72 Hillsborough Rd
(09) 883 666
Tuesday - Friday
8am - 3.30pm
Saturday - Sunday
8am - 5pm
In early 2015, a little cafe opened in the Grafton shops that re-defined our concept of sandwiches and how delicious they could be. It was Ceremony. One year later, the creative team behind that local gem, led by Connor Nestor and Charles Williams, have done again. This time they’ve taken on suburbia, re-fitting the old cafe inside Pah Homestead in Hillsborough. The homestead is an art gallery that houses James Wallace’s extensive private collection of NZ contemporary art. It’s a rambling manor, built in the late 1800s, that’s registered to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Situated on the edge of Monte Cecilia park, it’s a beautiful spot to visit for so many reasons, and now there’s one more.
The cafe is located in one of the front “rooms” of the homestead. It feels like a fancy cafeteria, all white, with a counter dominating one end of the room. When the cafe is busy, and it often is, it’s a buzzing, bouncy place, where Flight Coffee is brewed at a shining La Marzocco, and Connor and Charles seem to know every second person who walks through the door. The buzz is nice, but the really beautiful thing about Homestead is the peaceful verandah, with its view over the manicured sculpture garden down into the park. In the summer months, you can take a custom-made Mavis and Osbourn picnic blanket and eat your breakfast on the grass.
The duo behind Ceremony have teamed up with cook book author and chef, Sam Mannering, to create a retro menu with a couple of local wine options to pair with your meal. Dishes are seasonally driven, and Homestead is already famous for its homemade crumpets, topped with whatever bounty is on offer – in summer it was ricotta, nectarine and fig leaf syrup, or lemon curd, labneh and fresh coconut. These beauties share a breakfast menu with more standard offerings, like eggs on toast, granola, fancy toppings, all with a Homestead twist.
At lunch, there is bruschetta with a selection of toppings including salt cod and parsley, as well as larger plates. On my first visit I tried the whipped chevre, piled onto the plate like a cloud and topped with thinly sliced courgette, pear and chioggia beetroot (the psychedelic one). It’s a delicately flavoured dish that treads the line between light and indulgent. On the heartier end of the spectrum, there is lamb scottadito with white bean, cauliflower and rosemary puree and artichoke pesto – so rich and warming it’s difficult to finish, but you will. There are also desserts and a small but perfect kids menu, offering a croque monsieur or a choclate and peanut butter crumpet, which had me wondering one more time why kids get all the fun stuff.
They’ve recently launched a monthly dinner series, The Dinner Crowd. Three courses and after hours access to the sculpture garden, what a treat.
Homestead is so vastly different to Ceremony, aside from the obvious urban vs. suburban location. Where one celebrates simplicity the other offers a little something for everyone, which is so necessary in an art gallery that receives as many as 100,000 visitors a year. It’s quite an undertaking for the Ceremony company, but Connor, Charles and Sam have tackled the project with their signature inclusive, considered approach, and they’ve ended up with something great, a cafe you’re happy to travel a great Auckland distance for.