Viva takes tea with Little & Friday - the little cafe that could.
"I feel like Martha Stewart," says Kim Evans, laughing as our photographer takes her photo while she sets the table for afternoon tea. Kim, owner of popular Auckland cafes Little & Friday, is at the home of artist and friend Raewyn Turner, to celebrate the launch of her new cookbook, Treats from Little & Friday.
A quaint and airy Mt Eden villa with a wild vegetable garden out the front and countless pieces of art displayed inside, there are vintage teddy bears in the hallway, random clippings pinned to a wall and shelves heaving with books. As Kim, with the help of daughter and business partner Holly, sets the table with beautiful glass cake stands (made by Raewyn from vintage glassware and being sold through the cafes), Raewyn pops outside to pick flowers from the vegetable garden and pull feijoas from her backyard. Also here, for an intimate afternoon tea of treats from Little & Friday is Jo Ferrier of Martha's Furnishing Fabrics, Roger Wall of Martha's and Wall Fabrics, and Jo, Raewyn's 19-year-old cat, who is swiftly put outside so as to not disrupt the dainty and pretty table setting.
This isn't how Kim would normally entertain. "My style isn't as prissy as Little & Friday style," she laughs. While she is behind the distinctive Little & Friday "look" - that is, an aesthetic that is charmingly old-fashioned and a little ramshackle, with flowers, mismatched swap-a-crates as seats and vintage cutlery - her own style at home tends towards 1970s furniture, browns and lots of artwork.
"It's weird how [that aesthetic] doesn't work [with the cafe]; it's a bit grungy to go with the food," she explains.
"We painted everything white - even though it's all old furniture, we painted it all white. Next to the food, it needs to feel clean. I always feel that it's like an art gallery, so it needs to be white, to showcase the food."
As the group sit down to eat, choosing from petite versions of some of the sweets and savouries that the cafe has become famous for, conversation naturally turns to food. How Kim usually eats: "I'll tell you a secret. For about two years we've eaten takeaways most nights. I know everything about takeaways, I should write a book. That can be my next one." And on to figs: Kim mentions that she had been after some, to add to tarts, so put up a sign in the window asking, "and we were just inundated".
The same always happens with lemons, she explains, and the cafe's cutlery and crockery were all donated too - that morning, a woman had come into the cafe with 20 glass milk bottles, like the ones they use for water, and donated them. It's that sense of community that is behind the overwhelming success of Little & Friday, although it helps too that the food is delicious, and looks like something your nana used to make. The food is vibrant, with the edible flowers that adorn most things grown out the back of their Belmont shop in their own working garden (here, they also grow tomatoes, greens, and herbs).
Since opening that first small storefront cafe in an old butcher's shop on a quiet suburban street, originally open only on a Friday (hence the name), Kim's little baking empire has quietly become an Auckland institution. She never predicted such swift growth, but believes she wouldn't be as developed without the help of Jonny Calder of Supreme coffee and Roger, who suggested to her last year that she open a second outpost in his Newmarket fabric store, Martha's.
"And she said, 'no, I'm busy'," he laughs.
Kim relented, and now there are two Little & Friday cafes (although she describes them as "little cake shops" rather than cafes).
Today, her cookbook officially launches; a collection of some of her greatest hits, with more than 65 recipes showcasing the range of Little & Friday's kitchen.
Yes, there's the recipe for the famous cream donuts, one for the delicious lemon and coconut cakes, and another for making the best sausage rolls in Auckland.
It's an eagerly awaited book - during afternoon tea, Kim gets a phone call from a staff member saying pre-sales had sold out and they need more - made all the more charming by the photographs of food and loyal customers by Rene Vaile, a "local Belmont boy" who was suggested to her by mutual friend Steve Ferguson of the fashion label Lonely Hearts (another local). Kim says she had never thought of doing a cookbook until she was approached by the publisher - a loyal customer - but daughter Holly jokes that they had thought about doing a reality TV show, going behind the scenes of their bustling kitchen and family business, with the 4am starts and long days.
As the afternoon tea winds down, Raewyn brings out a jar of violet sugar that is promptly sniffed and tasted by all (and sprinkled on the top of the petite chocolate cakes by Kim). Talk turns to what's next for the little cafe that could, and Kim mentions the possibility of a Ponsonby cafe, as well as commercial production of gourmet biscuits for supermarkets. They have also just started to make their own "divine" ciabatta bread, which will be available in store soon (meaning even earlier mornings, explains Kim, as Holly groans).
But it's a genuine love of food and baking that pushes them to get up so early. Someone asks Kim about her favourite aspect of baking and she begins to talk poetically about the tactile nature of pastry.
"That's what I'm really passionate about. I love making all these little galettes and tarts," she explains, pointing to the display on the table.
"I like the fact that it's just butter and flour; it's this craggy mess that becomes silky -it transforms, just by working with your hands."
On the menu
* Petite chocolate cakes
* A selection of petite fruit tarts, including fresh berry; raspberry and coconut; fig and macadamia; roast plum and citron.
* Petite caramelised onion, mushroom & mozzarella galettes
* Petite caramelised onion & feta tarts
* Ti Tonic pomegranate, grapeseed and white tea
Treats from Little & Friday (Penguin $44.99) is available in bookstores now.By Zoe Walker Email Zoe