Food Neighbourhood: Devonport
By Anna King-Shahab. Photos by Ken Downie.
Enjoying a breakfast taco at Vauxhall Rd’s delightfully renovated Cheltenham Dairy & Milk Bar with his preschooler, street artist Sparrow told me he quickly learned when he moved to Devonport from Grey Lynn recently why the area is known locally as “The Bubble”: “There’s only one road in and out.” A self-sufficient world, however, it is not: most locals will admit there are gaps needing to be filled in the food department.
These gaps are not in the cafe department, however. There are now plenty. Corelli’s Cafe, considered by many the heart of the village, is open early till late, with live gigs a frequent feature. Henri does French favourites along with the usual eggy things, and newcomer Hoxton Deli on the main strip has Altezano Brothers coffee, the new Master Milkshakes and a guilty-pleasure bacon-and-egg pizza — just the thing to nibble on during a stroll along the blustery esplanade.
Two solely coffee joints grace Wynyard St, which runs parallel to the main strip: roaster Chiasso, which also serves espresso and sells freshly roasted beans and coffee paraphernalia, and teeny Devo, where barista Emily opens the hatches at 5.30am. “Very early morning is our peak, with all the ferry commuters,” she says.
Places to hang out afternoon and evening, as well as cafes that stay open, include Greek Nicolino, and the recently madeover Esplanade Bar & Grill. Hung Viet does tasty Vietnamese, Dida’s takes care of wine and small plates, and Bette’s is a cute, 50s-tinged bistro with shared plates that can also be upsized to mains. Devonport now has its own craft-beer bar and live-music venue, the aptly named Tiny Triumphs, its petite indoor space filled with old sofas and a bar offering Sawmill Beer on tap and platters to share.
A couple of the nicest finds in Devonport are well away from the village. Back towards Belmont on Lake Rd, Ngataringa Espresso feels like someone’s living room, with the added benefit of local Chiasso coffee, a range of vegetarian home baking and samosas and a tureen of hot daal to enjoy at owner Linda’s own red dining table. And towards Cheltenham Beach, Vauxhall Rd scores highly with the very French Chateaubriant offering a menu, imported cheeses and free-range rotisserie chickens to take away, while Vauxhall Cafe across the road is a cosy, welcoming spot.
The Cheltenham Dairy & Milk Bar next door is a goodie. It’s run by local hospo stalwarts Jimmy and Tam Macken, who bought what was a typical dairy when it came up for sale last year because they couldn’t stand the thought of losing the local shop. So you can still buy your Marmite, soft drinks, milk and butter here, but you can also pick up pies, sausage rolls, slices, salads, sandwiches and vacuum-packed meals all made by the couple, along with fresh juices and smoothies, coffee and — vitally for a beachy spot — scoops of locally made gelato.
Jimmy also happens to be a barbecue enthusiast, and a trip last year to Texas resulted in their lugging back a pit smoker. In it they cook pork ribs and beef brisket to exacting specs, and you can buy his Bareknuckle BBQ-branded goods, vacuum-packed, at the Milk Bar. Plus it’s a bit of a local secret that the Mackens also run the canteen at the rugby club down the road; home games see them serve up succulent barbecue food to the many families who head down to watch the game.
But where’s the great butcher, fishmonger, delicatessen? There are a few bakers — The Stone Oven on Clarence St does a small range, and there’s a cornucopia at Wild Wheat, on Lake Rd. But it would be great to see Victoria Rd revitalised with more provisions to balance the gift shops. And a weekly market of the farmers/artisans variety near the ferry terminal would be a wonderful thing, both for those who live in The Bubble and to draw visitors over on the ferry.