Stephen Coates, owner of Bucklands Espresso Lounge, Bucklands Beach.
Our philosophy is: pretty simple. We offer the best coffee that you can make, the best homemade food, and great service. We use fresh, quality produce - pandoro bread, manuka-smoked bacon, free-range eggs - and everything is made on site.
We don't have the Ponsonby hip people or the Parnell posh people - we're suburban. Basically, we just keep it simple, keep it fresh. I tell the chefs I want every dish to be made with love.
Our most popular dish is: probably our Salmon Mess. It's like scrambled eggs with fresh salmon and herbs tossed through it, served with toast. But it's a toss up between that and our eggs benes and our seafood chowder for lunch. Sir Peter Leitch, the Mad Butcher, lives just up the street from us and he swears black and blue that our chowder's the best in Auckland.
Our most unusual dish is: dog biscuits. We're very dog-friendly. We sell the biscuits singly or by the bag. We go through them like you wouldn't believe. My 13-year-old daughter makes a batch of them about every two weeks and they just fly out of the door.
I give her half the profits, and she uses it to fund her cheerleading trips.
Our specialty is: our baking. We've got a very good baker, Joanne Collier. People come in especially for her scones and muffins, which are baked fresh every morning. Jo is the quintessential baker. She was also a food photographer so she's very good at visualising how things should go out on the plate.
We opened our cafe almost a year ago because: I moved out to Bucklands and I couldn't get a good coffee for the life of me. We converted it from an old Postshop. The doors that open into our outdoor area were the little red personal post boxes.
Our chefs are: Jo, and Darren Scott. Each has a slightly different take. Darren's a local boy who spent 20 years in Europe cheffing in hotels and restaurants, so he's got that classical chef experience.
Our baristas are: very good. I don't put part-time people in making coffee. We have two baristas. One is Tamara Kroeker, who has spent 20 years in the trade and is our coffee afficionado. She's a classical coffee maker. Our other barista, Maui Tuaana, likes his coffee art. He's a big Cook Islander whom everybody seems to love. People come back to see what he'll put on their coffee next - faces, patterns, ferns, rabbits, dogs. Every day he plays around and comes up with something different. Tea is an important part of what we do. We have a full menu of very good loose-leaf teas. There's nothing worse than going to a cafe and just getting a teabag.
The best table to sit at is: outside under the big tree next to the garden, on a sunny day. We look across to to a huge big bank of pohutukawa, so in summertime there's a wall of red. It's very peaceful.
Our Cafe of the Year Awards feature dish is: our Bucklands Baked Beans. It's a ranch-style beans, very rustic, with chorizo, bacon, beans of various styles, with herbs and spices and served with toast. We give the option of a soft egg on top.
After brunch, you should check out: the amazing beaches: Eastern Beach, Little Bucklands and Bucklands Beach. You've got great fishing right off the beach at Bucklands Beach, and great swimming in summertime. You've also got Musick Point, which is a great place to wander up. We get a lot of people coming by ferry from the city to Half Moon Bay and then walking along the new boardwalk over the water to Bucklands. The whole atmosphere's very relaxed.
Hours: 7.30am-3pm daily, closing 4pm Fri-Sun. Extended opening hours in summer.
A liquor licence is pending, and the cafe will soon open in the evenings.
Address: 83B Hattaway Ave, Bucklands Beach, ph (09) 533 7810.
Bucklands Espresso Lounge is one of hundreds of cafes entered in the NZ Cafe of the Year Awards.By Bronwyn Sell Email Bronwyn