I feel that Wellington's climate and small size doesn't really offer much hope for outdoor-friendly dining. But where we could really flourish is in the cool alleyways, each of them belying their unpromising nature with shops, bars, and cafes unfolding as you progress down them.
Leeds St is leading the way here, and a recent addition is this bakery. I knew it would be good from the start since it's owned by the people behind the wonderful Ti Kouka on Willis St - brothers Jesse Simpson and Shepherd Elliot. It's quiet when Tim and I arrive for lunch, but it turns out we got there at a good time - once seated and ordered, it's continually packed with people till we leave.
The bakery coexists with the delightfully named Red Rabbit Roastery, serving a range of brewing methods, from which Tim chooses a two-cup V60 filter (yes, a two-cup for one, but he has a long drive up ahead on this afternoon, and also coffee is delicious) while I get a Swiss Gold. I honestly can't remember what beans go into our respective coffees but they're both incredibly good, so whatever you choose is probably a safe bet.
A two-way shelf separates the cafe from the bakery next door, through which plates of fresh sourdough, brioche, baguettes and more are pushed. From here, the cafe's small but excellent menu is formed, with a range of sandwiches utilising all this delicious bread.
Tim chooses a brioche with ham and Swiss cheese, while I get one of Leeds Street's daily specials - a baguette with sopressa salami and marinated olives. Both are just perfect. The brioche has that tender buttery croissant-like flavour, the baguette is crisp and chewy.
The ingredients that they're paired with are simple and excellent - folds of salty sopressa, generous piles of gleaming, juicy olives, Swiss cheese nutty and rich, and the same wonderfully smoky tomato sauce that you get with the fries over at Ti Kouka.
Tim also gets an apple, berry and dark chocolate muffin, which is a million times better than most muffins on sale these days. One of the first things I heard about this place was how good their salted caramel cookies are. They exceed the hype. Buy two. And some bread while you're at it - there's a sign handily telling you exactly what time you can expect your favoured variety of loaf to emerge from the oven.
WHERE: 14 Leeds St, Wellington
WHEN: Monday to Friday, 7.30am-3.30pm
HOW MUCH: $40 for lunch and coffee for two.
WHAT'S TO EAT: Glorious bread, made onsite daily, turned into various sandwiches.
WHAT WE THINK: Yet another very good reason to go to Leeds St.
- Sunday Star Times