My Auckland: Penrose

By Elisabeth Easther

Publicist Angela Radford shares her favourite things about the suburb she calls home with Elisabeth Easther.

Angela Radford at the Bassant Reserve in Penrose. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Angela Radford at the Bassant Reserve in Penrose. Photo / Steven McNicholl

We live in a crazy old warehouse, in an industrial area of Penrose. My husband Shane is in the film industry and he found this place over 20 years ago. Back then it was an empty picture framer's warehouse and he's since built rooms into it and made a home out of this big old empty shed. It is so blissfully quiet round these parts in the weekends, and after 5pm weekdays when the industry goes home and, what's more, it's only two minutes from the motorway, whether you're heading north or south.

There are loads of places to eat nearby. There's a new cafe in Ellerslie called Gasket Espresso Kitchen, they roast their own coffee and it's great for breakfasts, although they're not open in the weekends yet. I suspect they mainly serve the office workers. It has had a great fit-out - it was an old panelbeaters and they've kept the motoring theme, and there's lots of light and fabulous food.

The butcher in Ellerslie is amazing too. It's an organic butchery, and they do delicious award-winning sausages.

For a drink there's the Union Post Brew Bar which used to be the old Ellerslie Post Office. They have a great outdoors area and the menu makes it well worth a visit. Across the road from there, and a total contrast, is Charlie Baxter's, a lovely cosy place to meet people and have a drink - this is more of a wine bar with snacks.

Then there's the fantastic Greenwoods Kitchen, they do the best club sandwiches and chicken pies ever. It's a real old-fashioned bakery, I think the same people still run it as when I was a child. The mini chicken pie is worth making the trek for alone. They have cheap, cheerful and brilliant food. The best Chinese food in Auckland is also in the area at Diamond Takeaways on Great South Rd, the same family have run it since I was a kid too.

I can walk to One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park any time of year and that place completely rocks. You always know when spring is coming, because down the central walk every kind of spring flower is there growing wild. There are lambs, and all sorts of animals, hills you can roam over. Every time I go there I give thanks to John Logan Campbell for giving it to the city.

The mountains are also really important to me, there are about 40 of the big volcanoes in this really concentrated area. If I need perspective, I go up a mountain. There's Mt Wellington, One Tree Hill or Mt Mangere. I also walk around Ambury Park with its wetlands. You can still see the extensive terracing on the slopes of Mt Mangere, it was Auckland's main pa site back in the day, and it feels like a really special place. We have a gorgeous park on our back doorstep, Bassant Reserve on Bassant Ave. It feels like ours. The park is a water catchment area, and the council came in a while ago and totally cleared it out, although they left the huge oaks and an old apple tree too. They did lots of planting, made little bridges and picnic tables and turned it into a native reserve and wetlands. We have kingfisher and a pair of nesting tui at the moment. You can still see foundations in the ground, which I fancy is where the original homestead might have been, or a barn. This gives the place a historical grounding. It's probably about two or three acres in size, and a great place to take your book, and a nice place to take the dog too.

What's lovely about Penrose, is to me it feels like an octopus and its tentacles are Ellerslie, Onehunga, Greenlane, Mangere Bridge, Mt Wellington and Royal Oak. All those places have a villagey, neighbourhood feel. But I grew up in Ellerslie, it's where I go most and I have watched the township become this really vibrant place, yet keep its friendliness, I like that.

Angela's picks:

* Charlie Baxter's 121 Main Highway, Ellerslie, ph (09) 525 2522. This quirky wine and cocktail lounge in the heart of Ellerslie is like a home away from home.

* Union Post Brew Bar, 124 Main Highway, Ellerslie, ph (09) 579 2303. A fun place to eat and drink, a gastropub with character.

* Gasket Espresso Kitchen, 23 B Kalmia St, Ellerslie, ph (09) 215 2028. Light, airy, grand breakfasts, lunch menu on the way, plus they have WiFi.

* Greenwoods Kitchen, 586 Manukau Rd, One Tree Hill, ph (09) 624 1222. A real old-fashioned bakery, with mouthwatering fare and amazing value.

Angela Radford is the publicist for the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival for details of events go to: writersfestival.co.nz.

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