Time for brunch at 10 of the best

By Libby Nicholson-Moon

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Libby Nicholson-Moon finds 10 of the best cafes for Sunday brunch.

Libby Nicholson-Moon enjoying a coffee at Zus & Zo cafe, Herne Bay. Photo / Bruce Nicholson
Libby Nicholson-Moon enjoying a coffee at Zus & Zo cafe, Herne Bay. Photo / Bruce Nicholson

Twenty Three

Address: 23 Mt Eden Rd, Eden Terrace, Auckland
Ph: (09) 354 4505
Open: Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm

Auckland's, Twenty Three Cafe, on the edge of Mt Eden, is a fabulously intimate space, with a sunny courtyard, and what owner Emma Sparks describes as "a merging of the old with the new". Brunches here are serious business. The menu provides the usual toast, granola, and egg options, and additional signature dishes include Portobello mushrooms on toasted sourdough, eggs royale (a pile of smoked bacon and melt-in-your-mouth herbed hash cakes, topped with poached eggs and fresh hollandaise), fresh sardines pan-fried with gremolata on toasted sourdough with smoked paprika tomato salsa; or ginger-marinated Peruvian scallops on toast with pan-fried black pudding, toasted sourdough and salad greens. Try their rendition of traditional Spanish Huevos a la Flamenca, or choose from the selection of specialty sandwiches on rustic wild-wheat bread, wraps, salads, slices and cakes. Supreme coffee blend Boxer reigns here, and the baristas are on to it, so enjoy your brunch with the shared company of locals, and the conviviality of a friendly attentive staff.

Meal price range $6-$18.50.
Free-range eggs, vegetarian options, child friendly, licensed.

Zus & Zo

Address: 228 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay, Auckland
Ph: (09) 361 5060
Open: Mon-Friday 7am-4pm Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Stylish, delicious and incredibly popular, this Herne Bay eatery in Auckland was runner up in the 2010 Metro Cafe Awards. Owners Clare and husband Joost van den Berg are showcasing Dutch style and flavour, not only in the food, but also in the design, furniture and ambience. The meals are fashioned around the Dutch's love of bread and cheese, and a section of their menu is dedicated entirely to fresh sandwiches and their delectable fillings. The all-day menu is packed with originality and tantalising surprise, from the toasted Cruesli served with Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and honey, to the mushrooms with blue cheese and Black Forest ham on sourdough topped with a poached egg; the Croque Madame with toasted gruyere, prosciutto and fried egg; and the cumin cheese with cherry tomatoes on raisin bread, served with a boiled egg. Their Millers coffee is superb, and an entire central table is devoted to sweet delectables and additional savoury treats.

Meal price range $5-$17.
Organic eggs, child friendly.

Bennetts Cafe at Bennetts of Mangawhai

Address: 52 Moir St, Mangawhai
Ph: (09) 431 5072
Currently closed for an annual winter break, Bennetts will reopen July 15. Hours will then be Mon-Fri 8.30am-4pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm, Fri-Sat, 6 pm 'til late

Head north of Auckland and make a beeline for Bennett's of Mangawhai's state-of-the-art chocolaterie. This place is definitely a destination that will transport you to another world. After you have sampled the famous handmade chocolates, or visited the gelato shop, saunter across to the stunning Bennett's cafe. Beautiful courtyards, fountains, French furniture and fireplaces all set the scene for a unique experience. Jennifer Perry fronts the kitchen at Bennett's Cafe, with impressive credentials, having worked with fusion maestro Peter Gordon in London and at Auckland's Rocco and The Engine Room. Perry describes her food as simple, seasonal and tasty, and uses mostly locally sourced free-range and organic produce. The menu is an explosion of honest and true flavours, and includes freshly baked melt-in-your-mouth brioche, delicious sandwiches and amazing cakes, while the blackboard menu offers such combinations as buckwheat pancakes with stewed apple, maple syrup and creme fraiche; raclette cheese omelette with watercress and toast, a stunning smoked fish salad, soups, duck confit salad and organic braised beef shin pie.

Meal price range $14-$32.
Vegetarian and gluten-free options available, free-range eggs, licensed.

Grange Road Cafe and Restaurant

Address: 100 Grange Rd, Otumoetai, Tauranga
Ph: (07) 576 3660
Open: 7 days 8am-4pm

Tauranga's most recent addition to the cafe scene is Grange Road Cafe and Restaurant in the suburb of Otumoetai. Sister to Mt Maunganui's award-winning Tay Street Beach Cafe, Grange Road is the latest venture of Tay Street's Joseph and Kirsty Goddard, and business partners Mark Jensen and Lisa Bardebes. Both Jensen and Bardebes bring a wealth of experience to Grange Road. Jensen heads the kitchen, producing food that looks and tastes fantastic. European in style, the cafe's all-day brunch menu is simply delicious. There's a choice of the usual breakfast standards, including eggs, Portobello mushrooms and bagels, or choose maple-cinnamon porridge with prunes and walnuts, honey-toasted muesli and accompaniments, or French toast with vanilla-poached strawberries and mascarpone. Merge the breakfast with the lunch menu, and try the fresh snapper, beer-battered or pan-fried, with chips, preserved lemon tartare and salad greens.

Meal price range $10-$20.
Free-range organic eggs, bacon and ham, fish sourced from sustainable local fisheries; liquor license pending.

Meola Kitchen

Address: 184 Garnet Rd, Westmere, Auckland
Ph: (09) 360 6184
Open: Mon-Sun 7.30am-5pm

Situated on a sunny corner with views to Meola Reef, Meola Kitchen in Westmere, Auckland, has locals making the daily pilgrimage to partake of the fabulous food and warm and inviting atmosphere. People are known to drive across town for the cafe's famous scones; mixed dried fruit, date and orange, and cheese and black pepper. The same can be said for the cinnamon brioche roll, warm from the oven. Jan Gardner, internationally renowned chef and food stylist, opened Meola Kitchen four years ago. Her background is in borderless cuisine, and the influences of the American Southwest, and Mexico, have left their imprints on her style. Gardner's food is fresh, flavoursome, and layered with experience. There's not an eggs benedict in sight. Instead you will find breakfast burritos filled with organic scrambled eggs and bacon, served with tomato salsa, and light-as-air buttermilk pancakes with seasonal fruit and bottomless real maple syrup. The dish that always elicits a smile is the green eggs and ham with two organic eggs, wild wheat sourdough and a glistening green herb sauce. Meloa's cabinets are laden with devourable sweets, and savoury extras, and the Allpress organic coffee is expertly dispensed by the cafe's well-experienced baristas.

Meal price range $6.50-$23.50.
Free-range produce, vegetarian, gluten-free options available, child friendly, licensed.

The Shack

Address: 19 Bow St, Raglan
Ph: (07) 825 0027
Open: 7 days 8.30am-5pm

Raglan is where you chill out and enjoy the laidback way of life and The Shack is very much inspired by the carefree Raglan vibe. Co-owners Lisa Graham and Adriaan Dekker have created a relaxed atmosphere in a simple setting. Breakfast is available from 8am until noon. Offerings include eggs benedict, The Shack fry-up with poached eggs and plenty of accompaniments, and creamy balsamic mushrooms with thyme on sourdough. Sweetness is provided in the form of cinnamon French toast with grilled banana, maple syrup and orange cardomon and mascarpone, (add bacon if desired), Shack toasted muesli with fruit, yoghurt and honey or a rejuvenating mixed-berry smoothie. If you've just come in from the surf and it's after noon, try the haloumi, eggplant and tomato burger with harissa and chunky fries or the grilled sirloin. There are no rules when you're on holiday. There's a kiddies' menu, and slices and sweet delights to accompany the legendary Atomic blend of coffee.

Meal price range $6.90-$23.90.
Vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options available, child friendly.

Fenice Restaurant & Cafe

Address: 122a Ocean View Rd, Oneroa, Waiheke Island
Ph: (09) 372 8711
Open: 7 days 7am-'til late

The recently opened Fenice Restaurant and Cafe is located in the heart of Oneroa village, on Waiheke Island. The cafe is owned and operated by Waiheke local Robyn Jones. On offer are fresh sandwiches, gourmet treats and a streamlined brunch menu, ranging from crepes, muesli, fruit salad and yoghurt, through to eggs benedict with bacon or salmon, and The Fenice Kiwi Breakfast with the works, served on freshly baked foccacia. For something lighter to match with coffee, choose the freshly made croissants or cupcakes. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, with a shabby chic rustic decor, chandeliers, and an open fireplace, making for the ideal laidback island dining experience. This cafe is more about the atmosphere than the view, although there are glimpses of the ocean. After brunch, stroll down to Oneroa beach and take in the stunning island vistas.

Meal price range $10-$25.
Vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options available; child friendly, open evenings for pizza/tapas/bar.

Five Loaves Catering and Deli

Address: 29 Church St, Devonport, Auckland
Ph: (09) 445 8984
Open: Mon-Sat 7.30am-5pm, Sun 8am-4pm

Owned by Jimmy Macken and Michael Riordan, Five Loaves Deli on Auckland's North Shore in Devonport, is a pure delight. This gourmet eatery is situated on a quiet street, adjacent to historic apartment buildings and quaint houses. Manager Josh is a ray of sunshine, and his barista skills match his sunny demeanor. The extensive menu features plenty of free-range and fresh seasonal produce. If you are looking for substantial fare, then this place delivers, and it's evident from the patronage of locals and young families, this cafe is a neighbourhood classic. Gourmet delights on offer include huevos rancheros with black beans, bacon and guacamole on a tortilla with fried eggs, smoked fish kedgeree and fragrant rice with a poached egg and Turkish bread; for the sweet tooth there's French toast stuffed with caramelised banana, served with maple roasted bacon and walnuts. Their cabinet is full to the brim daily with delicious offerings from the kitchen (the Red Velvet cupcakes are pure heaven), so if you can't decide from the menu, all is not lost.

Meal price range $6.50-$27.50.
Vegetarian and gluten-free options, child friendly.

The River Kitchen

Address: 237 Victoria St, Hamilton
Ph: (07) 839 2906
Open: Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat 8am-4pm, Sun 8am-3pm

In just four years, The River Kitchen has made its mark on the Hamilton food scene, winning NZ's Best Cafe award last year from Michael Guy's Cafe magazine. The cafe's stylish interior and intimate atmosphere is paralleled by the great coffee and fresh, mostly locally sourced, free-range seasonal food they offer. Owners Lisa and Brent Quarrie have thoughtfully created a relaxed setting and their extensive brunch menu is superb. Stand-out dishes include Spanish beans with smoked ham hock, served with black pudding; the salmon hash (a wonderful combination of crispy pan-fried potatoes, smoked salmon, peas and rocket, poached egg and gremolata), and the baked eggs with spinach, yoghurt, harissa and Turkish bread. Sweet cravings will be satisfied by the fig and almond bircher muesli with vanilla rhubarb and yoghurt, or the ricotta hotcakes with caramelised apple, apple syrup and creme fraiche. Weekdays, their deli cabinet is likewise endowed with delicious pickings and daily specials are a feature.

Meal price range $6.50-$20.
Vegetarian and gluten-free options available.

Cafe on Kohi

Address: 237 Tamaki Dr, Kohimarama, Auckland
Ph: (09) 528 8335
Open: daily 7am-4pm

Cafe on Kohi has always been a memorable establishment. The food is crafted, the service consistently professional and the view across the Hauraki Gulf to Rangitoto is alluring in all weathers. This place has an enduring quality and has been the favourite of locals since it opened almost eight years ago. Owned by Scott Brown, Jackie Grant and Neil Campbell, who also own several other Auckland eateries, the cafe has won a number of awards - and it's easy to see why. The menu is fresh and seasonal, with the menu changing bi-monthly. Choose from the light breakfast, classics, or the all day brunch with favorites such as lemon and honey bircher muesli and nashi, feta scrambled eggs, black truffle salt and chives sourdough or The Grill or The Big Healthy. Step up a notch and order spiced chicken livers or grilled espelette pepper-coated squid, radish, spring onion salad and citrus dressing. A selection of sweets is available to enjoy with the Allpress coffee.

Meal price range $12.50-$24.50.
Vegetarian options, free-range eggs, child friendly, licensed.

- NZ Herald

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