Early riser: The Packingshed Cafe
The Packingshed Cafe is off the beaten track, in Early Valley Rd near Halswell. It's unlikely that you will stumble across it. You have to be looking for it, possibly with a map.
Mike and I visited on a Thursday morning - it's open only Thursday to Sunday.
The cafe, a converted orchard packing shed, is in a lovely rural spot, surrounded by gardens and orchards.
As I walked into the cafe, I noticed a flock of chickens hovering by the door.
Our arrival wasn't that warmly received at first, and I had to ask to see a brunch menu. I asked for the savoury muffin and Mike chose the toasted bagel, and we both ordered coffee - they use the Underground brand.
The weather was sunny, so we sat in the garden. The birds were singing and the food arrived quickly and beautifully presented.
The sliced muffin was soft and fresh. It was covered with portabello mushrooms and grilled cheese, with pesto, salad and the cafe's delicious homemade chutney.
Mike loved his bagel with its combination of bacon, brie and a red-pepper salsa.
He was less impressed with the coffee, although I liked mine, because it was a smooth, mild brew.
Occasionally, the chickens surrounded us. I like them, but I don't like them touching me, so I was less than comfortable. One of the cheeky critters took a liking to my shoes, and had a peck while my head was turned.
The Packingshed's website says the cafe aims to be as sustainable as possible, with an organic vegetable and herb garden allowing all food to be made on site.
You can pick unsprayed seasonal fruit from the trees and buy preserves, and there is a craft shop.
The chickens on the loose are part of a philosophy practised by the business.
THE PACKINGSHED CAFE
161 Early Valley Rd, Halswell, packingshed.co.nz
When? 9am to 4pm, Thursday to Sunday
Who? The clientele looked to be locals, and those who take a drive out for lunch and a catchup with friends
How much? Our bill for brunch was $38.50
Go again? Yes, the lunch and dessert menu looked amazing
Upside? Relaxing, rural atmosphere
Downside? Chickens on the loose - one pesky chook pecked me on the foot