During a flying visit to New Plymouth, the Dish team discover what makes this charming culinary city well-worth the mileage.
If New Plymouth's culinary clout has somehow eluded you up until recently, join the queue. The truth is, this enchanting little city of good coffee, idyllic shorelines and trendy brunch spots boasts a whole lot more than initially meets the eye.
During our fleeting visit to the city, we decided it was about time to test the waters. Under good instruction, we made a beeline for Monica's. This adorably chic eatery neighbours one of the city's crown jewels, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Renowned for it's glistening metallic form and futuristic architecture, follow your nose around the corner and you'll discover why Monica's is one of New Plymouth's most bustling foodie offerings.
A testament to its namesake, Monica Brewster was a local heroine, highly respected by the community. She was an art-lover, patron, literature buff, environmentalist, pathfinder and staunch women's rights advocate. The light, bright and plush art deco space is a homage to the city's favourite matriarch, in spectacular style.
Upon entry, the rose-tinted decor and sleek finishings mirror the very best of Auckland's upmarket Parnell, as the corner site offers a panorama of the sleepy city on a crisp Sunday morning.
During our visit, it's WOMAD weekend and Monica's is a hive of activity. Staff are quite literally run off their feet, with brunch orders flying out of the kitchen, left, right and centre, however service doesn't waiver. If you're a firm believer that a busy cafe is generally the mark of a good one, Monica's will no doubt reaffirm your faith in this.
We take a seat by the window and settle in with a cocktail menu (yes, it's before noon), the brunch cocktails are something we're told that Monica's do particularly well. We opt for a marmalade martini – a sensory and stylish combination of gin and marmalade that'll jolt you awake like a double-shot flat white never could. For the faint of heart, the classic mimosa serves as a delicious mid-morning pick-me-up.
The food menu is equally impressive, with nourishing and plentiful offerings like the greens, marinated tomatoes, spiced seeds, green beans, broccolini, radish, Zany Zeus halloumi and perfectly poached eggs immediately catching our eye. The flavoursome selection of bruschetta (there's four to choose from) will appease to the picky palate, while the creamy portabello mushrooms and semolina gnocchi will tick every box, serving as an indulgent combination of two of our favourite things.
If you're more inclined to bypass the breakfast and brunch rush, Monica's also offer an impressive lunch and dinner menu. Refined classics like the lamb rack with pea puree and charred peppers reign supreme, while the cocktail list starts to look even better.
This gorgeous little local has earned its stripes among those who live here, and just quietly, we're a little envious. New Plymouth is a cultural hub with endless foodie features, case in point, the Ozone coffee roasters, served from New Plymouth to London's Shoreditch. Support for the home-grown brew is quite evident – it's the bean of choice for many in the city.
If you find yourself lucky enough to spend a few sweet days in the Naki, make Monica's a priority, you certainly won't be sorry you did, if not for the marmalade martini alone.
Corner of King and Queen Streets,
Opening hours: 7 days from 6:30am until late.