Heading into the city for professional development courses inevitably means an early start, and I am not a morning person at the best of times. I took for granted that I’d be tottling off on my lunch break to find a meal and knew that being based in Mt Eden meant that there were a variety of differnet places that I could explore as potential options. Wandering along the streets at lunch time, I was feeling uninspired by the menus in the window. Tucked away in a side street, Olaf’s jumped out at me and I decided to investigate further.
Walking in, it surprised me to see what was, in essence, an open kitchen down the back of the cafe. There is a half-wall of plexi-glass and you can see the chefs preparing the breads for sale – part of the take-away arm of the business. The warmth emanating from the kitchen was quite pleasant for this under-dressed woman on a windy Spring day, but I do wonder whether in the midst of summer the heat would become uncomfortable. There’s a wide range of tables available, and people are asked to order at the counter before taking a seat.
I decided on the pain au levain with salmon, cream cheese and caramelised onion, followed by a chocolate ganache tart. I was surprised at how delicious the pain au levain was; it’s a real reminder to me that great-tasting food doesn’t have to be a big, dramatic process. Sometimes it is just about flavoursome ingredients being combined together simply for a party in your mouth. I chose not to try one of their coffees, but the women at the neighbouring table were raving about them!
The one thing that I felt let the experience down slightly was the service. I had this misfortune to be waiting to order behind two large and rather indecisive groups. Intuitive service would have suggested that one of the two other women behind the counter ask if they could take the order of the waiting clientele, especially if it is clear that they are wanting to dine in – I was standing alone, holding a menu in my hand so it was fairly clear I was not purchasing cabinet food to take away. Once I got to the counter, the gentleman taking the order did apologise for the wait, but it was clear to me that common sense would have prevented the situation from occuring in the first place. In saying that, the wait was not so bad that I would not return in future.
All in all, a pleasant experience, reminding me that simple food that is well-made beats all the thick, rich, creamy dishes in the world sometimes. I’m definitely looking forward to taking Papa M back sometime in the future when we’re not both bogged down with work!
Olaf’s Artisan Bakery & Cafe/ 1 Stokes Rd, Mt Eden/ www.olafs.co.nz