There's a new eatery in Hamilton East

Jojo Gittings runs the new Two Birds Eatery in Hamilton East.
Jojo Gittings runs the new Two Birds Eatery in Hamilton East.

Two Birds Eatery is in a somewhat unlikely place in Hamilton East, sharing a site with The Riv bar in the Clyde St Shopping Centre. At the entrance to the building, you turn left for Two Birds, right for The Riv, and you'll likely meet a member of the Gittings family in both places.

Jojo Gittings, 23, runs Two Birds Eatery, her father Bernard Gittings is an owner of The Riv, and he manages the business. Jojo's cafe opened in early March; she's adapted The Riv's function room and dining space for Two Birds, serving colourful, healthy salads, soups, bagels, summer rolls, excellent smoothies, coffee (Excelso from Tauranga), sweet treats, and more.

Two Birds' name partly comes from the notion of a bar becoming a cafe, channelling the old adage of "two birds, one stone". Plus Jojo's parents' call her Birdie, so it seemed a good fit.

Jojo likes the idea of a hard-to-find cafe. She's eaten at a lot of great hidden- away places, and she also likes the unpretentious nature of her new set-up. But she was pretty nervous at first. "I didn't think anyone would know we were here."

She does her marketing on social media, including a Facebook page. The eatery was picked up by some Auckland food bloggers with a big following, and suddenly she was super-busy at lunchtimes, giving her a huge boost in confidence. "By the second or third week it was pretty consistent."

She's still tweaking the interior, continuing the switch from pub decor to cafe, and has developed a sheltered, sunny courtyard with outdoor tables. By the end of this month, Two Birds will also be open at night for simple meals, all of them gluten free.

Jojo is studying holistic nutrition through the Naturopathic College of New Zealand, and gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan options are high on her menu priorities. She loves raw (no- bake) cakes and other sweets, and this is part of the inspiration for Two Birds. "I've spent a lot of time in Auckland and overseas, and in every second cafe you can get a really good smoothie, a really good salad, and a sweet treat that's not full of refined sugar. I wanted to do that here."

Jojo doesn't use white sugar, providing sweetness with good quality maple syrup, organic honey, dates ("they are really fabulous"), and occasionally coconut sugar.

There are cabinet salads such as red quinoa with candied walnuts, feta, spinach, and a light balsamic dressing, and another on this Tuesday morning made with cos lettuce, radish, kumara, blue cheese, and maple and cider dressing. Two Birds' rice paper rolls are fresh and flavoursome, and specials include creamy mushroom bruschetta, and soup.

Smoothies are made with natural ingredients, and popular combos include the Energiser, with almond milk, banana, Medjool dates and a dash of cinnamon; and Green Tease Me, with spinach, avocado, coconut water, mango and banana.

The cafe also does breakfast, and along with the salads and other healthy goodness you can have beer-battered fresh tarakihi and chips, or a robust steak sandwich if you so desire.

Jojo's self-taught in hospitality, she's worked at The Riv, and for caterer Joanie Meredith, who ran Stellar Kitchen in Hamilton, Auckland and Melbourne. Jojo's been on Joanie's staff in all three cities; Joanie's business is now called The Last Supper, and specialises in catering backstage at stage shows. "They do fabulous food, " says Jojo. "I've worked alongside some amazing chefs, and gained a lot of skills."

At Two Birds, she has chef Phil Derecourt on the team, but her specialty is the raw baking, and smoothies. When things get busy she hops into the kitchen to help with other tasks. 
Jojo says that when she first opened and people started coming in, she wondered if it was a fluke. They've kept coming: "I've had amazing feedback, I'm overwhelmed by it."

CHOCOLATE ORANGE MOUSSE TART (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

Ingredients Base:
2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup cranberries
2 Tbsp coconut oil
zest of one orange
Mousse: 2 avocados
15 Medjool dates or pitted dates (soak pitted dates in hot water to soften, drain before using)
juice and zest of one orange
2 cups coconut cream (Jojo uses Kara brand)
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder or cacao powder
desiccated coconut threads
orange zest
dark chocolate (grated)

Combine all base ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined, press into a 23cm tart tin. Place in fridge to set.

Slightly heat coconut cream, take off heat and whisk in cocoa or cacao powder, place in fridge to cool.

Put all remaining ingredients in food processor and blend to smooth consistency. Add the cooled coconut cream mixture to the mixture in food processor. Blend to desired mousse-like texture, pour on top of the base and place in fridge to set. Should take about an hour.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with orange zest, grated dark chocolate and lightly toasted coconut.

Waikato Times