Satisfying your basic instincts
Situated on the busy corner of Victoria and Wakefield streets, Nui Espresso has a great location.
It's a lively spot, and even at the beginning of the lunch hour on a Tuesday, three of the four booths are already occupied. Most of the patrons are in their teens or mid-20s, and seem to have overflowed from the neighbouring Central Library. It's an easy stroll from anywhere in the CBD and there is plenty of nearby parking.
Nui Espresso . . . is actually inside the i-Site information centre in the Civic Centre. It's all very down-to earth, from the humble pies and sausage rolls on display, through to the classic American-style diner booths. A bar runs along the front window, offering a great opportunity for people-watching while you enjoy your coffee. As well as a very simple selection of cabinet food, there is a breakfast menu, but unfortunately when we visit it seems that nothing on the menu is available, except for toast and muesli.
The interior is . . . vibrant and bright. The seating arrangement may be retro, but the decor is modern and colourful. Cheerful paintings by local artists adorn the walls, and large, red light fixtures hang from the ceiling.
I'm tempted by . . . the bacon pinwheel ($6.50). It does everything a bacon pinwheel should, though there was nothing particularly special about it. The slightly burned pastry contains a flavoursome mixture of spinach, capsicum and onion.
My friend orders . . . a chicken and avocado panini ($8.90). It contains chicken, avocado, cheese and nothing else. This could definitely have done with a little garnish. Unfortunately it wasn't until my friend had finished it that we spotted the bottle of homemade chutney on the table. That could have made a big difference to this bland meal.
We also share . . . a carrot cake ($4). This is far and away the highlight of our visit. The cake is moist, and holds together well despite the delightful concentration of "bits and pieces". The icing strikes a great balance between sweet and zesty.
The service . . . is friendly but a little slow. There is only one staff member on duty, and she seems to struggle keeping up with the orders at the same time as having to clear tables and clean.
The coffee is . . . fairly ordinary. My flat white ($4) is nothing to complain about, but nothing to turn the head either.
The sounds are . . . classic rock music. The general vibe is informal and chatty, and I am happy to hear more than one Beatles hit during the time it takes to eat our lunch.
You can read . . . just about any magazine you can think of. A mind-boggling selection is spread strategically across the bar and still more magazines hang on a rack between the booths.
If I went back again . . . I'd stick to the basics: a sausage roll or steak and cheese pie. They appear to be homemade and look delicious. This type of food seems to match the casual diner style of Nui Espresso, and the HP sauce and homemade chutney on the tables would be a great accompaniment.
Address: 101 Wakefield St
Phone: 04 801 4188
Hours: 7am to 4pm, Monday to Friday
The Dominion Post