First Look: Open Table
Words: Catherine McGregor. Photos: Ken Downie.
All through the morning, we heard the same incredulous comment from people as they walked in the door: “Wow, are you guys really open?” Hannah Feenstra looked almost as surprised as her customers that her café was, in fact, open for business. Open Table’s journey to completion has been long – “I’ve wanted to open my own café since I was a teenager,” Feenstra says – and frustrating. It’s also an inspiring story of family and community – and a lot of hard work.
Originally conceptualised as a “business innovation project” for Feenstra’s entrepreneurship degree, the café first started to take shape when she and her partner Dylan spotted an empty site on a quiet Ellerslie street back in 2012. They initially lost the lease to a proposed liquor store, but strong local opposition meant the store failed to gain a liquor licence and Feenstra, who was born and raised in Ellerslie, took over.
The next step was a Kickstarter campaign to raise initial financing. Feenstra distributed 5000 leaflets promoting the campaign, held a street party outside the site and drummed up support through mainstream and social media. The end result: $20,000 in donations from Ellerslie locals who liked the idea of a sustainable, community-focused café in an area desperately short of good coffee options.
At Open Table, all pork and chicken is free range, and the milk, eggs and (Kokako) coffee are organic. Suppliers Shahji Spices, The Produce Company and organic butchery Ellerslie Meats are close neighbours; Open Table is also one of the first outlets for new cold-pressed juice company Freshpress, located just down the road. Bread and pastries come from Bread and Butter Bakery, whose owner Isabel Pasch used to run a bakery next door.
The menu, devised by Feenstra’s chef brother Peter, is genuinely inventive: no eggs benedict, French toast or doughy muffins here. Instead, they serve eggs on toast with Nana Adams’ (Feenstra’s great-grandmother) tomato sauce; apple latkes with salted caramel tamarillo, Clevedon buffalo yoghurt and (optional) bacon; and Japanese salted salmon with pickled vegetables, rice and poached egg. There’s also a short range of lunch menu items, plus some delicious-looking, hearty salads and sandwiches.
We never thought we’d say this, but lucky Ellerslie.
62 Michaels Ave
Hours: 7.30-3.30, Monday to Friday, and 8-4 weekends.