Fred's always been a friendly sort of name. It's a name for chipper, wholesome sorts who'd never engage in the charade of not recognising you after you've been introduced, like, a dozen times. Sometimes Ponsonby cafes can be the brick and mortar versions of that guy, right? Fred's, nestled on the corner of Ponsonby and Franklin Roads, is different - everything about this pocket-sized gem, from the staff to the Polaroid-covered walls to the rickety schoolboy chairs in the courtyard outside, is completely devoid of pretension.
Taking over from the well-loved Agnes Curran just under two years ago, Fred's has retained that neighbourhood coffee shop feel and a regular clientele by only making subtle changes to the decor (the interior still looks like the living room of your semi-cute art teacher from high school) and continuing to peddle old favourites like the lamingtons. The cosy brick courtyard/lane set-up outside is the perfect spot for coffee and cigarettes, and the large communal table by the counter - stacked with current issues of Mag Nation's finest - is ideal for the lone wolf.
Formally known as an espresso and soda bar, Fred's does Supreme coffee and wacky sodas from house-made syrups. I'm told the elderflower is particularly refreshing. The menu offers your standard power brunch fare - muesli, bagels, fruit breads - and a couple of curveballs, like menemen, $14 (a fancy baked egg inspired by the Turkish city) and yakidog, $14 (an organic beef sausage slathered in wasabi mayo). Unfortunately it was too early for me to stomach anything but a flat white and a slice of ginger loaf, which, microwave-softened and spread liberally with butter, was a solid ten.
My breakfast buddies picked the coconut porridge ($12), with banana and a generous sprinkling of toasted almonds, and the cheese toastie ($7) - sourdough bread with vintage cheddar and sweet relish that gives Bird on a Wire's grilled cheese a run for its money.
The portions are more than reasonable and the service is exemplary - relaxed, attentive, and genuinely warm. Sam Cooke's Greatest Hits and the sun beaming in through the street-facing, floor-to-ceiling window made for a very pleasant morning indeed.
Fred's is the sort of cafe that anyone can feel at home in. Ponsonby is pretty hard to please, but the number of customers staff greeted by name - who all seemed to know each other as well - suggests its a place people keep coming back to. Nice work, Fred.