First look: Pollen - Shortland Street's latest cafe
According to Jonny McKessar – who infamously got his start in the coffee industry at a BP petrol station – you don’t need a lot of money to start a business selling coffee wholesale.
He opened his first roastery safe in the knowledge that if it went tits up he wouldn’t have lost too much money. 2017 is Three Beans’ seventh year in operation and McKessar, alongside business partner Steve Vanderput, is opening his seventh café. It was going to be called Chapter 7, until the landlord canned that idea. Chapter 7 is an American turn of phrase that implies bankruptcy; he didn’t think the accountants who work in the same building would see the irony. They’ve settled on Pollen, instead.
McKessar naturally wants to keep the business moving but fears the “danger of coming across as a chain” by opening multiple branches under the same name. Subsequently, Pollen looks and feels a little different from other Three Beans spaces. It’s smaller than Graham St’s Scratch HQ, with 35(ish) seats, and there is a much larger cabinet than the Three Beans outlet at City Works Depot. There is a slick, long, black stone bench top and golden hanging lights.
The focus here is coffee, brought over from Three Beans’ central city roastery; really good cabinet food and a succinct kitchen menu with highlights like wagyu mince on toast, hearty chicken pies and waffles with crème anglaise. Everything is pared back for the sake of efficiency, and to appeal to time-poor YOPROS. “A lot of effort’s gone in to making it easy for the customer,” says McKessar. Lotty Ffoulkes, a longtime employee of McKessar’s – well known to those who frequent Three Beans at City Works Depot – will run the floor.
Because Three Beans began as a roaster and wholesaler, selling coffee to local cafes, McKessar tells me that most of their customers are people who’ve tried the coffee and liked it. Loyalty like that can be difficult to cultivate and he’s hoping it’ll help him navigate a competitive market. Hopefully after the name change he’s onto a money-maker.
55 Shortland St