Yeshe Dawa, The Midnight Baker, has stopped sneaking around other cafés' kitchens after dark and opened up a space of her own on Dominion Road. News of this had me running out of the house and slamming the door behind me in a not-very-kind-to-sleeping-in-flatmates manner. But boy were the cold stares I received upon return worth it.
The Midnight Baker's nook feels homely. Its fresh white interior with patches of exposed brick is softened by natural wooden furniture and lush houseplants. Naked bulbs are strung across the ceiling and fittingly conjure images of constellations in the night sky.
This café is a celebration of the 'everything free' seeded delight that is Freedom Loaf, and the cultish following it has deservedly garnered around Auckland. But it would be unjust to ignore the brilliance of what Yeshe and her team pile on top of their toast. With only four topping options in the sweet and savoury corners (as well as a few specifically designed for the younger Freedom Loaf fans), you would think decisions would be snappy. But you can't tell me that weighing up whether to have roasted spiced pear with date caramel and vanilla Nice Cream ($13), or raw vanilla cheesecake spread with cocoa drizzle and freeze dried raspberries ($12.50) – both served on cinnamon chai toast – is easy.
Eventually making the choice to side with team savoury on this visit: the basil pesto with roasted vine tomatoes, cashew cheese and hazelnut dukkah ($8.50) – with an added poached egg ($3) – was decided on. The smashed edamame and avocado with lemon and turmeric sauerkraut from local artisan Zeli ($8.50) was my toast date's pick. The green smash was creamy with a playful zing from the sauerkraut, and the tomato and pesto ensemble had me very proud of my decision-making skills.
A midnight blue coffee machine spurts out full bodied Eighthirty coffees and the long blacks ($4.50) are served the drinker-determines-strength way with a jug of hot water on the side. The Red Velvet Latte ($5.50) – a beetroot, cocoa and vanilla bean concoction from Latte Lab – is a standout in the caffeine free options. Earthy with the right amount of sweetness, the drink was a gorgeous colour and when combined with Mylk Boys almond milk was a blissful blend.
It may be that The Midnight Baker is more of a sit-down destination, as the dishes would be difficult to eat sans cutlery. Luckily, this toast haven is conveniently close to the CBD yet exempt from its parking wars, with plenty of free parking on Dominion Road and the surrounding streets. A good thing too, as this little spot looks set to become a mecca for anyone who craves a seriously good slice of toast.
Feature image by Lauren Kennedy.