A top-end-of-town cafe is nudg­ing its way up in the brunch mar­ket

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Sarah Daniell

Once Strangers Cafe


I love Sy­monds St. It’s the gritty, sur­pris­ing edge of town where you can buy a kite surf, have din­ner at the French Cafe, buy a bike or visit a pawn shop and a whole lot other in­ter­est­ing in be­tween. Right at the end — the K Rd end, that is — is a cafe that seems slightly out of step with the pre­dom­i­nantly grunge-vibe: a pris­tine, hum­ble lit­tle place that feels, well, like the Pollyanna im­poster. It’s like stum­bling into some­where holy in the mid­dle of Kings Cross at 2am. Once Strangers has all the right “ticks” in terms of be­ing on trend (ter­rar­ium, lots of white, white chairs, clean) but it’s very bright and stark. Host-wise, you couldn’t ask for more. All smiles. Miles of them. But it’s 11am and so quiet that you an al­most hear the crisp white walls whis­per­ing “where is ev­ery­one?” Park­ing is a bit dodgy, but Bene­dict St is a good op­tion if you don’t mind a stroll around the cor­ner.


I or­der “eggs benny” with house­made potato rosti, and my com­pan­ion or­ders ta­cos — with monk­fish. I or­der a soy flat white (cof­fee is Al­tura), ask­ing for strong please, and Suzi or­ders an english break­fast tea. As good as my eggs are, per­fectly cooked, I kinda FOMO-out about the cot­tage pie and the pork bao. Suzi reck­ons the ta­cos aren’t re­ally great in terms of fresh­ness. My eggs are great. So stick with the ba­sics here. Though, you could ar­gue, it’s hardly a stretch to ex­pect fresh fish when they of­fer it. The glass cab­i­net is a bit lonely and in need of friends. There are bland-look­ing pani­nis and crois­sants.


Su­per-friendly. I walk in and think about where to sit. The wait­staff are charm­ing and help­ful. Wa­ter is brought. Or­ders are taken. It’s a hard ask to stand out in the brunch mar­ket. I mean, this town is crawl­ing with cafes. But “Strangers” is giv­ing it a good nudge, they have a great barista and I want them to suc­ceed. They are the op­po­site of stud­ied cool you of­ten find at Auck­land cafes, and that alone is re­ally a nice thing to be among, on a grey win­ter morn­ing, when all the world can seem a bit hos­tile.

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