As ridiculous as this is going to sound, I always thought Mt. Eden Village simply didn’t exist. I’d tried several times to find this mythical stretch of cafes and shops – even applied for jobs at some of them (unsuccessfully, might I add) and it was only when I was meeting Penny that I actually found them.
There were a few that I’d wanted to try out and I didn’t want to run out of time, so, with my bank account still looking super healthy from payday, I figured there was no better time to seek out somewhere new to brunch.
It was a toss up between two, but after being told I’d get a bag of seeds with brunch at The Garden Shed, my inner gardener wouldn’t shut up until I’d agreed to go and taste test brunch.
It’s a 40 minute walk from mine to the Village, so also plenty of steps to burn off whatever deliciousness I was about to devour.
Or strictly speaking outside.
Despite a cold snap gripping Auckland, the up hill walk and beautiful sunshine meant it wasn’t too cold to sit outside. I picked a spot in the sun and welcomed the thick fluffy blanket slung over the back of the chair, just in case it was too nippy.
There is a definite ‘shed’ theme, but it’s more hipster garden retreat than Papa K’s cobwebby back garden storage. There are tools hung on the walls and everything seems to be made out of that raw looking timber, untreated and like it might not make it through a harsh winter.
But at the same time, immaculate. There didn’t seem to be anything that hadn’t been thought out and placed purposefully, from the plant pot cutlery holders to the fairy lights and ivy, lazily climbing up the walls and hanging down where there was nothing left to cling on to.
There was a small planted wheelbarrow with what looked like a handwritten wooden sign for ‘The Garden Shed’.
The staff were attentive without being overbearing.
I was greeted immediately as I nervously stepped over the threshold by one member of staff, already serving other customers a second apron clad worker led me to a spot outside and brought over a glass of water.
Initially I was disappointed it was just a glass, but as I later found out, you’re cup is regularly topped up by water served from one of those green tin jugs – the kind that I’d usually use as a vase and so thought it was novel to see it actually being put to it’s intended use.
I immediately ordered a mocha and started to browse the menu.
I checked the time as I looked over my choices, slightly disappointed there didn’t seem to be a huge range of brunch options and worried I’d missed out on the ‘breakfast’ menu, it was 11:30am, so I didn’t think I was too late.
That’s when I clocked the lattes on the drinks menu and excitedly read the ingredients for the Red Velvet Latte.
Hoping it wasn’t too late to change my order (and feeling slightly foolish for being so cock sure in the first place) I got the attention of a different member of staff, ordered the Gardener’s Brunch and asked him if he could “Please, change my mocha to a red velvet latte if it hadn’t been made and just leave it as it is if it has been made, because I’m a tit and I ordered before I looked at the menu and I’m intrigued by the red velvet latte, but I love mocha’s anyway, so it doesn’t really matter, thank you“.
Strictly speaking latte, but who am I to mess with a format?
The thing that really got me excited about this was the beetroot. I’ve made beetroot brownies before and I know that when paired with dark chocolate, you can’t really taste the ‘muddy’ flavour that comes with beetroots, and the more you eat, the sweeter they get anyway.
Beetroots are up there on my list of food discoveries since moving to Australia. Largely thanks to Meg hosting me so often and me not wanting to be rude and turn down the fayre she’d spread I tried my first beetroot, got past the mud and got to the sweet.
When it arrived, I was really impressed with the colour. It looked sort of cute in it’s way and there was a good layer of foam on the top.
The foam was light and fluffy, but I was a little disappointed that the overwhelming flavour was simply of cinnamon. It was leaning more towards mocha than latte, so in that sense the cacao was present, but I didn’t get any of that earthy flavour from the beetroot. I suspect it was possibly there to compliment the bitter cacao and to add the colour to the latte.
All in all, it was more like a mixed spice mocha. Served in a short glass it was at least hot enough to survive being sat on the table outside for 15 minutes or so and still be a pleasant drinking temperature when the food arrived.
That being said, it wasn’t too milky and that’s what normally puts me off about lattes.
First off, there wasn’t any eggs benny, but I have evolved this feature to include all brunches, great and small.
As long as my eggs are poached, it counts as brunch.
The Gardener’s Brunch consists of two quinoa cakes, topped with portobello mushrooms, poached eggs and greens and served with salsa verde.
It looked very impressive and I have to be completely honest and say when it came out I thought it was pesto, not salsa verde. Writing this now, knowing what it actually is, it’s less unusual, but when I thought it was pesto, I was impressed to taste a zing of lemon and a hint of mint.
It perfectly complimented the quinoa cakes, which were almost salty and went well with the meaty texture of the mushrooms.
The main flavour I got from the quinoa cakes was fried onions (mostly due to the dried fried onions sprinkled over the top). But I love that taste. Quinoa in itself is great because, like cous cous, it takes on the flavours that are around it: a perfect carrier for roast veggies and marinades. I also love quinoa because it doesn’t feel too heavy after eating.
The cakes seem to have been bound together with cheese, which probably gave them that sort of salty flavour, and the crisp top and bottom of the cakes meant they pretty much held together when you cut in to them. They had a soft texture that almost melted in your mouth when paired with the meaty mushrooms.
The eggs were nearly perfect. Runny yolks and only a teeny tiny amount of bogey whites. The yolks were beautifully rich and I noticed after I’d finished that I didn’t add any black pepper to them: something that I normally do with a few bites. Everything was perfectly balanced and the tastes and textures married together splendidly in your mouth.
I know I keep going back to the mushrooms, but they really added something to the overall taste, without being overpoweringly mushroomy. I am notorious for adding mushrooms to meals for the flavour, only to pick them out half way through because I get bored of them, but in this instance, I’m glad for them being there.
As a meat eater, with an otherwise veggie brunch I sometimes want something a little more.
It was a really nice spot to spend a few hours and despite the staff all seeming to be confused by the concept I was eating alone, everyone was really friendly.
It was a more expensive treat and definitely on the higher end of the scale as far as brunch goes, but they go to great lengths to assure you that everything is seasonal and sourced locally, which is obviously going to come with a price tag.
I didn’t feel rushed to leave after I’d finished my meal and the girl looking after me was attentive, filling up my glass of water just as I’d be looking for more, checking on my meal within those first few crucial bites.
The only thing that let them down for me was the seeming lack of brunch options, although I don’t know if it was just a matter of timing, so perhaps I’ll be back a little earlier next time. I also love that you get a little packet of seeds to take home with you, this time I picked up some lettuce seeds (although I have just realised my plans of saving them to take back to Melbs are going to be scuppered by biosecurity at immigration…bollocks).