Ponsonby’s vibrant café scene is a major drawcard for the gentrified central Auckland suburb.
There may be other claimants to the title of ‘Café Capital of New Zealand’, but Ponsonby is certainly café central in Auckland and arguably produces some of the best drink-in and takeout espresso in New Zealand.
As industry veterans and those in the know can attest, the café business is notoriously tough – cafés are mercy of the cruel headwinds of fickle consumer opinion and a stuttering economy – but amidst such trials and tribulations there are always places that endure and go on to become neighbourhood institutions. Ponsonby has a few such cafés.
Here are a few old favourites on Ponsonby Road.
With its slightly ramshackle décor and walls painted in imitation of William Blake and other famous artists, Cezanne has a slightly studenty, but somehow homely, and almost lived in feel. The hot chocolate, served in a huge bowl with a chocolate fish, is amongst the best I’ve drunk in Auckland. Cezanne serves substantial hearty portions, but at $10 to $20 a meal is economically priced. I recommend the nachos.
Formerly Atlas Café, Salta Espresso has been on the scene for many years. It has a large, varied and very loyal customer base, with patrons coming from all over Auckland to get their java fix. In the weekend you can struggle to find a table, inside or outside, though that's not really a downside, more a sign of a great café. Salta has a found a winning formula – quality cabinet food and skilful baristas who produce cup after cup of very smooth espresso.
One2One serves great coffee and fantastic desserts, is very child-friendly and has a great courtyard out the back. It's easy to see why it is so popular! After dark the café takes on a the vibe of a bohemian club with film screenings and live jazz and blues performances from Tuesday through to Sunday.
Byzantium is tucked away at the K Road end of Ponsonby Road. A small, intimate café with immediate charm and nice décor, it does decent coffee and excellent, reasonably priced sandwiches. Why not opt for takeout on a fine day and enjoy it in Western Park directly opposite?
Thirty Nine is a light, airy café and apparently a very popular choice for breakfast and brunch. Customers seem to love the scrambled eggs here.
Why not tell us about a great café you’ve been to recently? We’d love to hear from you.
Editorial by Nicholas Chidley
9 February 2012