Cafe: Even if you haven't visited either of Pandoro's two Wellington locations, chances are you've eaten their food.
The bakery's bread, muffins, pastries, cakes and slices are almost ubiquitous, supplying cafes, restaurants and the like throughout Wellington and beyond, even the Bluebridge ferry. It's a fairly big enterprise - Pandoro started out nearly 20 years ago as a small Italian- style bakery in Auckland and has since grown to five locations in Auckland, two in Wellington - but despite this, it seems to have retained a local, artisan feel.
Pandoro's Allen St location is handily located on my walk to work, so one weekday a friend and I rise a bit earlier than usual and head in for a bite to eat. It's good we're early - there are plenty of tables to choose from and the counters are heaving with a full selection of breads, filled rolls, muffins, scones, pastries and cakes. Behind a counter there's a window into the bakery itself, where we can see bakers still hard at work.
We pick a few things from the counter, order a couple of coffees and sit down. Service is efficient, though a bit disengaged - it could just be too early in the morning.
My friend and I share a cinnamon- walnut danish ($3.40) while we wait for the rest of our food to be heated. While Pandoro has a pretty decent range of pastries and danishes which appear in so many of Wellington's cafes, I've chosen this one in particular because it's not one I've tried before elsewhere: a glazed pastry, braided in upon itself with folds of cinnamon and walnuts. It's beautiful but perhaps a bit too sweet for my liking.
The ham stuffed bread ($6.10) is much more exciting than it sounds - a toasted wedge of chewy artisan bread, filled with layers of ham, cheese, mushroom, olives, capsicum and so on. With all that melted cheese it's almost like eating a calzone.
I have a toasted English muffin with bacon, eggs and aioli ($7.60) The eggs are poached, but because all the counter food here is ready-made, they're not the glorious, runny-yolked eggs you might get elsewhere. I find myself forgiving these because, as a whole, the sandwich is satisfyingly savoury, the aioli adding a hint of garlic.
It's clear that Pandoro's focus is on the bread, and other baked goods. So, unlike some other bakery-cum-cafes you won't find much in the way of cooked breakfasts or lunches - no eggs benedict here, no burgers or fries. Fair enough. There is, though, a soup of the day (when we visit it's leek, bacon and pumpkin), a couple of different pies (beef stroganoff, butter chicken), and a breakfast menu with basics like toast and spreads, or yoghurt and muesli.
You can get Pandoro products almost anywhere, but there are advantages in going straight to the source. You can pretty much be guaranteed your bread's going to be fresh. Plus, there are treats you don't see much of elsewhere, like the apricot and custard scrolls, or the brioche fruit loaves, or that walnut and cinnamon danish I had.
By the time we leave, the cafe has filled with people stopping in for a coffee and a muffin on their way to work, or picking up a loaf of artisan bread to take home.
2 Allen St, Wellington, phone: 04 385 4478
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat-Sun 7am-4pm
Coffee: Supreme. Our flat whites ($4) were a bit flat-tasting and weak. 3/5
Sounds: A curious mix of light sounds and thrumming, energetic rock that seems a bit out of place at 7.30 in the morning.
Mags: A couple of copies of The Dominion Post, plus a handful of free pamphlets.
Clientele: Working types stopping for a quick bite to eat, people buying bread to take home.
Try this: Apricot & custard scroll ($4.70), ham-stuffed bread ($6.10), any of the artisan loaves available to buy.
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