I suppose one positive of an eight-o’clock-on-a-Saturday-morning airport pickup is beating the 10am brunch rush (look at me, all “glass half full”). So it was that my sister and I found ourselves seated at Cornwall Park Café before 9am last weekend, my second visit since it opened a few months back. They don’t take bookings, and it does get busy – the first time I visited was at peak hour on a Sunday, and it was buzzing – but outdoor bean bags, freshly minted-and-lemoned water, a Rush Munro’s icecream cart, and a booming takeaway coffee trade all help the wait-time to pass pleasantly enough. Oh, and the view’s rather lovely.
Inside, the clientele are almost exclusively clad in lycra; on the weekends, at least, the café seems to cater predominantly for the Cornwall Park exercise brigade. It’s (almost compulsorily) child-friendly – some of the tables are adorned with paper for doodling, and there are menu options “for the kid in all of us”. There are plenty of staff, in matching aprons, and they’re most attentive – my glass of sparkling water is never below half full (perhaps a reflection of my positive attitude, as to which, see above).
The café is licensed and open all day, and the “winter edition” menu is correspondingly comprehensive: breakfast, lunch, sandwiches, treats from the cabinet, and a drinks list spanning two pages. I am somewhat predictable when it comes to breakfast; if it’s not a delectable baked good, then it’s something from the cereal department. I’m therefore more than happy with a menu featuring three such options: Bircher muesli, house made granola, and porridge. Having sampled the granola previously, and given it is a chilly August morning, today the porridge sways me, served with “compressed” rhubarb and yuzu custard. A warming bowl of oaty goodness appeals: the space isn’t what you’d call cosy, perhaps a nod to the mildly perspiring fitness bunnies surrounding us.
Little Sister opts for spiced hotcakes served with mascarpone, “compressed” apple (evidently “compressing” fruit is the way to go), apple syrup, and apple crisps. Other options include house made baked beans, lambs kidneys with Pedro Ximénez cream, and eggs any style. The jars of lemon curd and preserves accompanying the toast on a neighbouring table look like the real deal.
The cabinet food also looks tempting, and the window continues to fill up as we sit and admire it. Drinks-wise, aside from the obvious espresso range, there are smoothies served in mason jars (a phenomenon that shows no sign of letting up), a selection of teas, sodas, juices, and soft drinks, a wine and beer selection, and “other milky matters”. There are even “deconstructed” options – mix-your-own hot chocolates, iced chocolates, and iced coffees.
Somewhat unusually, our meals arrive before our coffees – no doubt a side effect of the high takeaway coffee turnover. The food gets the tick from us; Little Sister remarks that the apple crisps atop her hotcakes are reminiscent of our primary school lunch boxes on a good day. As for the porridge, other than the disappointingly cold temperature of the rhubarb, and an unnecessary floral garnish, it’s very tasty – who doesn’t love custard? And when the coffees do arrive, and once they get my order right (second time lucky), the coffee (Allpress) is excellent.
The lunch menu’s appeal means a return visit is on the cards, a bistro is opening up later this year, and a creamery is in the works; all in all, Cornwall Park’s new eateries are a welcome addition to this pastoral oasis in the middle of Auckland city. As we depart, a boot camp, replete with kettle bells, is in full swing outside, no doubt set to feed into the 10am shift and ensure another busy, lycra-filled day at the café.
$43 for porridge, hotcakes, a flat white and a cappuccino
Open 7 days from 7:30am
Cornwall Park (by the band rotunda), Pohutakawa Dr, Epsom