New Tamahere eatery, Punnet Cafe, has been favourably reviewed by Waikato Times columnist Denise Irvine.
“Although it’s early days, Punnet looks to be going well,” concluded Irvine who gave the 337 Newell Rd, Tamahere cafe a bonus for “location, location, location”.
“When a fourth person mentioned they’d enjoyed Tamahere’s Punnet Cafe recently, it seemed important to check out the rural eatery,” Irvine wrote in her Stir it up column in Saturday’s Waikato Times.
Irvine recapped the history of the cafe at The Strawberry Farm (click here to ready earlier story), which opened in February. Established by strawberry grower Gary McMahon and business partner Tammy Goodman, it had been “well discovered” in the short time since its opening, she said.
We turned up for lunch about 1pm without booking, and it looked like our drive may have been in vain. The indoor and outdoor areas seemed pretty full, but our waiter sorted out a table and we were okay.
The lunchtime burst created the only hitch. Staff were busy – with a couple of big parties among the customers – and it took a while for someone to bring water and take our orders. Our waiter apologised charmingly when he finally reappeared (they were apparently one staff member down), and from there on the service flowed smoothly.
Punnet, “a small basket for fruit” (as the cafe logo reminds us), is firmly connected to its strawberry roots. Images of the berry decorate light shades and cushions, and the rustic-yet-stylish corrugated iron cafe building is perfectly suited to this rural location.
The menu is rustic-yet-stylish as well. Simple, modern New Zealand, quality ingredients and flavours: seven choices each for brunch and lunch, plus a few starters and sides. You can see the hand of an experienced cafe team. Brunch includes salmon scramble, creamy mushrooms, hot cakes, mixed grill and muesli. Lunch has salmon fillet, risotto, scallops, beef sandwich, rack of lamb, fish-of-the-day nicoise salad and chicken salad. The wine list has some interesting choices, but there’s an opportunity here for Tamahere wines to be included. Producers Mystery Creek, Hilltop and Lane’s End are in the neighbourhood, and some of their wines could go down well as a regular local special.
Back to the food, and I must say it was very good. Bill ordered the rack of lamb which grilled courgettes, salsa verde and date and orange couscous ($23) and I had the scallops, served with chorizo, baby potatoes, sauteed sliver of almonds and leeks, and hollandaise to pull it all together ($17).
The lamb was perfectly pink, the accompanying flavours simple and delicious. Some chefs say you need only three or so decent flavours on a plate, any more and you risk over-gilding the lily. The lamb was spot on in this respect, the scallops close behind. They were beautifully cooked, the dish a mix of subtle and bold flavours (the spicy chorizo was very good), and the almonds and leeks provided nice bursts of texture and taste. My only quibble might be that the leeks were a little overdone, more spiky than silky.
These were generous portions. Prices are about what you’d expect; most lunch dishes are around $17, and the lamb is the top price. Brunches range from $12 – $19.
I was delighted to find Punnet using my favourite Coffee LaLa from a roastery deep in the bush on the Coromandel Peninsula. There is a lineup of good-looking sweet treats available, some using the local berries. We passed on these in favour of a strawberry ice cream from the adjacent kiosk.
Starting an eatery from scratch is hard work. Although, it’s early days, Punnet looks to be going well.
What: Punnet, 337 Newell Rd, Tamahere. Ph 07 838 1901, open daily, 8am – 4pm, licensed.
Eat: Simple, modern food with rustic twist. Cooked and served with care.
Service: Friendly, helpful, a little strained over the peak period when we were there.
Drink: Well chosen range of wine, beer, fruit drinks and more. Room for some Waikato wines.
Bonus: Location, location, location.