San­dring­ham cafe-cum-pizze­ria hits the spot

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - He­len van Berkel


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.


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.


“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.

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