At the moment, when you look up the address of Dear Jane on Google, you'll be presented with a dark, empty building with not a latte or scone in sight. And for years, before Dear Jane began gearing up to open that's what it was. So when the little café began setting up in March, the neighbours were all pretty excited.
The spot was an intentional choice by owners Chloe Huo and Fang Bai, who also own North Shore café, Common Ground. They wanted to challenge themselves to get into the community vibe in a residential area. They seem to have succeeded, and it feels part of the neighbourhood already. But for a moment there was some doubt...
However, with late March came the beginning of lockdown and a complete halt to the opening of Dear Jane... Until three weeks ago, when the streets behind Rocket Park were graced with the much-needed café. I say much needed because as dish Food Editor, Claire and I sat at our table, it was clear that Dear Jane had already become a community meeting place, with old friends and new friends catching up, business chats happening and parents enjoying a bite to eat with their children.
Sticky Pork Belly Bowl
And with the warm, casual atmosphere, blonde woood, plenty of plants, you can feel why. There are doodles of baked goods adorning the walls drawn by Kevin Cho who also did the branding as well as the drawings that you might recognise at The Candy Shop and Camper Coffee. The space feels sunny, even when the sun isn't out and the space really lends itself to a good old sit-for-a-while-with-a-scone-or-a-coffee.
I say scones, specifically because they have the immense benefit of having scones made-in-house (cheese and caramelised onion scones as well as cheese and tomato relish scones) as well as a cabinet of made-in-house sweet baked goods: biscuits, friands, brownies, cakes, loafs, muffins and croissants - with the gluten free things clearly marked out.
In the less snacky, more stay-a-while food department, they have all the breakfast classics of granola, eggs benny, french toast and 'Jane's breakfast': their take on a big breakfast. Then the menu (designed by Fang) goes a little off piste, with a wide variety of lunchier options including a cumin rich shakshuka baked eggs; mushroom risotto; fried chicken; sweetcorn fritters with smashed avocado and halloumi and nasi goreng. The breadth of theme is wide, but they're all favourites among Kiwi foodies and the same sort of eclectic menu works for Common Ground.
Blueberry and Coconut Hot Cake
The dishes have little twists that kick them up a notch in their own different ways: the thick and fluffy Blueberry and Coconut Hot Cake with fruit has hints of rose flavour and the ramen egg that comes with the Sticky Pork Belly Bowl works as a miso-rich sauce for the rice. The smoothies have healthy, fruity ingredients but they are good enough that they don't taste healthy and the coffee (they use Supreme beans) is good.
The Peaches and Cream Smoothie and a selection of counter food
So why is it called Dear Jane? Co-owner Chloe's real name is Fonda - after Jane Fonda - the name Dear Jane is a reference to a childhood spent wondering why her parents hadn't named her Jane. So "Dear Jane is like writing a secret letter to my childhood", she explains.
And we're pleased to hear it, because if Dear Jane is a letter, it is a warm, kind and fun one. We can definitely see ourselves stopping here while on a walk, meeting a friend here or sending someone here if they are looking for a nice spot in the area. It's a good, soild go-to local.
Dear Jane Exterior
39 Martin Avenue, Mount Albert