I took my friend Wynne from Sydney to a birthday lunch recently at Made to Order, the city-side addition to the Mavis & Co stable of eateries.
Wynne was in Hamilton briefly, her birthday was actually a couple of weeks away, but it seemed a good excuse for a celebration.
I'd already had a couple of breakfasts at Made to Order; lunch with the Sydneysider would be a test, because she has some very fine cafes on her doorstep at home.
Mavis & Co Made to Order (to use its full title) opened in May, in chic, light- filled premises in the vintage Wintec House, on the corner of Nisbet and Anglesea streets. It's lovely to see such good use being made of this corner of the old red-brick building, and the fitout has been skilfully done.
The focus here is on food ordered from the menu (hence the cafe's name), and there's table service - a point of difference from the Mavis mothership in Hamilton East, where cabinet food rules. At the CBD venue, there's just a small cabinet selection available.
On a previous visit, I'd had the flavoursome Shashouska for breakfast - herbed tomato and capsicum sauce with a baked egg and homemade bread. The sauce had benefited from slow-cooking and it was beautifully presented. I was sorry to finish it. Our other order that morning, the Okonomiyaki Korean omelette with prawns, was a similar hit.
Breakfast on another day, bruschetta with tomato, chevre and pesto, was more ordinary, the out-of-season tomatoes looking pallid and lacking oomph. I think bruschetta should be a summer dish; I probably shouldn't have ordered it. I also thought $13 for one slice of ciabatta, tomatoes and accompaniments was steep. The other meals at our table were excellent, and I liked the way staff compiled an impromptu tasty plate for the vegan in our midst.
Back to the birthday outing. It was successful from go to whoa. We arrived quite late, about 1.30pm, the place was still busy, but service was attentive. We were greeted, seated, water appeared.
The lunch menu is creative, uses top ingredients and offers a winter mix of hearty dishes such as marinated lamb neck, beef shin tortillas and open style burger, along with lighter grilled tuna, duck pancakes and seared salmon. Several dishes are gluten free.
Wynne had the blackboard special, fish cakes with fresh chilli salsa. I ordered the warm lamb salad, recommended by a friend who'd said it was a standout.
She was right. It was a lovely, generous bowl of slow-roasted lamb, pulled off the bone and gently tossed with fine ribbons of courgette, plus feta, mint, roasted beetroot, and bright, fresh pesto. At $13.50 it was good value for money (in contrast to the bruschetta) and the best salad I've had in a long time.
Wynne said the same about her fish cakes, the best in a long time, combining tender fish, crispy texture and a zippy salsa on the side. We shared a ginger oaty slice from the cabinet and enjoyed well-made coffee. We were well-fed and well-pleased.
There is a thoughtful winelist, which needs to be checked out at another time, along with the menu that comes into play in the late afternoon-early evening. The outside tables will be lovely in summer. There should be many happy returns.
What: Mavis & Co Made To Order, ground floor, Wintec House, cnr Nisbet and Anglesea Sts, Hamilton, ph: 07 856 8715. Licensed, open for breakfast, lunch and early evening/bar fare, Monday-Friday, from 6.45am till 6.30pm- 7.30pm-ish. May open weekends in the future.
Food: Fresh, contemporary, creative. Lunch prices range from $9 (quinoa power salad) and $10 (soup), through to $17 for the steak sandwich. Plenty at the mid-point $14.
Service: Friendly, helpful. Love the table service, and the three tills for payment.
Wine: Have not yet partaken, but the list looks comprehensive, including some excellent aromatics.
Bonus: Happy marriage of heritage building and contemporary cafe.
- Waikato Times