Mt Eden Village has set up a walking tour of its speciality food stores. Rowena Orejana takes her appetite along for a preview.
Warm Frasers Cafe is an inviting refuge from chilly winter weather. It is bustling, almost full, with customers dawdling as the hour ticks closer to noon.
In the kitchen, Doreen Fraser carries plates and bowls to the sink. At 81, she still bakes shortbread biscuits each day for customers.
Across the street, 80-year-old Kong Chew Loo walks around his fruit and vegetable shop. He's proud to say the shop carries the newest variety of New Zealand apple, called Envy.
Kong Chew Loo takes us to his home above KC Loo's Fruitcentre. Toys are scattered across the floor, a child-sized table and chairs dominate the space; the walls
are papered with educational posters.
"My grandson is on a path of destruction,'' he says with fond amusement.
Mr Loo came to New Zealand with his mother as a 7-year-old in 1939, after his home town suffered atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese.
He was one of the last Chinese immigrants to pay a poll tax to get here. "I addressed the injustice with Helen Clark. It wasn't a good thing to do in the old days to just single out the Chinese. But I told her that we have to move on. What has been done, has
been done,'' he says.
He started the Mt Eden business 10 years after arriving. "I would be the longest business here. In those days, the Chinese hadn't any money. They all went into the
fruit and vegetable business,'' he recalls.
"I had very stiff competition. But I was dedicated to the point where I was able to
survive. The wife and I, we struggled hard and raised the family,'' he says.
These days, though, Mr Loo would not advise anyone to go into the fruit and vegetable
"The competition is too tough. The food market is too saturated,'' he says.
KC Loo's Fruitcentre and Frasers Cafe are just two of the shops people can explore on Finding Flavour's Mt Eden Village Foodie Walking Tour.
"The tour guides are passionate foodies who live here," says organiser Lyn Huhtala. "We know the shops and we know the people behind them. And we care. We're interested in what we're doing."
The idea is to sample goodies offered by suppliers and makers in the historic village.
"You can see it's very compact and it's packed with interesting shops," says Ms Huhtala. "But one of the nice things would be that, after the tour, people can keep returning to the shops that we went to, or browse through some of the gift shops here."
The tour will run every Wednesday during September and October - in tune with the Rugby World Cup.
Sandra Fraser, Doreen's daughter-in-law, opened the cafe 13 years ago.
"I'd been working in a cafe before I opened this. I had researched the market and what I found was, if there was great coffee, the food is only okay. Or if the food is great, the coffee wasn't," says the younger Mrs Fraser.
She also wanted to offer homemade food and "a place that's always open. I used to get frustrated. I go to a place in the afternoon to get coffee but I always forget that one place closes at two, the other at four. We're open at all hours."
The tour starts at Frasers Cafe at 10am and finishes at about 12.30pm, followed by a two-course lunch with a glass of wine at Molten Restaurant, the award-winning eatery owned by
Food Truck TV
's Michael van de Elzen and his wife, Belinda.
A former Tourism Auckland chief executive, Ms Huhtala says the village tour will introduce visitors to an artisan bakery, cake shop, French bakery as well as to a butchery and fresh fish shop.
"We've got very few of the franchise chains. So everything you see here is very interesting," she adds. "We are not a repeat of anything else."
Course you can
The tour will run with a minimum of two people, $125 a person. Bookings:
; from September 1, also at i-Site Visitor Centres at SkyCity and the Viaduct.