Cafe review: Tongue and Groove

COMFORTS OF HOME: If you're after an old fashioned brunch, Birkenhead's Tongue and Groove cafe will deliver the goods.
COMFORTS OF HOME: If you're after an old fashioned brunch, Birkenhead's Tongue and Groove cafe will deliver the goods.

On some Sundays, the previous day has staggered deeply into beauty-sleep time and there is no way you want to schlep across town for a brunch you don't have the energy - or the pantry contents - to make yourself.

Which is why we have driven up to the nearby shops - it is raining, heavily - to Tongue & Groove, which has been home to at least two other cafe incarnations. This is our first visit to the latest one.

It seems packed and as I would rather not have to eat at the outside - but sheltered - tables, I ask how long the wait is for one inside. Presto. There is one behind a half wall at the far end - it is quite a big space for a suburban cafe - and we are seated and presented with menus.

I had wondered about the name. Was it about woodwork or was someone being super funky? Perhaps both. I didn't want to get down and inspect the floor but perhaps the groove-edged bookcases of knick-knacks and small volumes point to the provenance.

The back windows overlook the reserve called Le Roys Bush, which runs down to Little Shoal Bay. I remember from earlier visits that it is a pleasing outlook but, with the rain and steamy windows, today's view is Bush by Monet.

The two-page menu covers all the brunch bases, including gluten-free and vegetarian options, soups, pasta, etc, but we don't need to hang about - what's needed is comfort food and asap please, so we order food at the same time as coffees. There seems to be ample staff and they are all on the go. So are people around us but the tables are quickly refilled. The coffees are not electrifying but, on the day, all the better for their creamy mildness and are quickly joined by my hash stack and Sir's eggs benny.

From the bottom up, I have two slices of five-grain, two smallish homemade fried hash browns and a poached egg, with, on the side, half a fried tomato, a shot glass of mayo and a fanned half of avocado. The hash browns are wonderful: crisp outside with a giving inside. I know that frying isn't good for the waistline or the heart but what the hell - and they are small. The rest is also as the doctor ordered. I make an open sandwich with the tomato, avo and mayo, so it's almost two meals out of one.

Sir says everything is as it should be with a good benny-with-bacon stack and he appreciates finding a hash brown in there as well. More coffees are needed and when we are done there is nothing left on the plates.


WHERE: 55 Birkenhead Ave, Birkenhead, North Shore, ph 09 480 6197.

WHEN: Monday to Friday, 7am-4pm, weekends, 8am-4pm.

WHAT'S TO EAT: Everything brunchy.

HOW MUCH: $52 for two meals and four coffees.

WHAT DID WE THINK: Popular and justifiably so.

Sunday Star Times