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First Look: Woodside Cafe

Mar 23, 2016 Cafes

Words and photos by Alice Harbourne.

A new family-run Birkenhead coffee shop serving 100% gluten-free food.

On days when the sea is the same hue as the drizzly Harbour Bridge traffic, those clip-ons feel particularly perilous. It was that breed of bridge-swinging weather when I visited new Birkenhead coffee shop Woodside. With each entering or exiting customer, a northeasterly blustered through the cafe, forcing napkins and delicately placed rocket leaves to leap into the air.

On a still, sunny day Woodside is the ideal spot for an outdoor morning coffee, with a freshly-painted, covered veranda and street-side seating. The 1920s building originally housed the village (then known as Woodside) chemist, and its high ceilings and heritage pink and mint-green glass windows provide a charming backdrop for a modern fit out by August & Co Design, which is equal parts industrial and leafy.

Australian co-owner Mark Villella is a hospitality veteran; he’s opened cafes in the UK, Korea, Australia and Canada, which is where he met his wife Anleena, who herself grew up in Birkenhead. Traveled-out, last year the couple returned to New Zealand with their two-year-old with the intention of staying. When the opportunity to open shop across the road from their Hinemoa St house arose, it made perfect sense. As did selling 100% gluten-free baking; Mark suffers from coeliac disease, while Anleena has been baking in the now-fashionable “free-from”-style for years, influenced by her forward-thinking homeopath mother.

A short lunch menu of food the couple like to eat at home – Were Bros seeded bread, toasted and crowned with healthy toppings (some home-grown in the cafe’s organic garden), homemade granola, frittatas – are complimented by Anleena’s gluten-free baked goods, each boasting wholesome, nutritious ingredients, from cashew butter to raw cacao and coconut sugar. Healthier treats, in other words.

Having worked at both the original Atomic Coffee shop in Kingsland and with eighthirty coffee roasters, the decision of which coffee brand to go with was not taken lightly by Mark. In fact, it took six weeks, and eventually he settled upon Coffee Supreme by closing his eyes and following his taste buds. This is the cafe’s general philosophy: serve the things you like and hope the locals will agree. From the amount of times the gale fluttered through the cafe on my visit, they do.

134A Hinemoa St


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