This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of Clare and Sally Hindmarsh’s iconic establishments, the Mezze Bar. In the 90s, these women helped pioneer the thriving cafe scene we now take for granted and quietly, under the radar, they have continued to open establishments in Auckland, setting trends rather than following them.
Brought up in a household helping a mother who was a great cook and liked to entertain at a time when there were few restaurant choices, the sisters (Sally, left, and Clare) were immersed in the true meaning of hospitality. They understood the word, the root of which is shared by words like “hospital” and means to look after people and share (a meaning some contemporary wait-staff should perhaps remember).
Clare trained as a graphic designer and worked in the advertising industry and Sally trained as a nurse. Clare also cooked in cafes and restaurants before embarking on travels with Sally in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
As well as the wonderful food they encountered, (they were impressed how easy it was to find good food in Turkey) a huge impression they gained from their Middle Eastern travels was the wonderful hospitality, which was immediate the moment they crossed from Greece to Turkey.
Hospitality in Turkey and places like Syria — where they also travelled extensively — was unstinting, with people often inviting them into their homes. Clare came back to New Zealand and in 1989 opened Caravanserai in Queen Street. Sally extended her travels to Africa, and on her return in 1992 opened the Mezze Bar.
The rest is history and speaks volumes about how good their food is and their style of operating.
With their respective partners, they have opened cafes such as Safran in Newmarket, the Tascas (Newmarket and Dominion Road), Casablanca in Sylvia Park, Carmen Jones in K Road and Lokanta in Ponsonby, along with relocating the Mezze Bar after a demo clause was activated in their original location. The underlying theme of all these establishments is to offer the kind of unpretentious hospitality the sisters encountered in their travels.
But these women are also trendsetters with a strong empathetic and charitable streak. They decided to acknowledge the horror and the need for monetary aid in Syria today and have created their “Hummus for Syria” campaign.
At Carmen Jones and the Mezze Bar the sisters have each presented a menu dish based on hummus, a Syrian staple. At Carmen Jones there is hummus topped with white tahini, eggplant, pulled slow-roasted lamb, tomato-mint salsa, toasted almonds and crisp flatbread. At Mezze Barthere is hummus, za’atar spiced falafels, pinenuts, black tahini and fresh herbs, served with woodfired pide bread— kofte meatballs optional.
The profits from each are sent to the Syrian Emergency Appeal, via Unicef. The following are a couple more signature dishes from the Carmen Jones and Mezze Bar menus.
Roasted Carrot Mezze with garlicky yoghurt and golden olive oil
Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 as part of a mezze table or as an accompaniment to grilled meats or chicken. Get the recipe