Address: Xerox building, 79 Carlton Gore Rd, Newmarket
Open: Weekdays 7am-3.30pm; Saturdays 8.30am-3.30pm. Closed Sundays.
Online: billycafe.co.nz
Phone: (09) 302 0995
We spent: $55.90 for two

Set up & site:

It's a small space, just a few tables in a line in front of the counter and a couple more tables outside. During the week it serves as a heavily used coffee stop for workers in the Xerox building and other nearby offices on the commercial strip of Carlton Gore Rd. The signage, style and menu all say boho, but the office block location, interior design and weekday custom all say business casual. It's easier to imagine this place in Grey Lynn or Pt Chev — and maybe someone should.

Sustenance & swill: The menu is a study in how to use subtle but significant taste accents to refresh and enliven Auckland brunch standards. The french toast is made with coconut bread and served with coconut syrup. The porridge is polenta. I had the benedict ($20), which came with bacon hock — shredded, airy, magically crunchy. The hollandaise was made with miso and the addition of kale was a tasteful bitter note among the layers of rich meaty, saucy umami. My wife had the smashed peas ($16), which came with salmon on sourdough, pickled fennel, dill and capers. The essence of the dish was its freshness and zing. An artfully calibrated meal. As a sharing solution, the contrast between the two dishes could not have been more perfect. The menu featured few choices. Benedict came with bacon and kale and that was that. There was no choice between ham, spinach, salmon or whatever. There's something to be said for the confidence of a menu to tell you what you want. A quality eating establishment is not a supermarket, nor should it try to be.

Service & other stuff: The coffee was the work of a craftsman. His was an artful working of the balance between bitter, sweet and creamy. The performance of the waiter from the greeting at the door to the final act of payment was an equally precise study in the balanced presentation of friendliness and pure urban eclectic cool. If you didn't know this was the ground floor of a generic office block, you'd feel like you were somewhere way better.

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