Service Magazine Article - March
Reproduced with permission -
Subject to copyright in its entirety.
Coming up roses
Despite how isolated it
is, this newly opened sustainability-focused cafe
continues to flourish, thanks to the locals, writes Kathy Cumming.
Anyone who’s been to Great
Barrier Island in the summertime would be forgiven for wondering why Kiwis
bother with Rarotonga and Fiji. Generally one or two degrees warmer than the
mainland, with azure seas, an abundance of catchable seafood and a laid-back
ambience, Great Barrier may be just 90km from Auckland, but it feels more
like a million miles.
Perhaps in keeping with
this other worldliness, cafe culture on the island has been fairly limited
over the years, with Claris Texas on the island’s east side the best bet for
a caffeine fix. But what of the west side?
Wild Rose opened for
business in Tryphena in June last year. Adjoined to the local grocery store
and gift shop, the cafe is open seven days from 8:30am to 4pm and is also
experimenting with staying open weekend nights during the summer. With a
wrap-around veranda dropping off to a large lawn – all just metres from
idyllic Pa Beach – it’s the kind of locale most cafe proprietors can only
Wild Rose co-owner Pauline
Bellerby, who’s lived on the island for 28 years, says her vision was “to
create a nice atmosphere, employ local people and use as much local produce
as possible. And we wanted something that reflected Barrier food, that is
healthy food that could actually see you through the day.”
Here's a sample of what was
on offer one Saturday when I visited: Homemade Wild Rose Muesli, All Day
Barrier Breakfast, Lentil Burgers and Corn-fed Chicken Salad. The counter is
laden with freshly baked cakes and muffins, and a barbecue is planned for
also has a thing for roses (she has 60 varieties in her garden at home) and
it shows. They’re bursting in the garden, fresh in vases on every table, and
embossed on menus and crockery. If it sounds too cute, it’s not. Certainly
the gumboot-clad, bush-shirted locals don’t seem to mind the floral bent. In
fact it’s been the popularity of the cafe among locals that’s seen Wild Rose
through a tough first few months.
On opening night, most of
Tryphena was there (which is about 50 people). A waiata was sung and the
first cups of tea – made from a blend of Rooibos with Kanuka tea-tree – were
poured. The place has been a regular gathering spot ever since. “When we
opened, all the locals brought in rose stuff – cushions, presents and little
spoons. They were really excited to have somewhere nice to go.”
Bellerby says there are two
very distinct markets – Barrier residents in the winter and tourists in the
summer. “It was a huge risk to open in the middle of the winter,” she
admits. “It was hard. But all businesses on the Barrier struggle in the
winter. Fortunately none of us came here to get rich!”
Tea was a top priority from
the word go. “We aren’t coffee drinkers, so we really wanted to have nice
teas. In town they just give you a teabag and a cup. All our tea is organic
and loose leaf, and we serve it in real teapots, with real teacups.” Indeed,
tea-swilling regains its ritual status at Wild Rose. The lavish trays
brought out would be just as well placed at one of Marie Antoinette’s lawn
parties as at Tryphena.
Bellerby and her business
partner, Eve Woodward-Gray, are sustainability-focused. “We use organic
where we can and don’t use any chemicals.” Wild Rose is one of only a few
cafes in New Zealand trialling a non-chemical commercial dishwashing liquid.
Bellerby says this was difficult to source, but she became committed to the
concept when she discovered that the standard dishwashing product required
its own toxic chemical truck for delivery.
She says eschewing
commercial cleaning products means more “elbow grease” is required for
scrubbing elements – “white vinegar is a big help”– and more time for things
like backwashing the coffee machine rather than rinsing it with the usual
product. But she says the Barrier is all about “clean, green living” and she
wanted the cafe to reflect that. The island has no reticulated electricity,
so the cafe runs off a generator.
While most vegetables are
sourced locally, many provisions must still come by boat. Weather Gods
permitting, it brings in supplies once a week. It’s an expensive way to
source food and a key driver for finding food locally. As well as a handful
of part-time staff, the cafe employs two full-time cooks. One of them is Kat
Belcher, who says the key is stocking up on supplies in case the boat is
we have to just make use of what we’ve got.”
All eggs used at Wild Rose
are free range and mostly
from the island. Meat is brought in from Auckland. As with many New Zealand
coastal towns, there exists the cruel irony of not having easy access to
fresh, cheap, commercially caught fish, despite its proximity.
Bellerby says the law
requires all those buying fish from companies with quotas to have a fish
receiver’s licence and it’s only really financially viable for big
processors to have them. So, most fish caught commercially around Great
Barrier goes back to the mainland to be processed. It may then return to the
island for sale, but by that time you’re paying full price, plus a premium
for the food miles. Bellerby sometimes doesn't even know if the fish she
ends up getting is Barrier fish.
Sliding the pitfalls of
isolation aside, Bellerby says she's happy with the way Wild Rose is going.
There’s a “good vibe” at the cafe and most importantly, it’s brought the
Left: The ocean is just
across the road.
sign outside by local artist John Kjargaard. Above: Cook Kat Belcher