"Is that Einstein up there?" asked Thing One, looking at a large black and white photograph of an old man with a benevolent expression. It's not Einstein, but Sir John Logan Campbell, who bequeathed Cornwall Park to Auckland City in 1901. This elegant heritage building, not to be confused with Cornwall Park Cafe (owned by the same people) overlooks the magnificent trees, the dozens of joggers and people walking dogs. Inside, there's glorious natural light pouring in the windows, a couple of disco-ball chandeliers. Tasteful white walls and ceilings, and smart black tables. Low-key Latin music provides a little aural spice.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL
Thing One and Thing Two order pineapple juice ($5). It's homegrown and apparently "really yum". I contemplate ordering a bloody mary, because you can usually get the measure of a place by the way they make a bloody mary, plus I'm partial to a good bloody mary. Instead, I order a soy flat white ($4.50).
It's Allpress and a little pale and wan. It's actually very hard to be critical, sitting at a table with two 11-year-olds. They are enthusiastic at the very idea of being out for brunch. It would take a pretty gigantic failure to disappoint them. Like serving tripe. The menu is small and has all the usual suspects. Thing One ordered scrambled egg with hot smoked salmon on a croissant ($18)but was given, instead, poached eggs on bagels. The right order eventually appeared, and Thing One said it was rich, but really nice. The scrambled egg was overdone but all the components were there. Thing Two had ordered the gurnard and fries ($14), which looked lovely presented on a wooden board. But, Thing Two said, "This tastes odd." I had a mouthful and it tasted as though it had been frozen. The texture was watery, it was bland, and not so much coated in batter as drowning in it. The fries were like pieces of two by four. The menu said "handcut", which seems unnecessary and pretentious when you're in a swish restaurant where the chefs are presumably cutting all sorts of things "by hand". They tasted good, though Thing Two had ordered "mayonnaise, please" which never appeared. My eggs benedict on turkish bread ($17) was as advertised. Nicely poached eggs. Nicely balanced citrus aioli. It came with "handcut" (again) bacon (not free-range), which was dry and chunky. Our side of portobello mushrooms ($6) was perfectly cooked.
SERVICE & OTHER STUFF
Attentive and helpful. Though waiters should never crouch at the table, children or no children present. But he was mortified when Thing One got the wrong dish. "I'll bring you another juice," he said, dashing off to the kitchen, without checking first whether she either wanted one or if that was a good idea. My coffee, in some ways, was a metaphor for this place. Anodyne. But it's a seriously beautiful building, and a great spot for people watching.