Not many Auckland cafés can claim a 40 year history. Sure, it’s changed hands a number of times before evolving into the upmarket eatery it is today, but the current owner of Benson Road Deli has been there for over 20. My Mum worked here when she was younger than I am now.
BRD’s longevity could perhaps be attributed to two factors. The first is a prime location. At the leafy crossroads of Upland Road and Benson Road it’s a natural hub for Remuerarians away from the busy main road, and a pleasant stop during walks in the area with the now redeveloped Orakei basin circuit just up the street. The second factor is a rock-solid menu. Adventurous eaters may find it a little basic but it's made up of tried and true classics guaranteed to satisfy, and fantastic for families.
We arrived at 9:30 on a Sunday morning thinking we might be ahead of the pack but the place was already filling up with family brunchers and couples on their morning coffee stops. The tables in the front room surrounding the counter were all gone so we filed down the corridor to the separate dining room, which is a bit more tranquil and tastefully decorated with slick black subway tiles and Billy Apple artwork. We ordered the big breakfast ($21.50) and the bagel with avo, tomato and bacon ($14.00). I initially thought I’d let BRD off too lightly with the bagel being the simplest thing on the menu, but my expectations were exceeded by the generous portions of each component for my build-your-own breakfast pleasure. It could have filled two bagels, but I gladly piled each half high to create my delicious twin stacks. Without the pesto I added it might have been boring, but it was certainly a hero within the borders of classic bageldom.
The big breakfast was equally satisfying. Again, nothing earth-shattering in the content: two poached eggs with sausages, crispy potato quarters, fried tomato and bacon on ciabatta toast, but everything was pretty much perfect. The eggs with a buttery hollandaise were exemplar to cafés who often get them so wrong, and the home-made chicken and fennel sausages from gourmet supplier Food Chain proved stand out. Not the puny, oily little things that sometimes get thrown in with this dish.
BRD is an industrious little empire. These days it transforms into a casual restaurant in the evenings and they've spawned a deli next door which sells take home cakes and gourmet meals, all from the one kitchen. In the main café alone I counted seven slice varieties, plus a 3-tiered cabinet filled solely with cakes, and more tempting sweeties surrounding the till to complement the all-day coffee. Resistance failed me and I walked out with a whole box-full for afternoon tea with friends later on that day. We sheepishly mopped up every crumb (the gluten-free orange cake was gorgeous), confirming to me why Benson Road Deli has stood the test of time.