Sandringham cafe-cum-pizzeria hits the spot
SET UP & SITE
Driving to Sandringham early on a Saturday morning is a nostalgic journey through suburbia, where the houses still have personality. Wooden bungalows and Kiwi villas line wide streets, the rundown and overgrown jostling with the glossy paint jobs and trimmed flower beds. The people in these houses are those who dine at Lena, which describes itself as an urban eatery: “a cafe, pizzeria and cheeky little local bar; diner by day, woodfired pizzas and tapas joint by night”. And it certainly has that feel: we were lucky enough to find parking at the door — but otherwise it looks limited, and perhaps best suited as a destination arrived at on foot. Lena is in a little row of shops — the kind that once had a small grocer, a butcher and a hairdresser. A staff of two quickly made our coffees and cooked our breakfast. Throughout our hour or so a steady stream of locals came in for coffees and a natter, congratulating the chef on his recent holiday.
SUSTENANCE AND SWILL
Lena aims for a Spanish vibe (the name apparently means firewood in Spanish, a reference to its wood-fired pizza ovens) so there was no choice but to go for the chorizo, poached egg and jalapeno hollandaise on seeded toast ($16.50) or, in other words, a Spanish-inspired eggs benedict. The companion also ordered the more traditional benedict. Both meals were unremarkable, tasty without being challenging, but filling. The coffee ($4.50 for a flat white and $5.50 for a mocha) arrived promptly.
SERVICE AND STUFF
“Unremarkable” might sound like a criticism, but it isn’t really. It doesn’t seem to me that Lena is going for “Michelin star” or any other kind of star. What Lena offers is a warm friendly vibe that you feel as soon as you step into black-painted interior. It’s cosy, welcoming and, judging from the conversations aof locals dropping in for a coffee, loved by locals. In the evenings it becomes a pizza and tapas joint — which is when the real stories about the chef’s holiday are probably told. Its food is unpretentious and we left with not just our hunger sated but our souls satisfied. And that is remarkable.