I’ve always been fascinated by office buildings, possibly because I’ve never worked in one. They seem so glamourous, with their shining windows and high speed escalators and fancy lifts. Despite this fascination, it wouldn’t have occured to me to find a glorious lunch within an office building. Then I went to The Lunchroom, perched on the first floor of the ANZ building on Queen Street.
The cafe is divided into two distinct sections, a ready-to-eat offering with sandwiches, salads and cakes for those in a rush (which, let’s face it, most people are in this part of town), and then the cavernous, luminous dining space, with huge wraparound windows that give you a perfect view of Britomart Transport Centre and the bustling intersection below. If you’re a fan of people watching, this is the place to do it.
The Lunchroom was a long time in the making for owner operator JJ Holland. He and Mike Murphy from Kokako Organic were working on the space for over a year before it opened – turning it from a drab, unused room into a modern urban retreat.
It’s always the tiny details that get me, like the sleek high stools by local IMO furniture and the handmade plates dotted with Muriwai sand (made by locally by Charlie Seakins on Northcote Point). The kitchen opens right out into the dining space, all light timber and marble, so you can watch JJ creating your lunch, if you can tear your eyes away from the view.
The menu has the appearance of simplicity, it doesn’t give a lot away, which makes each beautiful dish all the more delightful when it appears before you. Of course, most of the ingredients are local, organic, and sustainable, there are options for those on paleo diets, vegetarians, coeliacs. The grain-free granola is also raw and made on-site, served with fresh berries and yoghurt. This is highly detailed, carefully considered simplicity – the best kind.
The cold press juices are super fresh and vibrant, my favourite is the beetroot, pear and kale. I had the most divine salmon nicoise salad – pretty as a picture, with perfectly cooked salmon and curious cropper tomatoes bursting with flavour and sweetness. The pork shoulder with sweet potato, egg, green chilli and lemon has stolen my heart, rich and yet light. JJ’s menu makes the most of seasonal flavours, and the best thing about each dish is the way he lets the produce shine on the plate. The coffee is fairtrade Kokako Organic, brewed expertly by barista Adam van der Hoven, and there are soft brew options on offer in addition to espresso.
There isn’t another cafe like this in Auckland. It’s welcoming and friendly, but luxurious as well. It’s beautifully designed by Ignite Architects and Ctrl Space, but the offering still feels unpretentious, even humble. Aside from all of that though, it’s just a lovely place to spend your time, with all that peaceful light streaming in and people rushing by below.