cafe review: the junction eatery, birkenhead

39 Birkenhead Ave, Birkenhead

img_6067My mum and I just checked out this new ‘eatery’ (I’m sorry, guys, I still hate that word) just this morning. We’re semi-regulars at Birkenhead, but more for Asian food than ‘eateries’. In the car, my mum told me about an article she read about this new place, with the owner stating that he wanted to create a Takapuna or Ponsonby-like experience smack-dab in the middle of Birkenhead Ave.

You really can’t miss this place – it’s flashy and uber-modern and a bit jarring, to be completely honest. There are massive steps that ascend to a balcony and the second-floor, created so high up to take advantage of the panoramic sea views. (Even writing the phrase ‘panoramic sea views’ makes me feel like a real estate agent.) We climbed these stairs after taking a peek at the cabinet food, where you can get a tiny chocolate twist for about $5.00. I guess with the Ponsonby-like experience comes the Ponsonby-like prices.

We were greeted promptly and shown to a table by the grinning owner (I presumed she’s the owner, but I could be wrong, I guess), menus at the ready and water whisked to our table. The service was friendly and fast, although it’s a bit disconcerting to have so many of the waitresses and the aforementioned owner hovering around you constantly in a small space. I don’t necessarily blame them though – the second floor is so far removed from the first, that it would be impossible to give good service from a safe distance behind the counter.

We decided to share the veggie packed waffles with beetroot infused salmon and chive mascarpone ($20), and I, of course, ordered a latte ($4).

The coffee is Atomic, which was fine. I think I just have negative associations with Atomic, which is not their fault. (There are, like, two cafes on campus that serve Atomic and I’ve gotten one too many cups before dull lectures.) At least they’re always a double shot, which I appreciate.

I also think I had unrealistic expectations for the size of the waffles, since me and my mum were sharing. So used to getting decent-sized waffles at the likes of Little King, the portions here are a lot more modest. However, it was super-tasty and more than enough for a light breakfast – the waffles tasted like softer cheese scones, and the mascarpone was pretty nice. My only point of contention was the salmon, as calling it ‘beetroot infused’ implies it may taste different from the norm… which it didn’t, really. Plus, there wasn’t that much of it. Maybe my tastebuds are plebeian.

All in all, it’s a nice and… interesting addition to the Birkenhead food scene. I’m not completely sold on the by-the-sea, look-at-me exterior, but what do I know. It definitely doesn’t feel like Birkenhead, and whether that’s a good thing or not, I’m just not sure.

The Junction Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant review + thoughts on ‘being authentic’……. Malaysia Recipes, Birkenhead

174 Mokoia Road, Birkenhead, AucklandFullSizeRender (1).jpg

The words “authentic” is thrown around in food reviews of Asian restaurants all the time without little meaning. What do they mean by “authentic”? Do they mean the nationality of the chef, of its owners, of the ingredients, of the food, of the service? Like, if a server at a Hong Kong restaurant in Auckland barely makes eye contact or acknowledge you, could you sing praises of “authenticity”? Also, who do you have to be to decide what ‘authentic’ is? If you just went for, like, a two week trip in Bali and spent the whole time getting sloshed on Bintang at Ku de ta, are you an authority on Indonesian food? (I mean, probably not.) In my case, the only cuisine I feel comfortable enough judging on it’s authenticity is Malaysian because, well, I am. The rest of the time I’m making vague guesses and probably wrong judgements based on my own pre-conceived ideas (I really don’t know how to tell if pasta is fresh. I’m sorry), but you know, Malaysian food – I’m pretty solid there.

It’s a weird and nuanced topic for sure, and I have my own, personal measures of an authentic restaurant. This thought arose after eating at Malaysia Recipes, a restaurant in Birkenhead, tucked away from the main streets opposite a Domino’s and adjacent to Manna Coffee and Bread Store. I was absent-mindedly scrolling through their reviews and saw someone saying that had eaten more “authentic” Malaysian food elsewhere in Auckland.

The chef at Malaysia Recipes is Malaysian. In fact, he grew up a short while away from my Dad’s own hometown, which he found out after hearing him speak in Hokkien, a dialect home to the area in and around Penang. It’s a small, no nonsense store that also oddly sells fish and chips, a hand-me-down from the previous owners.

We come here often for quick, satisfying food which resembles the cuisine so familiar to us, served by people with undeniable Malaysian accents. It isn’t the best Malaysian food in Auckland, but it’s one of the closest to ‘home-style’ cooking that we’ve found.

On this day, I had the Hainanese Chicken on Rice, a classic meal you can find at any Malaysian restaurant in Auckland. Theirs is boneless, served on a bed of beansprouts with two slices of cucumber. (I shamefully left the vegetables on the plate.) It’s tasty, does the job, and leaves the unmistakable garlicky taste in my mouth even after brushing my teeth.

My parents both had the char kway teow – also a classic. (You honestly can’t get more Malaysian than our choices.) My dad still prefers the kway teow at PappaRich in the city (as it’s fried more to the Penang style) but again it’s comforting, delicious food which, although you may forget about within hours, still makes you want to eat it again and again and again.

The undeniable ‘at-home-ness’ we feel in ‘authentic’ Malaysian restaurants can’t be replicated anywhere else. The way my accent slides from the Kiwi accent I usually use to the more Malaysian-tinged one I use at home, the delight my dad feels at not having to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ or go through Western niceties when talking to wait-staff (in defence of my dad, it’s not really being rude – Malaysian’s are notoriously direct), the fact they serve the food with fork and spoons. (If you serve your food with anything but fork and spoons, or chopsticks with noodles, are you really a Malaysian restaurant?)

So for me, those are all measures of authenticity – and Malaysia Recipes ticks the boxes.

Malaysia Recipes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

cafe review: Scout, Torbay

fullsizerender967 Beach Road, Torbay

Scout is a less-than-ten minute drive from my house, which is a miraculous thing to be able to say about a café that immediately got write-ups in Denizen, Metro and The Urban List.

The first thing you notice about it is the delightfully speckled footpath area outside, which may or may not have been specifically put in by Scout (though it stretches to the other shops next to it). The outside utilises the pink-and-grey colour combo which I use on my CV, and sticks out like a sore-thumb in a town that has a Four Square down the road.

I’m a fan of the décor inside, with the milk bottles wrapped in crafty shit like pastel twine and a decent amount of seating. (Those cafes with like, one huge shared table and then three small tables squeezed around it – why?) I also like the magazines on offer – no one seems to read these at cafes anymore, but me and my mum still flick through them. (Can you guys get Frankie?)

I’ve been here twice now, once for food and once just for coffee. The first time I came, we were recommended the Nitro cold brew, which I had never tried before. However, I went for my reliable latte, as I wanted to see how the coffee stacked up to my other regulars on the Shore. Kokako is not really a favourite of mine, but here it is surprisingly strong – a decent cuppa.

The Nitro cold brew (which I had on my second visit) is also good, although I don’t prefer it. It’s a bit tastier than normal cold brew, as the nitrogen gives it a creamier, milk-like taste, but if you don’t normally like cold brew I don’t think you’ll be converted.

The service was friendly, perfunctory, a little distracted perhaps, but it’s their first week so I forgive them. Just give me my coffee and you can’t go wrong.

The food was just OK, but I may have ordered the wrong thing. I came around 1pm and had the Lebanese avocado falafel, which is served with black quinoa. I told my friend that I just wanted to go home and make mac and cheese, so I think I was just kidding myself that I could deal with healthy crap like quinoa. Anyone who has willed their taste buds to accept that quinoa tastes good – I tip my hat to you. Also, they needed more labneh. (Please!) Next time, I’m gonna go for the French toast and fuck the voice in my head that also likes to say, “isn’t this the third time in a row your New Years resolution was to start running?”

One thing to note – my mum stared at the flies landing on their sandwiches popped on the top of their cabinet for about 10 minutes before hailing someone down and telling them. This is her pet peeve and she’s annoying about it, but to be fair there was a healthy population of flies around the cabinet so I’d probably wanna keep an eye on that.

All in all, they hooked me after they got that first latte right. I’m a coffee person through and through – café food is mostly overpriced and just makes me crave for food that doesn’t taste freshly scoured from the woods – so this might just become a regular. Until someone steps up and opens a café with great coffee in Browns Bay, this will have to do.

Scout Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato