Phone: (09) 360 0108
Open: 6.30am-5pm daily
Cost: $19.50 for one
Ponsonby Rd is a fickle mistress - restaurants and cafes come and go with the rapidity of pop-up stores. From tacos to truffles to Thai ant eggs (not sure about that, Saan) Ponsonby has had it all, but whenever I'm there I act like a local and head to Dizengoff. This smart, modern cafe opened for business before many of us had email accounts - way back in 1994 and still regularly turns up in any sensible list of Auckland's top cafes - and last year that praise went international when Monocle magazine named it one of its 50 best restaurants. It's one of the few places on the Ponsonby strip to not only survive but thrive (Prego and SPQR also take a bow). Its Jewish-inspired menu - no don't come here if you want a bacon-heavy brunch - like its decor - rarely changes, but that's a good thing when it features moreish classics like the chicken salad ($15.90) - on the menu for 22 years - and my own go-to: mushrooms on toast served with pesto and toasted sourdough ($16.50).
The set-up is modern/minimal - downstairs there's three rows of tables, not much elbow room on the weekends; eavesdropping's entertaining ("you'll never guess what she brought back from safari ... " was one snippet I caught recently.) And there's an upstairs too if you want to get away from the hubbub. Yes it's popular with the arts and fashion crowd but it's not at all pretentious, with the always-obliging co-owner Troy Mentor behind the counter. The walls feature local artists' works. Or nab an outside table and watch the passing Ponsonby parade - easier done on weekdays.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL
The coffee (Allpress) is excellent - among the best in the city, served in a Duralex glass and always piping hot. The food is uniformly good. Take the aforementioned chicken salad - an old Jewish recipe of the original owner - poached chicken, finely blended mixed with parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, onions and capers moulded into a ball and served on a bed of home-made aioli and rocket and sprinkled with sumac. There's the usual brekky things, french toast and all manner of eggs, but try going full Tel Aviv with the Israel plate ($15.50) - chopped liver, hummus and a sephardic egg - an egg slow-cooked overnight then cracked, causing the egg whites to turn a deep rich marbled colour. The counter food's good too - date loaf, coconut bread, macaroons and tarts.
SERVICE & OTHER STUFF
Quick and efficient. Order at the counter, but if you want more coffee - and you will - your waitress will oblige from your table. Weekends it gets busy and noisy, but I've never had to wait long. They do takeaways. And diarise this - around Christmas it's one of the few good cafes in the city open (usually closing only on Christmas Day).