At the end of a winding road between Hot Water Beach and Whitianga, is The Hive Purangi, an oasis where there's space to park up, good coffee and a busy oven churning out crowd pleasing classic pizzas, and other relaxed, bachy food.
It's a rare magic to find an eatery that has incredible food as well as that Kiwi beach town kicking-your-jandals-off feeling. The Hive Purangi, between Hot Water Beach and Cook's Beach, is exactly that - a family friendly, grassy picnic cafe that despite not actually being on the beach, feels as if it is. Outside, picnic tables among herb gardens and kiwi fruit vines offer a place to site while you watch barefooted people play giant jenga, cornhole (a game in which you throw bags of corn onto a board), coits, and other games on the lawn or laze the day away with an iced coffee in the dappled light. Inside, simple, industrial furniture and the dark green walls feel cool in temperature as well as vibe.
To go with the laid back atmosphere are easy-eating pizzas, burgers, chips and nibbly things like fried chicken, fish cakes, and fried calamari. And to go with the family-friendly games and atmosphere, there's a kids menu. However, we can imagine the lure of pizza might have a few toddlers eating from their parents plate.
The pizzas are the stars of the menu here, they're made in a woodfire oven and are crispy and leopard-spotted with proper stretchy cheese. There's a selection of pared back classic pizzas (the 'Ruby Red' is a margherita pizza by a different name and the 'Kimbo' is a simple salami and olive pizza), as well as a few with more fulsome, inventice toppings: the 'Beef with me' brisket, watercress and horseradish pizza and the 'Green Goddess' with artichoke, courgette, feta and rocket, for instance.
The rest of the food is relaxed and appropriately bachy too, which isn't to say they lack finesse... The 'Hive beef sandwich' brisket burger melts in your mouth between the softest, cloudlike brioche buns, melty cheese, pickled red cabbage and zesty pickles (McClures Pickles, is that you?). The Chicken Katsu Thigh comes with a piquant and spicy-but-not-too-spicy wasabi slaw. The crunchy, thick-cut chips come with a big bowl of aoli, thank goodness.
Then there's a daily selection of cheeses and cocktails to graze on while you relax, replete in the evening, playing games and making friends. And there's Kowhai Creamery sorbet and ice cream to cool you down too.
They have taken care to tick all the boxes - there is plenty here that is vegetarian, plenty that is gluten free, kid-friendly and nibble-friendly, and there is even a small shop with gifts, candles, hats and all sorts.
The catch is that this secret spot seems to be everyone else's 'secret' spot too - and when we first visited, there was a sign up warning a one and a half hour wait for food. Yes, even for chips. Though they've been open since the beginning of 2020, we suspect they weren't quite prepared for their own popularity this summer. I was too hangry to wait by that point so we had to go elsewhere for food, but glimpses of the fare on other tables brought us back for lunch the next day, when the wait was a much more comfortable 10 minutes and we could enjoy iced lattes rather than cocktails.
That unsuccessful first visit could have been avoided if we had called ahead, but failing that, go early and relax in the sun. Sipping a sav or a cocktail while you wait, you poor thing.
The Hive Purangi