With beautiful 18th century churches, colonial homes and shops nestled under verandas with flowering hanging baskets, there's a real British feel to Cambridge.
Even the markets hark back to traditional foods from England. Cambridge husband and wife Steve and Jan Dolan are expats from Liverpool who launched their own flavoured butters last year and are already winning awards and chef advocates.
Bellefield Butter Co. ripens cream sourced from north Waikato for more than a week to enhance the flavours before it is hand-churned into a rich and creamy butter.
These 100g, paper-wrapped rolls should, at the very least, be the understudy of the plate – I squirrelled away the sea salt butter for a delicious Volare grainy sourdough, and roasted garlic butter to cut into discs to sit on top of a good steak. It was a tough choice between that and the chilli and lime, which won silver at this year's Outstanding Food Producer Awards.
With no preservatives, these $8.50 coils have a short fridge life. It was even shorter in my kitchen, where both were consumed within days.
Only a few gazebos from Bellefield, Paul Dalton stands behind a laden warmer of inviting Cornish pasties – and other pies in the same half-moon shape.
Biting into a pulled pork and kumara pie on a cold winter's day somewhat shrouded by the remnants of fog reminded me of walks on the green in London – without the masses.
Paul started making his pasties and pies as a sideline to fixing coffee machines and frequently faced stressed customers missing their caffeine fix. As his research into the Cornwall savouries grew, so did his interest in the region's food, and he and his partner are now also making Cornish soda bread.
His customers on the day we visited were all smiles. Perhaps that's also because the coffee stall was directly next door.
With only 20 stallholders, this small market doesn't take long to peruse, but hey, we weren't in Auckland so we weren't in a rush!
Best coffee: Was the only one on site but strong and well made. Having crawled south through thick fog, I was hanging out for a decent cup and Manuka Brothers didn't disappoint. They also sell their beans, and pods, at the tent next door.
Sugar & spice:
We got to the market too late to try Volare's almond croissant and had to make do with the remnants of the sampling dishes. My sweet tooth was sated with Mamas' blueberry custard doughnut instead.
Pescatarians? Could choose from the Salmon Guy franchise, or a mobile fishmonger selling snapper, hapuka or blue cod for about $40-$42 a kilo.
Carnivores? Soggy Bottom's from Ngaruawahia was busy with people asking Jono, the butcher, for the best ways to cook his cuts.
Bargain hunting: Armed with delicious looking steak (for that butter) I ambled over to get my veges for a bargain, scoring a whole cabbage for $3 ($5 from Countdown online), cauliflower for $1.50 ($4 at Countdown) and spring onions for $1 ($2 at Countdown) from one stall.
There must be a gentleman's agreement, as they didn't try to encroach on Cato's offering of Pirongia potatoes – varieties you don't find at your local supermarket, including Anuschka, Heather and Jelly. I also bought an avocado from the market (not from the cheeky woman who sold from the roadside, too mean to pay the stall fee). If we rob stallholders of the opportunity to make a living, we will be reduced to supermarket shopping only!
Best lazy dinner: Would be to buy the hand-rolled and filled ravioli from Leandro's Piu Blu Pasta – at $5/100g.
Most popular stall: Was the free-range eggs, where locals queued with last week's empty egg cartons. I have intense FOMO (fear of missing out) so had to buy a half dozen jumbos from Roto-O-Rangi for next week's breakfasts to see what all the fuss was about.
While you're there: It's easy to find great ways to fill a day. This is the town of elite sports people – Olympic rowers, jockeys, even international cyclists. It lures many school teams to Lake Karapiro and the velodrome. Take a picnic to Karapiro, or do the heritage or art Walks of the town centre. There's cycling and walking trails to work off the market treats. Or indulge in a little retail therapy only metres from the market.
My money saving tip:
Head south with less than half a tank, and fill up in the Waikato – the money you save on fuel will more than justify a day out of the Big Smoke.
Children: Will love the treasure map sheets the market organisers provide, as well as over-sized games in the central seating area.
Parking: Aplenty, on the roadside
Wet weather options: An umbrella, or you could shelter under the trees. But this market is entirely outdoors.
EFTPOS: Is available from the market organisers, who also sell reusable bags.
Verdict: While it is hard to justify a trip from Auckland specifically to go to the market, it is definitely worth visiting the market, and Cambridge, if you have a Saturday to spare.
• Cambridge Farmers Market, Victoria Square, Saturdays, 8am-midday