Place: A Bavarian beer table sits on an otherwise empty pavement on Grafton's Park Road, a signature signpost for good coffee; where there's imported industrial furniture there's usually a bearded barista. That's certainly the case for Ceremony, a cafe offering just three coffee options and a concise menu of made-to-order breakfast sandwiches and light bites, given a welcoming heart by a team of friendly chaps (some of whom have beards).
People: Ex-TV presenter and music-scene personality Connor Nestor and his barista best friend of 14 years, Charles Williams, run Ceremony with the help of extended family and friends. Their love of entertaining led to planning the cafe together over Skype while Connor was living in New York in 2013. They wanted to open somewhere that could serve as a cultural hub for their musician friends and strangers alike, while prioritising excellent coffee, easy-going food and great music.
On the menu: A lack of start up funds means that young cafe owners are often forced to forgo a full menu (requiring a working kitchen) for cabinet food. Connor and Charles have avoided this pitfall with a simple menu concept inspired by the giant breakfast rolls commonly found in L.A. Their simplicity means that they can be made-to-order in their pint-sized kitchen by newly graduated head chef Esmee Leong, who in turn has the time for experimentation, developing weekly specials and homemade nut butters that are served on generous portions of brioche.
The sandwiches are worth a trip to Grafton – giant, fluffy bread buns come filled with a combination of rustic, hearty ingredients like pork and fennel sausage, smoked bacon or wild mushroom topped with over easy eggs and corresponding condiments. They come served in dignity-saving paper bags to catch inevitable fall out, though the buns themselves were custom designed by Andrew at Il Forno bakery to carry the load.
Freshly squeezed orange juice provides another sunny East Coast touch, while an uncomplicated coffee menu (black, white or brew) does justice to Wellington roasters Flight Coffee without overwhelming the indecisive.
Decor: A sliding door opens onto a large central table that instantly dissolves the customer/host barrier by virtue of the fact you can sit on the same side of the bench as the barista making your coffee. It's a simple touch but it adds to the communal feeling Connor and Charles intended to generate. They drew on a wealth of creative contacts to fit out the rectangular space, with architect friends, lighting and ceramic designers ensuring no detail is untouched by an artisinal hand. The result feels a little like a cool east London vinyl shop, with the added bonus of a delicious sandwich with your music sampling.
Go tomorrow: And appreciate Grafton as a suburb; this cafe brings its community together, from the builders who regularly drop by for a mocha (Charles graciously obliges) to the students, hospital workers and visitors that pop in for lunch. Whenever you go, just make sure you're hungry. You'll want to finish a sandwich.
7 Park Road Grafton Auckland
0210 810 3243
7 days a week: 7.00am-3.00pm Mon-Fri, 8.00am-3.00pm Sat - Sunday.
Is your favourite café worthy of national champion status? Let them know that New Zealand Café of the Year 2016 is now open for entries. Celebrating New Zealand's unique cafe culture, the competition will seek out the best and most loved cafes from around the country in a number of categories, including Best Metro/CBD; Best Suburban; Best Rural and Classic Kiwi.
Registration and more information about this year’s competition can be found at www.nzcafeoftheyear.co.nz