Food & Dining
Caffe Mode in Kelburn has no right to be as successful as it has been over the past 20 years.
The cafe, opposite St Michael's Anglican Church, is cramped and noisy. Yet it does a roaring trade.
It's quite a task to pinpoint a moment when Caffe Mode is quiet. It opens at 7.30am on weekdays and is choc-full for a couple of hours. Then there's steady trade until a massive lunchtime rush. And at about 3pm, it revs up again with parents - mainly mothers - dropping in for a coffee and a chat, youngsters in tow.
That's just the weekdays. The weekends, when it's open from 8am till 4pm, are even busier.
New Zealand may be only just wriggling clear of a recession, but you'd never know it at Caffe Mode.
Three of us dropped in for breakfast this week and were amazed by the turnover of diners.
The chairs and tables are a bit rickety and I don't find the place particularly comfortable.
It does have two legs of the restaurateur's three- legged stool well covered, though. The food and coffee are top-class (the Vegemite pinwheels are a specialty), to judge by the non-stop line of people waiting to be served.
And the service is invariably excellent - pleasant and prompt.
We had a variety of breakfasts - the ubiquitous Big Breakfast (which cost $20 and was most impressive), eggs benedict ($16) and toast and jam ($5.50). We were impressed to be offered four versions of eggs benedict. All sounded tasty.
Surprisingly, the flat white coffee was judged to be way too bitter, though there was no complaint about the latte and I enjoyed my fruit tea.
Zea Taing and Richard Rawlings took over Caffe Mode eight years ago and have done well to maintain its popularity.
From what I can see, the main reason is the service.
They have streams of regular customers and know them so well that they are already making their coffee as they walk in the door. Sometimes they see regulars pull up in a car outside and get the coffee started.
The day I went the three outside tables were in heavy demand because they were bathed in sun. Sometimes they can be cold and there is a jostle for inside tables.
The pick of them is by the bay window, overlooking Kelburn and Northland.
You get a feeling of familiarity when you're at Caffe Mode. If you didn't know the person at the next table when you started, you soon will because there's precious little room between tables.
The kitchen is downstairs and food is constantly brought up the staircase in the middle of the dining room. It adds to the busy, bustling feeling.
The clientele ranges from parents of schoolchildren, to Victoria University students, to some well- to-do types. Perhaps that's Caffe Mode's charm - it has something for everyone.
- The Wellingtonian