Bleary of eye and bad of hair, Auckland had endured one of those nights. At 8am it was 20 degrees and humidity was tipping 90 per cent. Too hot to dress for Ponsonby's perusal, too tired to circle aimlessly for a carpark. We wanted delicious food in a non-judgey environment with easy vehicular access.
Twenty Three Cafe is in Eden Terrace's City/Mt Eden fringe with plenty of side-street parking. Sit street-side, inside (two separate spaces, thanks to the clever shared interior with night-time venue The Corner Store) or, as we did, under a large, breezy awning out back, where clientele was mostly clean-cut and 20-something.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL
The six fresh counter salads looked amazing, but brunch calls for eggs. Twenty Three does the usual suspects (including benedict), but this is a more interesting menu than many, and so we went for the creamed leeks, thyme and ham on kumara sourdough ($16.50) and a spicy lamb mince with baba ganoush and brown rice pilaf ($18). Both came topped with a perfectly wobbly poached free-range egg. The leeks were soft and buttery, the lamb contained whole cardamom and bits of carrot - interesting, well-defined flavours that bode well for a return visit to sample blackboard specials that included, on our visit, a gazpacho ($10.50) and Asahi roasted chicken wings with a harissa mayo slaw ($14).
Supreme coffee comes as a standard double shot and the $4 flat white ($3.50 for a long black) could have been much hotter. Contrarily, we asked for an $8.50 pineapple, cucumber, spinach and apple juice to come extra cold and the icy slurry was an excellent balance of sweet and green. The menu includes bloody marys ($15) and mimosa ($11), with wine and beer on request.
SERVICE & OTHER STUFF
The staff were super-friendly and the food, on classy stoneware platters, arrived quickly. We really liked the small bunches of fresh flowers on every table (that could easily be configured to accommodate large groups) and - bonus - there is no surcharge on public holidays.