Dec 3, 2015 Cafes
Words by Alice Harbourne, photographs by Ken Downie.
The quickest route to Major Sprout from the Metro offices is via a shortcut behind Les Mills. On Monday it was the closest to going to the gym I’d been all year. After eating three breakfasts in a row (for research purposes) I decided on the way back that the next time I saw a glistening blur of neon sportswear it’d be my own reflection.
I’m regretting the gym class more than the three breakfasts now I’m lowering myself into chairs with the grace of a pneumatic bus ramp; especially because the food at Major Sprout is generally pretty healthy, really.
The food memory that has lingered longer than DOMS (an abbreviation I learned this week) is a dish of granola, watermelon and stone fruit. A cream swoosh of yoghurt on a Wundaire clay plate is topped with freeze-dried and fresh berries and compressed watermelon, which is created by vacuum packing cylinders of the fruit with a watermelon concentrate, intensifying the flavour.
The delicate plating and obvious thought that went into the creation of this dish speaks of a new level of sophistication for David Lee’s hospitality empire, which has previously included suburban cafe Little King. Lee still owns and runs Dear Jervois in Herne Bay, which Major Sprout’s manager Jessie Choi also helped to set up. Choi explains that the menu at Major Sprout is designed to be “more high end” than Dear Jervois, but equally approachable: “We want it to be easy to come for breakfast in a large group; there always tends to be at least one person with special diet requirements, another who just wants eggs benedict and more adventurous eaters.”
So, for the gluten/sugar/dairy-averse there’s a cabinet full of “unbaked” goods from The Raw Kitchen, cold-pressed juices from Well & Good and wholesome sushi rolls and salads. Coffee is in the trusty hands of experienced barista Sam McTavish with espresso and Fetco Flight Coffee options. There are also inventive takes on breakfast classics, like a Nigel Slatery medley of pan-fried mushrooms and pickled oyster mushrooms, “truffled potato gnocchi” and an egg slow-cooked at 62° for a divisively runny texture (the line between silky and snotty can be thin). The plate looked stunning, drizzles of olive oil zigzagging across a woodland-hued stripe.
I couldn’t resist the comforting pull of chorizo and cheddar croquettes with courgette ribbons, black sesami aioli and roast pepper foam. It was smoky and befittingly mushy with welcome chorizo lardons providing a bit of chew. Colourful blobs of black and orange made a cosy dish feel elegant. By this time, I was full.
Head chef Phil Czerwonatis came out from behind the open kitchen as we photographed the last dish, eager to be pictured for the story. He’s deservedly proud of the menu he has created with Lee, its excellence influenced by his experience in Hip Group kitchens.
Lee was tapping away on his MacBook in the corner of the cafe during our visit and we chatted briefly. He’s at the point of hospo-empiring all start-ups dream of reaching; he can balance looking after his two young children with designing the menu and interior of his new cafe (including the fun stuff like buying a statement Christopher Boots light fitting from Melbourne) and leave the day-to-day running of it in the capable hands of people like Choi, Czerwonatis and McTavish.
Major Sprout’s Graham St location means it’s almost guaranteed regular custom from the new NZME building and surrounding businesses, and of course, people bouncing/traipsing over from the gym. But from what I’ve seen so far, it’s worthy of dedicated trips too.
21 Graham Street