A pleasant surprise in Alicetown

On Saturday morning, in lieu of going for a swim at Huia Pool (which is closed for two weeks, for cleaning and maintenance, which is annoying), Plus One and I took a pleasant stroll with Lola Dog from Petone down through to Lower Hutt, having a look in at a few car yards on the way (thoroughly depressing, btw). We then looped back and through, under the bridge and back via Alicetown, where it became apparent that I was probably not going to make it back to base camp without rations. Stink, bro - I am actually hungry, a state I try (and mostly succeed) to avoid, for fear it may frighten children, old people and pets.

The trouble was, Petone - resplendent as it is with cafes and eateries - was still a ways off. And Alicetown, despite my recent discovery of excellent fish and handcut chips at Alicetown Seafoods, was not exactly teeming with appealing snack/ lunch options.

Of course, I could have had fish and chips, but I really, actually didn't feel like them, so it would have been "wasted calories". What to do, what to do?!

And then, as if by magic, I espied something that just might be the answer to my dilemma - Alicetown Espresso.

Okay, so no points for originality on the name front, but it did, at least, successfully convey what I might reasonably expect to find within - espresso. In Alicetown.

But it wasn't caffeine I was craving - it was food.

Promisingly, from the doorway I spotted a rack of bread and baked goods from the Pandoro Bakery - creator of one of P1 and my favourite baked goodies - the cheese, spinach and olive scroll, especially delicious toasted. Alas, they had only one, so in an uncharacteristically chivalrous move, I let P1 order it up. I asked for a ham "stuffed bread" - essentially, a wedge of calzone, with ham, cheese, olives, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes (very Sopranos kind of food, I thought to myself - "ohh!")

Here's where things got kinda interesting - taking a look around the tiny café (which used to be the Easy Listening Records store - I once got the Glen Campbell sings Jimmy Webb Reunion LP there for a fiver!), I noted that they didn't carry soft drinks from the big bottlers. They had, instead, Bundaberg, and Phoenix organic soft drinks.

They had also "curated" (I love that word) an excellent selection of bits and bobs - olive oil from The Village Press, coffee by Bruno Rossi, De Nigris balsamic vinegar, fresh baked bagels and bread.

In short, everything you might need to go home and have yourself a bit of a snack with your takeaway coffee. Plenty of thought had obviously gone into what was on offer - very good, indeed.

As it turned out, my act of warm spirited benevolence paid off handsomely. The calzone (for that is indeed what it was) was actually absolutely delicious - heaps of flavour, not at all dry - bang on. And P1's scroll was just as good as they always are.

I had a Black Doris Melting slice, which was like a fruity slice with a biscuit topping - impeccable, tart, tangy, buttery - while P1 also had a caramelly sort of brownie thing.

I also ordered a short black, which was rich, nutty and gave me the caffeine jolt I didn't even know I was craving.

There was a steady stream of caffeine-craving punters, many of whom appeared to be regulars. The service was unflinchingly pleasant and courteous - these people look genuinely pleased to be working here (as an aside, The Stooges Search & Destroy was playing while we are there, which is awesome, obviously, and puts me in an unfeasibly good mood).

Look, the reason I am writing this now is because there are a whole lot of little places like this, either newly established, or which have just quietly been doing their thing for a while.

They are never going to get the wraps they probably deserve - they aren't going to win any awards, or be in Cuisine magazine.

But they are neighbourhood shops that fill a need - good coffee and a quick bite in a hurry, and a bit of care and thought having gone into what is offered for sale.

So bravo, Alicetown Espresso - a great little spot in a neighbourhood that also boasts a top quality chipper.

Is Alicetown the new Petone?!

Tell me about a "little gem" you either discovered, or stopped in at on the weekend - an unsung hero, who deserves a little love for a job well done!

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