There’s a pretty pink building sitting on the northern shore of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour that is a beloved landmark. The Chelsea Sugar Factory in Birkenhead has been around since the late 1800s and now this piece of Auckland history is set to be a popular contemporary site, with the factory reinstating tours very soon and a splendid new cafe set to open its doors Saturday 27 October.
Aptly named Sugar, it’s a destination in its own right. If the stunning cityscape views across the water aren’t enough to hold your attention, the food on your plate will definitely keep you in raptures. This is destination dining at its zenith.
With five wildly successful eateries up their sleeves, Sugar’s creators, Fran Mazza and Aaron Carson, are culinary and hospitality superstars when it comes to honest, delicious food delivered with some seriously good looks.
That could certainly be said of the tower of high tea treats that dish was afforded, at a preview of some of Sugar’s menu items. The four savoury and seven sweet items that make up the high tea are as pretty as a picture – and, crucially, are as tasty as they look. It includes various tiny handmade pastries encasing crème patissiere, caramel and chocolate, a mini cannoli filled with sweet ricotta; tiny pink choux pastries with freeze-dried fruit garnishes; baked cheesy asparagus bites; the perfect egg and ham mouthful… it’s a sensory pleasure in every way. You can opt for the high tea if you order 24 hours in advance – perfect for a special occasion. If you’re just swinging in for a quick bite and a cuppa, you can still expect the wow factor– top your fluffy baked scone with date jam, lemon curd or chia and raspberry with freshly piped cream. Or pick from cabinet goods such as lamingtons, ginger crunch, eclairs, doughnuts, meringues, cannoli, sponges, tarte tatin, savoury galettes, bruschetta, mini pizzas – all done with the exciting flourishes Fran is known for.
The all-day short order menu has some lighter, summer fare too, to balance out the offerings – a seasonal vegetable salad with halloumi and maple mustard dressing is an explosion of colour and flavour that feels nourishing and cleansing on the palate, as does a bright purple beetroot carpaccio dish enlivened by goat’s cheese and cinnamon honey dressing. We loved the twist on the egg bene dish with its vibrant turmeric hollandaise, pickled onions, avocado oil and grilled spring onion; and the fish and soft-shell crab’s beurre blanc sauce had us wanting to lick the plate. Sweet treats can be found on this menu too – the touch of elderflower in the panna cotta that accompanied the French toast with warmed strawberries and raspberry mascarpone was delightfully floral, to match the prettiness of its garnishes. Those good looks extend to the premises itself. “We wanted it to be very welcoming, like a vintage kitchen,” says Fran. When you’ve absorbed all the lovely design touches, you can watch the bakers themselves at work behind their glass partition. And for the kids, there’s a large lawn and a playground out the front.
Opening on Saturday 27 October, we recommend you make a booking (toot sweet) to secure a spot.