Neatly nestled between a beaten-up book-store and an Italian restaurant sporting topless waiters, you could be forgiven for overlooking Symonds Street's newest all day eatery, Once Strangers.
Having only been open for a heartbeat the café is already accumulating points for being amongst the friendliest joints in town. It's a warm, welcoming open space, a monochrome mural backsplashes the feature wall, and waitress Emily is buzzing about ensuring everyone has exactly what they need — even before realising they need it. The funky tables come equipped with conversation starter card packs. One for ice-breaking, the other for date night: 'How highly do you prioritise mental and physical health.' Now, we are still in hot debate about just how this would go down as a date-night opening line (like a lead balloon, but I'm just spit-balling) however, the personal touch is nothing short of endearing.
Park up along the lengthy table with sun streaming through the floor-to-ceiling front window and don't waste a minute before ordering what we now consider to be a café essential — the miso butterscotch milkshake. Terrifying in name, tantalising in taste. It's like a salted butter caramel hybrid. The salty umami miso flavours pairing perfectly with the silky smooth warm buttery froth, topped with nut crumble this bad boy is a must-see event.
Clearly sensing they were onto something great the team did not stop there. Their soda offerings are second to none, why? Because, BUTTER BEER. Curating their signature butterscotch sauce into the perfect cream soda. There's more, their coffee? Get the Vietnamese. A cold brew iced coffee pimped with a generous dollop of condensed milk.
As of yet there are no medals of honour lining the walls, but rest assured they are not far off.
Another exceptional addition to this newbie's menu are the bao — choose from satay chicken, the delicately spiced pork, or thick hunks of crowd-favorite pork belly, marinated in a sticky honey balsamic glaze. The fluffy bao are accompanied by a house-made pear slaw, coriander and the choice of either fries or salad. Diet depending.
Got a sweet tooth that's tingling for attention? Once Strangers has you covered with its vast waffle range. Blackforest with maraschino cherries, whipped cream and blueberries doused in a hot chocolate drizzle. The breakfast waffle, starring salty-sweet bacon ribbons, grilled banana and lashings of maple. Or the waffle de résistance? Poached pears in pools of caramel sauce, dusted with icing sugar and a scoop of their specialty Kohu Road ice cream — all found hiding under blankets of crumbled walnuts — aptly named, the pear and walnut waffle.
Boasting flavors that span the sweet, salty, spicy spectrum, and combinations that may have even the most eclectic palates shying away. Trust us — try them, and you'll see why Once Strangers has well and truly earned a pin in our map.