Tag Archives: cafes

The Shearers’ Quarters

Hidden away on a quiet back road in the tiny hamlet of Seadown, just north of Timaru, the Shearers’ Quarters country gift shop and cafe, is a slice of retro rustic heaven which offers a great outing for visitors of all ages and tastes.

The Shearer's Quarters
The Shearer’s Quarters

Coffee aficionados can sip their brew of choice on a comfy armchair beside the log fire in the old silo, at a chunky table in the disused shearing shed, on the wide, shady verandah or in a secluded spot in the sunny garden. The Shearers’ Quarters has a tranquil, uncrowded space with a nostalgic country flavour for every season. The coffee is superb and a good range of teas is available too. The food is rich and generous; it took two kids and three adults to conquer a slice of chocolate mud cake and a further two adults and two kids to dispense with a caramel oat slice.

Housed in the abandoned shearers’ quarters which give the business its name, the gift shop provides happy hunting and foraging for lovers of arts and crafts.

Just off the shearing shed section of the cafe, there’s a playroom to keep the little kids occupied. Out front the garden is perfect for hide and seek.

The Shearers’ Quarters is also available for functions and on that beautiful, sunny autumn day when I sat sipping my cafe latte and doing my bit with that slice of chocolate mud cake, I couldn’t help thinking wistfully of a romantic wedding ceremony in the garden and a banquet at a long tables on the verandah of the old shearing shed.

In an age when barns, sheds, stables, churches, banks and even post offices have been given a new life with things like Beautiful Cupolas and then born again as gift shops and cafes and in a region rich with crafts, coffee and great food, the Shearers’ Quarters country gift shop and cafe is a stand out.

The Shearers Quarters is located at 932 Seadown Road just north of Timaru in South Canterbury, the South Island of New Zealand

At Eat Deli Bar in Fairlie, they can do anything

High winds, heavy snow, fallen trees, power cuts – none of these stopped the “can-do” Cantabrians at Eat deli Bar in Fairlie.

Snow in the Mackenzie Country
Snow in the Mackenzie Country

It had been the heaviest dump of early winter snow in decades, but now, a fierce wind had blown up and the thaw had begun. The snow was thinning on the hillsides, the paddocks were mottled with green, there were mushy ridges along the roadside and the rivers were running high, swift and milky. Still, ahead, were the mountains, glistening white against the cloudless blue sky, with the promise of perfect, magical snow.

When we stopped for the first morning coffee fix in the small high country town of Fairlie, it was strangely quiet. There were a few people strolling on the street and a few more sitting outside the backpackers’ pub in the sun but in the shops the lights were out and nobody seemed to be home.

Finally, at the far end of town, we found Eat Deli Bar. The door was open, there were tables and chairs outside on the sunny pavement, people in the windows and a man behind the counter. Although the kitchen was in semi darkness, a dim shape was at work at the bench and there was a promising clatter of dishes. Before I could gasp out a plea for a flat white, the chap behind the counter explained that an old man gum tree up country had toppled in the wind and brought the powerlines down – the electricity was out, the espresso machine was down and coffees were off.

“Yet you’re all still working” I said in disbelief.

“Yes, well, we’re Cantabrians” he replied “We carry on, no matter what. So we can offer you a tea and…” he gestured to a blackboard of exotic teas and a cabinet of mouth-watering cakes.

We could have driven on. It wasn’t far to Tekapo, power, cafes, flat whites and lattes. But like snow, a “can-do” attitude is irresistible, so we stayed and discovered mango tea and beetroot cake.

As they say, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Eat deli-bar at 76 Main Street, Fairlie, offers dining, deli and espresso. It was established by a pair of Cantabrians who met in the UK and decided to bring the coffee culture back home. The food is delicious, the place is warm, attractive and comfortable and the staff can do anything.


Singapore nights; Chimes

In its last life Chimes was the Convent of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus, dedicated to the education of young Catholic ladies.

Chapel and cloisters at Chimes
Chapel and cloisters at Chimes

Some years ago the Convent closed and was reborn as a centre of pleasure and leisure. The former chapel is a now a chic reception centre. The cloisters are taken up with souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes. The courtyards and lawns are given over to outdoor dining areas. The classrooms have become clubs, discos and bars which boom with house music and bands.

This is the place to end a Singapore night, with a romantic dinner in one of those courtyard restaurants, then dancing out the demons until dawn in one of the discos or nightclubs.


Cuba Street, The coolest street in the capital of cool

If Wellingon is the world’s coolest capital, then Cuba Street is the capital’s coolest street.

Tiger Eye Beads
Tiger Eye Beads

During that time in the second half of the 20th century, when chunks of the city were being sacrificed to motorways, Cuba Street was ear-marked for a traffic by-pass. As it awaited the wrecking ball, businesses de-camped and any upkeep on buildings was more or less abandoned. This, as it transpired, was Cuba Streets salvation. Rents plummeted and along with those seeking low cost accommodation, came others seeking alternative lifestyles – hippies, artists, innovators, visionaries and creators. Buildings were rescued and businesses were reborn. Second hand shops, bargain stores and galleries opened. Bars, cafes and restaurants set up alongside them. Colourful graffiti art colonised blank walls and alleys. Cuba Street was alive again. Cool and rather chic, in shabby kind of way, it was a distinctive part of the cityscape. Cuba Street became Wellington’s Bohemian Precinct.

The by-pass plan was dumped. In 1969, Cuba Mall was established. Buskers and street performers moved in, the famous Bucket Fountain was built and Cuba Street became a playground, a favourite meeting spot and one of Wellington’s most visited and vibrant quarters.  Finally, in 1995, Cuba Street was preserved forever under the Historic Places Act, as a registered Historic Area.

In essence, Cuba Street is still the same as it was when those hippies, artists, innovators and creators moved in, back in the sixties.  Most of the buildings are as they were then – the narrow wooden houses, the shop-fronts with their recessed doors, ornate lead-light windows and tiles still remain. So does the grand old Salvation Army’s Peoples’ Palace, now a Quality Inn. Colourful street art weaves around them on walls and in alleys.  Second hand and bargain stores survive and thrive, many with a 21st century vintage or retro twist. Bars, cafes and restaurants still abound, but among them now are award winners, like Matterhorn and the fine dining house, Logan Brown. Buskers and street performers still hold the floor in Cuba Mall, at any hour of the day or night and crowds gather to watch them, while the Bucket Fountain splashes away in the background. Cuba Mall is still a great place to hang out and one of the city’s most lively areas. And most importantly, that Bohemian spirit not only endures but flourishes.

My Cuba street favourites


Cuba Dupa, the Cuba Street Festival, at the end of March – for a fantastic end of summer celebration and an awesome street party  – food, bands, choirs, art, sculpture, performances, people and fun.

Cuba Dupa
Cuba Dupa

Cuba Street Friday Night Market – for all of the above, but on a Friday evening and on a smaller scale.


Madame fancy Pants – for elegant vintage classics

Tiger Eye beads for a frivolous, fanciful treasure

Arc Apparel – for a rock-bottom bargain


Midnight Espresso – for a midnight cofee and a vegan snack, also because it’s a Wellington icon.

Fidel’s – for a Cuban coffee with a Cubana (the ultimate toasted sandwich) and to re-live the revolution (Cuban, that is) through the posters and memorabilia on the walls

Breakfast, Lunch or dinner

Floridita’s Cafe and Restaurant – for good food, pleasant surroundings, quick service and leadlight windows overlooking a busy Cuba Street Corner – brilliant people-watching potential


The Ferret Bookshop – to ferret out an old favourite, or a new discovery, among their amazing collection.


Slow Boat Music – to browse their incredible merchandise, to bask in the glory reflected from illustrious international customers like Robert Plant and to maybe even catch an in-house performance?


Wellington Sea market – for fresh fish, a staggering variety of seafood and mouth-watering displays.

Fruit and flowers

Cuba Street Fruit Mart, for its abundance, its colour and its fragrance.



The Spruce Goose Café – a very special Wellington place

Just over the road from Wellington’s Lyall Bay beach, backed by the weathered warehouses of Rongotai and flanked by the runway to the airport, is the Spruce Goose café.

The Spruce Goose
The Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose’s rambling old wooden building holds a special place in Wellington’s history.  Originally it was the domestic terminal of NAC (forerunner to Air New Zealand), then, for fifty years it housed the Wellington Aero Club. Now, although opened up, pared down, painted with a marine-themed murals, furnished with bright, simple functional café tables and chairs, it still has the feel and (if you listen carefully or happen to be there in a rare quiet moment) the creaking sound of one of those iconic wooden Wellington houses.

Inside The Spruce Goose
Inside The Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose’s interior, however, could well fade into a pleasant background blur, because the views, from here, are sensational.  On the left, planes land and launch – a heart-stopping sight in a fierce Wellington wind and a heart-lifting one on a rare still day. Out front, there’s a great sweep of sea with, always, a surfer riding, or waiting, for a wave. On the right, in the distance, are the hills, with bush and rickety wooden houses clinging to their faces or huddled in their lee.

The view from the Spruce Goose
The view from the Spruce Goose

These stunning vistas might also distract from the Spruce Goose fare, if it weren’t so good, and from the service too, if it weren’t so efficient.

When I first discovered the Spruce Goose, we were on the way to the airport to catch a plane. It was Sunday morning, the place was packed, we had a little time to spare, but none to waste. I doubted that we’d get a table but a gracious young waiter found us one immediately, by the window. We ordered coffees. They arrived minutes later and they were hot. (“So what?” you might say, but to me, when it comes to coffee, temperature matters!)  Encouraged by the coffee experience, we ordered breakfast.  It was just eggs on toast, nothing time consuming or complicated, it’s true, but given the crowd and the pressure at the time, I did expect a wait. The eggs, too, were delivered promptly. They were steaming and the toast was crisp.  The bill arrived at the wave of hand (or rather an air scribble!) Minutes later, we were on our way, satisfied and calm.

My next Spruce Goose experience was a month ago.  We had just landed at Wellington airport. It was a warm, perfect, late afternoon. Where better to enjoy those first moments back in Wellington than at the Spruce Goose, overlooking Lyall Bay?

It was quiet, the lunch crowd had long gone, and the after-workers had only just begun to trickle in. Over a rich Spruce Goose coffee, we watched the light fade on the sea. A perfect return to Wellington, in a very special place – the Spruce Goose.



Four great Budapest cafes

Budapest is well-endowed with cafés, restaurants and fast food joints which cater for every kind of international palate. If, however, you’re looking for a true taste of Hungary, or for a place which is as interesting for its history and its décor as it is for its cuisine and its service, there are four famous Budapest establishments which you simply must visit.

The Gerbaud Coffee House
The Gerbaud Coffee House

The Hotel Astoria, on the corner of Rokoczi Ut is home to a 19th century café and restaurant with old world charm and a traditional Hungarian menu.

The New York, on Erzebet Korut, is a coffee house in the old Budapest tradition. The interior is  exquisite and as it was once the haunt of the cream of Budapest society, it has a certain class and cachet.

The Gundel restaurant on the northwestern edge of Virosliget, or City Park, near the entrance to the Zoo, was the birthplace of Pancakes à la Gundel, a confection covered in chocolate, nuts and cream which has all the elegance, and the complete disregard for calories and colesterol, of times past.

The most famous and the grandest of all of Budapest’s cafes is the Gerbaud Coffee House. Founded by Hungary’s culinary leading light, confectioner Emil Gerbaud, it has stood at number 7, Varosmarty Ter since 1858. It still offers the traditional coffee and cake enjoyed by Budapest society ladies and gentlemen in the Dual Monarchy days. Home-brewed beer is also on tap at the Gerbaud Coffee House and it is warmly received by those who come to rest here after an exhausting day’s shopping on Vaci Utca.

The Greek Riviera, Part 2, Glyfada


Sheltered by Mount Hymettus on one side and bordered by the Saronic Gulf on the other, Glyfada is one of Athens’ most beautiful, lively and desirable suburbs. Whether you’re shopaholic, a café aficionado, a party person, a greenie, a beach bunny or a soul in search of the simple seaside life, you’ll find your niche in Glyfada.

For shoppers, Glyfada is  paradise,  with a line-up of local icons  like Kokkoris (for eyewear addicts) Ensayar (for brand afficianados) and Zer Teo (for exquisite jewellery) as well global giants like Zara and Mango.

Elegant cafes, restaurants and bars abound in Glyfada. All along the waterfront are brilliant open-air nightclubs which rock the place on summer evenings.

With a state of the art “green” tramway which features a carpet of grass between the tracks and a central pedestrian zone, Glyfada shopping, dining and clubbing is an easy feat.

The very best of Glyfada, however, is down on the beach during sunshine hours. There are miles of golden sand, a stretch of blue water, views of an off-shore island, fishing boats chugging in and out and fishermen selling their catch fresh from the sea.

What makes Glyfada so special, so attractive, so stimulating and so comfortable is its perfect balance of 21st century glam and timeless simplicity.