BayBuzz is going to trial a bit of a weekend feature for awhile. Let us know what you think.

Guest columnist Andrew Frame will be our “Man About Town,” offering his observations on things to do, places to try (or avoid), happenings of interest, the decline of culture & refinement in HB, local pretensions, etc. You won’t find Andrew touting the “usual” very much; if he does, I’ll be disappointed. I’ve asked him to aim for some point on the scale closer to “truly weird” than “numbingly conventional.” And if he does write about the conventional, his views had better not be!

Here’s a safe start with a simple review …

Man About Town

My wife and I are regulars at Café Rosso in Napier’s Lower Emerson St. We try to go for Saturday brunch every couple of weekends (we’re so metro!). The staff are always friendly, the food is great and it’s nice to sit in the window seat and watch the world go by.

So, when Kim & Reza closed for their annual holiday, we decided to spread our horizons (or should that be coffee beans?) a little further and try some of the other cafes for Saturday Brekkie.

First on the list was the new place in town, Groove Kitchen Espresso. Situated across from the Municipal Theatre in Tennyson Street, Ben Simcox and his staff have made an immediate impression, winning not only the regional, but also the award for New Zealand’s Best Café in New Zealand Café Magazine. Not bad for somewhere that has barely been open for a year.

The food is fantastic, fresh and innovative. They make their own baked beans (sorry Mr. Wattie, you just got usurped) and the pesto served with the Jammin’ Salmon & (eggs) Benne really deserves consideration as being a dish on its own. Their (sourdough, foccacia?) toast is also a wonderfully yummy touch. Not only do they do coffee, there is a
great range of teas that are served with their own little tea set and egg timer, to ensure the leaves brew for the optimal time.

We were hooked on the place shortly after it opened when they went out of their way to help us put an impulsive takeaway picnic together. For me, great service is what makes any business, and Groove’ has loads.

So it was a nasty change when we went further up Tennyson Street to the corner of Hastings Street to Café Divine a few weeks after.

There are usually numerous people outside this place on sunny days, so we were hopeful when we went to open the front door. But it wouldn’t. We tried again, still nothing. I looked in through the window. Staff were standing at the counter and there was a table or two with customers, so just before 10am, we weren’t too early. One of the staff noticed me fogging up their front door, so came over to discover the door lock had been snibbed. “Sorry, we were wondering why things were so quiet” they said.

We placed our order of coffees, pancakes and eggs benedict and didn’t have to wait too long before our coffees arrived. A liberal dusting of chocolate on my Mocha is always nice, but this one gave the impression that the duster had sneezed mid-sprinkle. Cup, saucer and handle had been given a reasonably deep powdering. The coffee itself was fine at least, as were my pancakes, which are reasonably hard to get wrong, but the way they are served wasn’t so flash.

I’m not a snob, but food served on a (albeit solid, commercial) plastic plate, cheapens the whole meal for me. They may be easier to clean, more durable and less weight would delay the onset of RSI for the serving staff, but eating off a white plastic platter dulled by use and cleaning does not impress me very much at all.

If the platters were dull, then my wife’s eggs benedict fared even worse. The first dish’s eggs were hard-poached. Ho-hum. We alerted a waitress who promptly bought out another freshly prepared dish and that too had been cooked too long resulting in none of the expected gooey eggy goodness. Ho-hum times two. Beloved, by this time, was hungry and not in the mood to wait for another dish to be sent back, but we did mention the repeat offence to the waitress when she returned again to check on this dish. No refund, replacement or similar apology was offered.

In fact the staff were overall quite underwhelming. Seldom smiling, there was a hint of almost drudged morbidity about the place. We left a short time later, unimpressed at having found things to be far from Divine.

Andrew Frame

Let me know what you think of this weekend feature … Tom
[And since you might have some spare moments on the weekend, what better time to complete our short Councils’ Report Card survey, right here!]

Join the Conversation


  1. Love the wkend edition – the review of the cafes was spot on! Can you sort out the coding to deal with appostrophies? Cheers

  2. Great minds think alike it appears!

    Kimberley Rothwell gives Cafe Divine a far from divine review (with very similar echoes of my article from 15 months ago) in the Life section of today's (26/01/11) Dominion Post.

  3. Interesting reviews in Three great reviews and two dreadful. Perhaps Man about Town should surf before he slurps?

    lt shows that staff are all impotent in cafes.

    Keep up the weekend edition. I hope Tom pays for the coffee?

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