the deli’s central table, and cheap and cheerful painted pegboard for the main counter.
While furniture may not be Daniells’ area of expertise, home-cooking is. For the past three years she’s been running an underground operation, cooking takeaway home dinners three days a week for perfect strangers, coordinated at first by a simple Facebook page. It’s been a huge success, leading to the publication of Daniells’ first cookbook (My Underground Kitchen), and an average of over 100-orders a night. So with a sweet, low-overhead business like that, why take on the burden of rent?
“I know it seems illogical – most cafes would have a store and then move online as it’s cheaper, but I’m so excited to have a home. This location is so perfect too, with easy parking and convenience for the local schools,” Daniells says.
While Jess’ Underground Kitchen has all the external markers of a cafe – Atomic Coffee, a cabinet full of homemade scones, slices and Ottolenghi-style salads, and outdoor seating – Daniells stresses it’s a deli, there are enough cafes in the neighbourhood to be going on with. As the store develops there are plans to stock more local specialty produce, from Auckland olives to freshly-baked bread and flowers. Already there are a few household names in the fridges and on the shelves, from The Caker’s boxed cake mixes to Bonnie oat cakes and artisan teas. Of course, the main draw is home-cooked dinners, which can now be ordered directly in-store, seven days a week.
Jess’ Underground Kitchen
?203 Jervois Road, Herne Bay
??09 378 7711