Kathy Gulliver, owner, Mud Bay Cafe, Urenui, Taranaki.

We're a bit different because:

we're out in the middle of nowhere. We can get a John Deere tractor pulling up outside and a farmer running in, pulling his gumboots off at the door, and then taking his latte out into the tractor cab. One time a hard-core bikie gang came in, about 25 of them. Then, as they were leaving, in comes the knitting group. We also have a wine club and quiz nights for the wonderfully supportive locals, and we cater for a kaumatua morning tea once a month for the local iwi, Ngati Mutunga.

Our most popular dish is: our big breakfast. It's called the farmer's breakfast. The locals love it, and the townies will come out from New Plymouth for it in the weekends. You have your choice of eggs, streaky bacon, kransky sausages, garlic mushrooms, rostis and toast, with a side of hollandaise.

Our most unusual dish is: our whitebait fritters. We do a nice spin on it. It comes more like an omelette, chocka full of whitebait, with a garden salad and a red pepper coulis. We serve the coulis on the side because whitebait is such a delicate taste; sometimes your traditionalists like to keep it simple.


The best table to sit at: in the winter would be by the big roaring stone fireplace. In the summer it would be outside on the back deck in the sunshine, or maybe in the garden under the umbrella.

Our coffee is: Atomic, out of a sexy Italian machine. People travel for our coffee - we're known for that. We have dedicated baristas and we don't let anybody else on the machine.

Our regulars: come from three main groups because we're on a state highway at the seaside village of Urenui, about 20 minutes north of New Plymouth. We're a local cafe that's there for the locals, but also a beach cafe in the summer and also a stopping point for travellers.

Our chef is: Brendan Bunting. He's original, a Naki boy, and returned with his partner to have their baby, Archie.

Our atmosphere is: cosy country. We purpose-built the cafe but people often mistake it for an old church or shed that's been renovated.

Our New Zealand Cafe of the Year dish is: a Wattie's ragout, with Moroccan-spiced baked beans and mushrooms, wrapped in a vine leaf, with streaky Kiwi bacon and kumara crisps.

We opened this cafe: two-and-a-half years ago because for years there wasn't a cafe, and you couldn't get a panini or chardonnay anywhere. I'm a Taranaki girl and my husband's Norwegian, and when we came back to New Zealand and bought a property here we could see that the community was screaming out for a place like this.

We love our cafe because: it's a wonderful meeting point for the locals. There's a little bit of drama, but it's a fun, friendly place to be. In the summer months we just explode.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell