The good news is that, after a slow summer, there are a lot of new cafés, restaurants and bars about to open. I can think of a dozen that are definitely on the way, with another half dozen or so intriguing rumours. The bad news is that most of the cafés that have opened recently, or are about to open soon, are chain stores.
Starting at the north end of the city, according to an article in today's Dominion Post
, a branch of Esquires Coffee
is planned for the ground floor of the Holiday Inn
. I'd never heard of them before, which just goes to show how little time I spend outside of Wellington city: they're everywhere
, and expanding rapidly
. They get some brownie points for using locally-roasted organic Fairtrade coffee, but their interiors
look bland and mallworthy, so don't expect anything exciting. It's a pity that Holiday Inn
, in their quest to shake off their stuffy and generic image, didn't follow the example of their surprisingly good
bar and restaurant Plate
and look for something with a little more flair.
Then, of course, there's Gloria Jean's
in the long-awaited but faintly disappointing Borders
bookshop. As I said
when Gloria Jean's
first central Wellington shop opened, it's pretty much just a smaller version of Starbucks
, so even if we're not getting invaded by Starbucks
outlets, there are a lot of its little clones running around. Maybe if Borders
had chosen a local operator for its in-house café (as well as not putting Te Reo books in the "foreign language" section and realising that no-one here uses the word "Math"), they'd have done a better job of convincing us that they're not just a faceless American chain.
As local café operators go, Mojo
is one of the most loved. Sure, they're a chain of sorts, but they're our
chain, and the thoughtful fitouts by architect du jour
Allistar Cox are varied, welcoming and stylish. That, together with the quality of their coffee, has led to comments like this
from the fans that set up the Mojo Coffee ZoomIn group
: "I LOVE Mojo-I will marry someone from there and I will bake biscotti and we will have like 6 children and I will name them-Afagato,Latte.Mocha..you get the idea" (caffeine and spelling don't appear to be compatible). Their cartel is set to expand further, with a seventh café planned for one of the refitted spaces in the Hotel Wellington
development, just north of the relocated Eyeball Kicks
at 225 Cuba St.
In fact, The Kick
is about to have its Tiki mugs and Simon Morse posters surrounded by coffee beans, since the shop on the other side is soon to become a Caffé Italiano
. From their website, they seem to be an importer and wholesaler of coffee machines, paraphenalia and coffee (from brands such as Serio and Caffé Molinari) rather than café operators, and an older website
refers only to a "showroom" in an industrial part of Auckland. However, the logo on their window carries the tagline "caffé - delicatessen - beans & machines", and while the word "caffé" in that phrase is ambiguous, local gossip suggest that it will indeed include a café. Cuba St doesn't exactly suffer from a lack of coffee, but if the delicatessen side of the business is any good, it could be a welcome addition.
Finally, right at the top of Cuba St at number 276, Martha's Pantry
has just opened. Actually, the entrance is just around the corner in Karo Drive, but the proprietors can't bear the name and prefer to keep a Cuba St address. Yes, this is the shop and "tea rooms" that I was so sniffy about
back when Karo Drive first opened!
There's certainly a very Thorndon-y tweeness about the place, with its doilies, scented candles, antiques and cupcakes, but I have to say it's very nice if that's your sort of thing. Also, it's a continuation and expansion of Mary McLeod Paintworks
, which has been here for several years, and since the Martha in question (not that one
) was one of the building's early inhabitants, she's no Tipsy McStagger
. It's the first new shop or café to open in the wake of the bypass, and it brings a bit of (slightly prim and proper) life to the "heritage Disneyland" that was once upper Cuba St. Besides, if New York is anything to go by
, the fashionable people of Wellington may soon be storming up here in search of cupcakes. And most of all, it's the only new café in Wellington that's not part of a chain.