FLIGHT COFFEE HANGAR
171-177 Willis St (entrance on Dixon St)
Ph: 021 244 8852
No daytime liquor licence
Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch, Wed-Sat for evening cocktails.
Price range of mains: $15-$28
Cost: $58 for two
At Flight Coffee's flagship cafe, as at every other coffee house in the land, the action still centres upon their espresso machine, in this case a fancy Slayer from Seattle.
Yet despite our enduring Kiwi attachment to milky flat whites and frothy cappuccinos, the fact is that coffee connoisseurship is now moving beyond espresso.
The reason is that espresso requires a dark coffee bean, roasted almost to the point of carbonisation. This is done to mute the acidity of coffee beans, which the extreme pressure and concentration of espresso would otherwise render mouth-puckeringly unpleasant.
Hence espresso coffee beans are more about the bitter-sweet caramelised roasting profile than the inherent fruity acidity of the beans.
That's why Flight Coffee (along with Supreme, People's and Red Rabbit) keep their dark espresso blends as a mainstay, but only very lightly roast the expensive specialty beans they now import from quality-driven plantations.
The mild roast also explains the gentler pour-over brewing techniques which Flight and the others now offer for these single-estate beans. At the Hangar there's a wide choice of such filters: Chemex, V60, Swiss Gold and Aeropress.
With our Chemex flask of black, unsweetened coffee came a printed card, upon which to meditate while we sipped:
"ANTIOQUIA CO-OP Columbia - Dusty cocoa & malt biscuits on the nose, bright orange zest acidity, creamy body with a pleasantly dry finish."
Call it pretentious if you will, but these notes did indeed stand out. As the coffee cooled, its citrus character came pleasantly to the fore.
Until recently, Flight Coffee's giant roasting machine set an artisanal tone for the Hangar, where undressed timber paneling and bare concrete floors still enhance the hip warehouse aesthetic.
Now the roaster has been relocated (with a certain loss of ambience, it must be said) and in its place is a commercial kitchen. Here the Hangar now makes its foray into cooked breakfast and lunch, Flight co-owner Richard Corney being a trained chef.
His menu has sections headed Sweet, We Love Eggs, Sides, Bagels, Breads, Buns, Fish, Meat-ish and Meat-less. Despite my vegan guest's prior misgivings that there might be nothing for her, the Open Bruschetta was made just for her: grilled red pepper, spinach, beans, a lovely slow-cooked portobello mushroom, and deliciously sweet-hot marinated tofu.
Ossobuco might seem a wintry dish, even during this, our dubious summer, but ossobuco is made properly at the Hangar, not with old beef but with tender veal shin, the season for which has only recently passed.
Beneath a mound of rather yummy root vegetable braise over a base of mash, there's hidden treasure (a marrow bone) as well as surface sparkle - a final sprinkling of parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Correctly spelt gremolata, this garnish is rather hilariously listed here as "germolata" (the perfect nickname, I'd have thought, for a grubby chef somewhere).
I imagine many parents these days, myself included, bang on at their kids about tattoos and how they limit career options.
Yet you soon realise how ill-founded these prejudices are when you encounter the genuine affability and professionalism of all those who work front of house at the Hangar, where a thorough inking seems almost a precondition of the job.
ONE THING YOU SHOULD TRY
Pan-Fried Salmon Fillet
The chefs understand the meaning of "rare" here, and upon request will present the salmon fillet like fresh tuna - seared around the outside, raw in the middle. Perfect. Clearly intended as a comforting brunch dish, the salmon comes with soft poached egg and hollandaise, over scalloped potatoes. Ossobuco made properly at the Hangar.
- The Dominion Post