Found on the downward leg of Mount Eden, this all-day cafe specialises in contemporary Māori kai.
A trek to the lookout of Mount Eden is enough to work up a healthy appetite. While you could lug your own picnic basket up the volcano and cop views of the bowl crater and greater Tāmaki Makaurau, there's now a mountainside option so you don't have to.
Whau Cafe can be found in the historic kiosk building on the downward leg of the maunga. Before the opening of the cafe, the building — which dates back to 1926 — has operated as a tea room and visitors centre. More recently it served as the destination to visit Dane Tumahai's real fruit ice cream outpost. Tumahai's operation is still part of the new opening, scooping cold fruity delights for both sit-in and takeaway customers in the 100-pax space.
In addition to ice cream and a selection of cabinet treats, Whau specialises in contemporary Māori kai, with select native ingredients incorporated across an all-day menu. Hot picks from the list are the kawakawa fry bread crumpets with poached pear and burnt butter, and the mussel and kamo kamo (a type of Māori squash) fritters. We couldn't look past the kūmara pancake with creme fraiche and crispy shallots, and the roast pork roll served with pickled apple, cress and gravy for dipping.
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The latter was presented on two slices of sourdough rather than in roll form — perhaps the result of short supply as two staff clambered through the doors carrying shopping bags. Regardless, the end product was a mouthwatering lunch option. The combo of tender roast pork with thin slices of apple and fresh cress proved comforting, but attempting to dip corners of sourdough in the miniature gravy boat was a lost cause — a glug over the top would have to suffice.
The kūmara pancake is more fritter than flapjack. Fried until the point of dark brown caramelisation, the fritter gives off silky, crunchy and chewy mouth feels. And for those after a full meal, it can be filled out with a mountain of smoked mackerel. The cafe has previously topped the dish with prosciutto.
Elsewhere on the menu, the beef ragu is a luxe version of mince on toast accompanied by wilted greens and pecorino, while fish 'n' chips also get an upgrade with the addition of horopito salt, tartare and pickles. Rounding off the experience is a drinks list complete with Kokako coffee, teas from Forage and Bloom, Batchwell kombucha and Six Barrel Sodas.