Friday, June 7, 2013

Review: GreenKeeper Cafe *CLOSED*

[Added 27 March 2017: This cafe has now morphed into Parked Up on the Green, a licensed eatery with catered events]

It's taken a few years, but it's finally there. After spending $140,000 on refurbishing the exterior of the caretaker's cottage in Victoria Park back in 2010, the Auckland City Council has found a tenant for the property, which was built in 1906.  For months, I watched with interest, as bare-chested workers laboured under the heat of the summer sun, carting wheelbarrows and such like behind a fence marked "The
housecafe that Jack
builtis renovating". One day, about two months ago, a sign announcing the "GreenKeeper Cafe" appeared over the northern entrance to the cottage, then it disappeared again, and I kept watching some more. Now the wait is over, and I can tell you it is worth it.

The former caretaker's cottage is now a cafe.
Admittedly, it can get a bit crowded between the counter (where you have to order) and the coffee station on the other side of the doorway, because people tend to stand around looking at the cabinet items or trying to decide what to sample off the menu.

Selection of salads.
But there is no shortage of seating, with two rooms downstairs (one with an antique pump organ in it, complete with carved, rectangular, wooden foot pedals) and one upstairs, as well as tables outside the northern entrance.

Downstairs room overlooking the sports field.
Apart from the changing selection of salads and desserts at the front counter, and the usual suspects of coffee and scones, the GreenKeeper Cafe offers three categories of food: breakfast items, pastas, and hoagies (a Philadelphian word for hot filled rolls).

Given this cafe apparently opens as early as 6:30am on weekdays, I am sure the breakfast options are popular with those participating in the morning boot camps in Victoria Park. Mostly, they are egg-based dishes, such as eggs benny with hot smoked salmon and greens ($16), but you can also order muesli and yoghurt ($7.50). I was surprised by how pale the sauce on my eggs benny was, not the yellow I associate with hollandaise, but it was still very rich and creamy. I also liked the range of sides you could add, from beer battered fries to smoked pork sausages to bubble and squeak ($3 - $5).

Eggs benny vege, with a very rich, if pale looking, sauce.

The waitress recommended the pastas ($12.50), and they were not only great value, but fresh and tasty. It turns out that most of the foreign-language ingredients are actually vegetarian. The pansotti (served with heirloom tomatoes and hand-pulled mozzarella) are just triangular-shaped filled pasta, not at all like the pancetta the word brought to my mind. The peperonata which came with the ravioli and sage butter was in fact a capsicum stew, not to be confused with pepperoni sausage slices. On the days we tried them, these pastas were filled with pumpkin, and pea and ricotta respectively, so perfectly acceptable for a meat-free diet. Having said that, the parpadelle with beef and rosemary ragout was the standout dish. You also have the option of adding extras to the pastas, such as bacon lardons or roast chicken ($2.50 each).

Parpadelle with beef and rosemary ragout.
The hoagies sounded by far the most exotic, with such fillings as Philly cheese steak with sliced roast beef, provolone cheese, peppers, onions and mushrooms ($10), or pulled pork with cumin slaw and chipotle aioli ($9.50). Once I saw that the sandwiches were sitting in the cabinet above the salads, ready to be heated up, however, I was less keen to try them. Presumably, the staff would make you one from scratch if your choice were not there. You can also get one with two salads for $12.50, which I may be tempted to do next time.

[Added 19 July 2013: Wow, this place is getting crowded! The space on top of the salads now holds a variety of wraps, and some new items have been added to the menu too: a soup of the day ($7), crockpot of the day ($10) and Fish 'n' Chips ($15).]

The old caretaker's cottage in Victoria Park is a great venue for a cafe, and it is nice to see that it has been done up inside and out, with some exciting food choices on offer. Whether you are here for a meal or just a drink and a nibble, this is a place where you can both grab-and-go, or just as happily relax and people-watch.


Wheelchair access is via a ramp at the "back" or northern side of the building.

Panda Recommends

We still have quite a few things to try, but right now...

Mains: Pastas, particularly the parpadelle with beef and rosemary ragout ($12.50)
Avoid the walnut bread french toast with apple jelly ($15). Ignoring a staff member's offer of sprinkling pepper over the top, I found the bread soggy, and what I had thought would be a delicate apple jelly turned out be bright red with some kind of chilli in it—more sweet chilli flavoured than fruity.
[Added 19 July 2013: The french toast now comes with banana and berry compote—perhaps the cafe owners have taken note of my complaints?]

Vegie Pandas
The vegetarian hot sandwich may sound tempting, with the promise of goat's cheese and truffle oil, but while those ingredients are there, be aware that the grilled veges are mainly pumpkin. Go for one of a pastas instead. The eggs benny vege ($14.00) was not bad either. [Added 6 August 2013: they now offer a hoagie with mushroom instead of pumpkin. Good stuff!]

Wall menu.

Restaurant Details

GreenKeeper Cafe
Victoria Park, corner Fanshawe and Halsey Streets, Auckland Central
(09) 302 0425

Opening hours:
Mondays to Fridays 6:30am - 4pm (kitchen closes at 3pm)
Saturdays to Sundays 8am - 4pm (kitchen closes at 3pm)

The old caretaker's cottage is a great location for a cafe in Victoria Park.

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  1. Thorough review.

    I think I would have gotten a hoagie. Even if it was pre-made. I go weak in the knees for pull pork but I've always wanted to try Philly cheesesteak.

    1. Thanks! My friends have eaten the Philly cheese steak one, and said it was pretty good. I just need to pretend I never saw them in the cabinet, I guess.


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