I’ve been around a while but there are so many things I still don’t know. For instance, when I first passed the Woodturners Cafe, it occurred to me that I had only a vague idea of what a woodturner actually did and how he or she might differ from a carver, sculptor or a cabinetmaker.
And so I asked the oracle (not Google ), who gave me a married look and then set me straight. On the way back from Tauranga, we’d called into this mustard-coloured homestyle building on SH2.
There were no lathes or logs of wood lying around and no craftsman at work. Co-owner Blair Mattock told me the name came from the cafe’s beginnings in the 1990s. “The old woodturner who lived in this house worked in his garage,” he said.
“When passing travellers started calling in to see his stuff, his wife hit upon the idea of selling them tea and scones, which she served in the front room. The old 1942 house has been a cafe ever since.”
Sixteen years ago Blair was the local policeman in Ngatea when he and wife Lorraine bought the cafe and five acres of land, and Lorraine set about using her catering skills. The business grew.
“At first there was just Lorraine plus one,” said Blair, “A few years later, the cafe had become so popular that, at times, she needed more than 20 staff. And 10 years ago, I left the police force to join them because the cafe had become so busy. Lorraine said it was either that or sell.”
The cottage has been extended by two large covered verandas that catch the sun. More tables are set in the garden. There is a large playground with its own little-people’s house and a dog enclosure where pooches can exercise while their owners down their lunch.
Inside, the cottage feel is not lost. Small rooms open into each other and are furnished with old oak tables and comfortable lounge chairs. An enclosed area caters for smaller rugrats, which must be a great relief to their parents.
The ambience is homely, casual and inviting and I liked the quirky touches in the décor such as the door handles made from meat cleavers and the row of faux cuckoo clocks decorating one wall.
On another wall is a gallery of prints depicting horses, stockmen and rural scenes executed by the talented equine artist, Julie Greig who lives in Burkes Pass. Eventually, there was so much traffic in and out of the cafe that the owners decided to set up shop.
And now there are several walls of shelves that stock nick-nacks such as handbags, cosmetics, soft toys, jams and jellies. I’m a fussy java addict and the coffee here passed the test.
The food isn’t flashy but wholesome and interesting. Among the chalkboard breakfast offerings were filled bagels, creamed mushrooms, and blueberry pancakes, and for lunch toasted sandwiches, corn fritters, salads, and fish and chips.
There’s also an expansive cabinet selection.“We cater for the travelling public,” said Blair. “They can come in, grab what they want and go, but we find that most people, even if they intended otherwise, change their minds and take a break. I think the relaxed ambience of the cafe encourages that.”
There are longer stayers too. The large car park adjacent to the cafe is also a Park Over Property (gold coin donation). It’s not the quietest spot – although traffic lessens after dark – but is conveniently halfway between Tauranga and Auckland.
It was Sunday when I called into the cafe and the atmosphere was lively. Patrons settled in around the tables inside. On the verandas, see-through awnings gave protection from a cool breeze that skimmed in from the hills.
The car park was nearly full, children swarmed over the playground, a couple of canines padded around the dog pen, and in the adjacent paddock, patchwork cows chomped at abundant grasses. All round it was picture of contentment. The woodturner’s wife would never have known what she’d started.
Win a lunch voucher at Woodturners cafe, valued at $70
Enjoy lunch at Woodturners Cafe! We have a voucher valued at $70 to give away! Enter here before 26 July, 2019.