My cafe: The Porch Cafe, Waihi Beach

By Bronwyn Sell

Carla Botha, co-owner of The Porch at Waihi Beach.

The Porch Cafe in Waihi Beach village has a fire to relax by in winter, and a deck to soak up the sun in summer. Photo / Mike Hill Photography
The Porch Cafe in Waihi Beach village has a fire to relax by in winter, and a deck to soak up the sun in summer. Photo / Mike Hill Photography

Our philosophy is: to consistently produce outstanding food and service in a relaxing atmosphere. Our most popular dish is our NZ Cafe of the Year Awards feature dish: Wattie's baked beans with chorizo and roast capsicum, topped with baked soft eggs and crisp Kiwi bacon, served with toasted sourdough. It's yummy.

Our most unusual dish is: most often found on our dinner menu, especially in the summer. We do periodically have unusual things on the menu but we're pretty classic and we don't go too extreme. We've had everything from beef cheeks to wild boar and a braised rabbit-stuffed loin.

Our specialty is: definitely the eggs benedict. We do it with a traditional sauvignon hollandaise sauce - beautiful, very classic - poached eggs, English muffins, streaky bacon and wilted spinach. Lots of cafes don't make their own hollandaise - they buy it in, which always seems so tragic because that's why people buy it, right?

The best table to sit at is: the one in the window in the restaurant. In the summertime the windows fold back and you get all the sun, and in the winter you're right by the fire. We're right in Waihi Beach village, so you can just sit and watch the world go by in summer - or in the winter watch the tumbleweed roll down the street! The porch out the front is good, too. People will sit there for hours.

We're a bit different because: we've got to be innovative and consistent because we are in a small coastal town. We're constantly thinking up new ideas and events to get people in, and to keep ourselves fresh and passionate. It's so easy to get into that winter funk. The last Thursday in every month we completely redecorate as an English country pub, and call ourselves the Porchester Arms. We've even had a crest of arms done to hang outside, with the motto, in Latin: "In our local we trust".

Our coffee is: not made by me. I just get way too paranoid and over-think it. I can go into the kitchen and cook 200 meals in the summer if I have to and I'll be sweet, but put three coffees up and I freak out. Mel Masters is our barista. People always come up and say it's the best coffee they've ever had.

The best time at our cafe is: any time we're open. Whether it's winter and it's quiet and you can lax out and take three hours to read the paper, or in summer and it's busy. At the moment it's great because the sun's been shining. Happiness always moves up 100 degrees when the sun comes out.

Our regulars are: an eclectic group. Waihi Beach is a bit of a melting pot. We've got our local locals, we've got our weekend bach regulars, and we've got our summertime regulars, who will be here every day in the holidays.

Our chef is: Timothy Lumsden. He's a fantastic young chef. He's really passionate about his food and his technique is exceptional. He's worked all over the world, and trained in some Michelin-starred restaurant in Denmark. And he's a good guy to have around.

Our design theme is: relaxed, with that really homely feel. The building is an old kauri miner's cottage that was moved onto the land and extended. It's got a great atmosphere.

We opened this cafe seven years ago because: it was always a dream for me and my South African husband, Riaan, to have a restaurant-slash-cafe-slash-bar. I still think we're a bit deluded.

We love our cafe because: we always have fun at work. It can be stressful, but we always have a laugh and we all get along. Everyone who works here is passionate about what they do.

After brunch, you should check out: our 10km of beautiful coastline. It's a beautiful beach, and the walk over to Orokawa Bay is great. And there's really cool shopping in the village, from clothes to jewellery to handmade wooden toys to secondhand retro and vintage stuff. My favourite shop - where I spend too much of my money - is Off the Bench, which does amazing jewellery.

- Herald on Sunday

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