Dew Drop Inn in Matamata
The baking team
If you like quirk with your coffee, call into the Dew Drop Inn in Matamata. I thought the name was clever. As well as the pun, it is very much in keeping with the theme of the small North Island town that now refers to itself as Hobbiton. The inn, which is, of course, a cafe, is on Hetana Street opposite the tourist i-Site. I’d noticed the curious exterior before—the rough timber beams, wheel-shaped windows, and painted stones and thatch that emulate a Hobbit dwelling—but it seemed that every time I’d passed through the town, the cafe was closed. New owner, Mariette van Groon, now throws the small doors open every day and entices peckish people inside with the tantalising aroma of home baking. The interior’s small size is like a cave, and to emphasise the illusion, one interior wall is covered in a realistic mural of the inside of a Hobbit house. On a rack is a selection of Hobbit clothing and props, complete with large faux ears. For a five-dollar donation, patrons can dress up, have their photographs taken seated in front of the painting, and pretend for a moment they are their favourite character from Tolkein’s famous story. One of the two courtyards that flank the cafe is also a dog bar with water bowls and a short canine menu. Food for humans at the Dew Drop Inn is healthy, innovative, and made in the kitchen behind the counter. “I only serve food that I would want to eat myself,” Mariette says. She displays a special offer on a pavement blackboard every day. The day I visited, it was one-dollar muffins. Mine was ginger and rhubarb, a light and tasty morsel that was the best cafe muffin I’d had in a long while. Only weight control stopped me from ordering Bilbo’s apple pie, Gandolf’s red velvet cupcakes, or Mrs Baggins’ ginger loaf. Tolkein had the Hobbits eating cram honey cakes and lembas bread that had life-sustaining qualities. Those recipes are, of course, highly secret. Mariette’s muffins might not have sustained my life but I left the Dew Drop Inn in good spirits and fortified for the onward journey.