On the menu:
Same same, but different. You know when you walk into a place you know really well but something feels just a little different? That's how I felt walking into Elizabeth Café and Larder. I've been going there since it opened in 2012. It has new owners now — the same crew who have been smashing it out in Pāpāmoa at Henry & Ted.
They've stayed true to the solid menu that Elizabeth always had but added another level of class, without it feeling too swanky and un-homely.
You know you're gonna like a place when there's an All Day Breakfast menu and on it is Mince on Toast ($21). But you also get a poached egg, fresh ciabatta, shaved parmesan and chipotle tabasco to spice it up.
The lunch menu contains roasted cauliflower with harissa aubergine, puy lentils and a tahini mint dressing ($20.50). Go the vegans! There's plenty more where that came from in the cabinet food and on the rest of the menu.
But if you're into your meat then Scotch O'Clock ($23.50) is your bag! A 200g scotch fillet, roasted root veges and red wine jus with Elizabeth butter.
Even the kids' menu has a mini pulled pork burger with slaw and fries. At $12.50 it's probably not a bad option if you just wanted a light lunch! Oh and the smoothies if this lunch is not to be a boozy one.
What I love about Elizabeth is the customers are usually as diverse as Tauranga is. In one corner there are real estate agents with their clients, then there's some young professionals and next to them is nana and a group of ladies, then there's a family sitting outside.
I love that there is the big wall of perfectly cut wood logs and the fire in the middle. It separates the space and creates a warm atmosphere in what is a big open largely concrete/suave space.
Plus that cabinet. Worth the trip alone for the diversity of food in there, so beautifully presented. Top tip: Lizzie's Brownie ($6) is the most gluten packed looking thing I've ever seen, but it is gluten-free.
There was a chef's special the day we were there: duck spring rolls with Thai and a Vietnamese dipping sauce, and I say that should be on the menu permanently. The spring rolls were deep fried perfectly and had a little hit of heat in the sauce.
For my actual lunch I had the Seared Lamb (GF) ($23.50). This lamb was just perfect! Slicing in to small portions of lamb seeing that pinkness right in the middle fading to that grey, but moist, edge is something of beauty.
The broccolini was warm and crispy and a large roasted butternut round peeking out from under the lamb was just the right contrast. The house-made babaganush and tzatziki were just the best to slather on the veges and lamb, and gave a little zing. Then the falafel crumb balls felt like they were little treats in amongst what is a healthy dish.
She had breakfast. Congrats to Elizabeth Café for not discriminating against a meal time. She had the Ranchero ($21.50). And by that I mean she had half of it because she had a meeting to run away to and I had the other half. Fried free range eggs, chorizo, grilled tortilla, avo smash, smoky black beans and sour cream.
The chorizo has a tiny bit of heat but the avo smash and sour cream nullify it if you need that. Really fresh soft flour tortilla too. The smoky bean mix was to die for.
To drink & for dessert
They have wine. I had a glass of Central Otago Pinot Gris — Saddleback Peregrine ($11). It was the perfect tang to cleanse my tongue between each meal I tried.
And now we come to the thing that is going to be your new favourite — The Peanut Jelly Smoothie ($9.50, GF, V, DF). Raspberry, peanut butter, organic almond milk, vegan vanilla protein and a couple of freeze-dried raspberries on top.
I wasn't aware it was possible for a smoothie to be dense and light at the same time, but it is! It has a little grainy, nutty texture and the sweetness of the berries and almond milk make it that perfect thing to have instead of a dessert.
She also had a beetroot latte. Looked amazing — she said it was just the right amount of thickness and taste.
Pretty much everything in that cabinet is made by Elizabeth's in-house baker. She gets there at 2am and makes it all from scratch.
We ordered the raw slices: Mango & Coconut and the Bounty. The flavours of both are a nice mix of sweet and savoury, provided by the raw element. The bases on both are moist but have that little crunch I love!
Elizabeth has the same welcoming atmosphere that it always had, but it's stepped up a gear when it comes to the experience of having a meal there. The food seems better and more on trend, both on the menu and in the cabinet. The vibe of the people behind the counter is super relaxed.