Last month, I was invited to Tuihana Cafe for a Zomato meetup. A mere 600 metres from my house, I was a little embarrassed that I’d never visited Tuihana Cafe before.
With a clean, modern interior with gorgeous monochrome wallpaper on one wall and a huge photographic print of the owners on Piha beach, Tuihana has a modern kiwi feel…like a brand new beachside bach. The owners are Nate and Leslie: Nate is the operations guy and Leslie in charge of the food.
We met with Nate, who guided us through their menu and business as if we were new staff getting up to speed. I’ve worked in hospo before but I’d never seen anything like this sort of training. Nate had printed a set of notes for each of us, props at the ready for our viewing pleasure and professionally photographs via his iPad to explain the dishes.
Nate’s background is in IT and this geekery clearly shows with their tech integrated cafe. As someone tethered to a computer, phone or wifi SLR, I can certainly appreciate this. Wifi at Tuihana is free, their loyalty system is built into EFTPOS payment and you can order by text, email or tweet. Social media is encouraged, there will be no shame in ‘gramming your meal here. Nate also runs a fairly new blog at http://www.cafeowner.co.nz which is a resource and insight into running a cafe in New Zealand.
I enjoyed hearing the backstory and inner workings of the cafe and it gave me a new appreciation of all the careful considerations owners come across, though I’m sure many do not go as in-depth as Tuihana do. They might be the only cafe that has solved the problem of coffee cups being disproportionate to takeaway cups – an advantage that should work out well in the long run. Instead of cutting corners for profit, their innovations made a lot of sense and it was refreshing to see that every choice they made had sound reasoning.
Nate and Leslie have kiwi, Maori and Nuiean backgrounds and this is reflected in their menu. As strange as it sounds, Maori and Pacific foods are not commonly found in New Zealand, particularly in cafes. Despite my Cantonese background, I’ve eat Nuiean food in Nuie and spent my childhood feasting on hangi in the Bay of Plenty. I was happy to see Tuihana celebrate their roots with a few items: toasted Rewana (Maori sourdough potato bread), doughboys (a flour dumpling), and use of endemic ingredients such as kawakawa (NZ pepper tree).
We sampled tasting portions of most of their menu which you can find here.
My favourite dishes were:
Porridge with candied apple, salted caramel, walnut crumble and milk $12.50
I would NEVER order porridge when dining out but this made me think again. The toppings were quite glorious and salted caramel for breakfast sounds truly naughty.
Fush n Chups Fresh Gurnard fillets in tempura batter w chunky chups, crisp green salad, bush herb tartare and Tuimato sauce $21.50
Tuihana batter to order here, no pre-battered and frozen fillets. You can certainly taste the difference. I loved their impossibly light tempura batter and the fresh gurnard was perfect.
Pork Belly Stack Confit fingerlings of pork with roasted apple, five spice crumble, Rewana and slaw. $18.50
I have a weakness for pork belly so this was right up my alley.
Steak Fontina Grilled porterhouse sandwich on toasted Rewana with Swiss cheese, shrooms, aioli, Spanish onion and home-made beetroot relish. $21.50
A stack of tasty goodness.
So if you find yourself on the city side end of Dominion Road and are looking for some fresh food that with a bit of kiwi flavour, check out Tuihana cafe. Make sure you fit in a smoothie too.