Guarantee freshness by making your own pasta.
Opening a new cafe, I'm told, is a bit like having a baby - a living, breathing, thing to grow and nurture and care for. So when I meet Emma Lyell and Tane Williams, the talented couple behind St Kevin's Arcade's gorgeous new cafe Bestie, it's the first time they've left their new baby with the babysitters. Bestie has been open a little over a month, and has already found its place as a non-pretentious, welcoming, something-for-everyone spot in this refurbished K Rd arcade.
When they have me over for lunch, they're understandably a little nervous. They also admit they haven't been cooking much lately. In fact, Emma tells me as she pours me a gin and tonic with a big slice of cucumber and wedge of lemon, they haven't cooked at home for more than a month. There has been a lot of dining at the Ponsonby Food Court. The couple lives in Arch Hill with their flatmate and head chef Nick, and their cat Wizard. Their cafe is a short walk, and they admit they've basically been living there in the lead-up to its opening.
When they are at home and not deep in the throes of a new business, they have different approaches to cooking. Emma absolutely loves it, she tells me with a big smile as she checks on the roasting eggplant. Tane screws up his face and tells me he doesn't love it, but he doesn't mind it. Today he's on fresh pasta duty, and Emma is on sauce.
The couple recently moved back to Auckland from Hawkes Bay, after stints in London and Wellington, where they met. Tane is a designer and illustrator by trade, and Emma has worked in various famed hospitality establishments: Modern Pantry in London, Maranui Cafe in Wellington, and Coco's Cantina in Auckland.
They'd wanted their own place for a while, and looked at Hawkes Bay before settling on Auckland's K Rd.
Emma describes their enterprise as a fun, neighbourhood local, friendly and unpretentious. They've embraced the K Rd community feel, and have had a lot of help from friends in the industry, both old bosses and old friends.
For lunch they're making a tomato and eggplant pasta - Emma is obsessed with all things Italian. Last year they decided to eat a diet leaning more towards vegetarian because eating meat in an ethical way is expensive.
One of the many tricks up Emma's sleeve is to bake the eggplant whole in the oven, while getting started on the sauce on the stovetop. Once the eggplant is done, it's easy to just scoop out the flesh and add it to the pot.
Emma spent time working in Sardinia, and has just always loved everything about Italian food.
"I'm a wannabe Italian," she says.
If they're cheap enough she will peel and de-seed the tomatoes before cooking them, for better flavour. They're simmering away in the pot before the eggplant is added.
Emma is clearly a dab hand in the kitchen, and her passion for food is obvious. "I won a fudge-making competition in high school," she tells me proudly, "Russian fudge. So many types of sugar."
What's the secret, I ask? "Continuous stirring." She said it was so successful she started selling it at the markets. She was baking scones at Bestie when it first opened, and says they too were "basically famous".
Making pasta is something Emma and Tane love doing when they have a day off together, even though that has been rare since Bestie opened.
Today, Tane is on pasta duty and he tells me his secret to perfect pasta is an extra egg yolk. He takes a more measured approach to cooking - weighing and checking, whereas Emma is a lot more throw together and taste as you go - something I can definitely relate to.
After we've put the pasta dough through the machine and cooked it for just two minutes, it gets poured through a beautiful ceramic colander that I instantly want to steal - made by a Hawkes Bay ceramic artist.
Once its mixed through the sauce, Emma twirls it on to the plate with tongs and garnishes it with lemon zest, fresh basil, and parmesan. In the business and in the kitchen it seems it's just as Emma says: teamwork is dream work.
How to make the pasta dough:
400g '00' flour
4 large eggs
Crack eggs into a well in the flour and beat them gently. Work the flour into the eggs to make dough until smooth. Wrap in plastic in the fridge for half an hour.
Dust a piece the size of a tennis ball with flour and roll through the pasta machine.
Boil until al dente.