The funky neighbourhood eatery is something we all need: a pleasant place to hang out not too far from home, see friends and neighbours, eat and drink a bit...not necessarily a lot.
But let’s face it, Joseph and Kirsty Goddard have a better neighbourhood to work with than most of us inner city or suburb-dwellers - with golden sands and blue sea, just a scamper across the road. Tay Street Beach Cafe sits on the corner of Tay Street and Marine Parade, the splendid seaside drive that leads past the very Californian boardwalk at Main Beach. Once you leave the boardwalk behind heading south, sand dunes front the fabled white sands beach.
Joseph and Kirsty, who for many years managed highly regarded Astrolabe in downtown Mount Maunganui, shrewdly identified a market at this end of the Parade, away from the bustling cafe culture of the Twin Towers at the base of Mauao (the Mount). Tay Street Cafe is “out on its own” says Joseph, in an area which is primarily residential, well away from the normal restaurant-cafe strip, and also quite a distance from Papamoa.
The couple set out to focus first and foremost on a local neighbourhood eatery and cafe, and the number of patrons – double their expectations – suggests they’ve got the formula right. Joseph Goddard says the location made designing their cafe with a “beachy feel” somewhat simple to achieve. Because it was a new building with lots of windows and big glass doors they didn’t need to go overboard on design. “We had views of the beach across the road, you know?” And with outside decks “we liked what was there already.”
The Goddards designed the decor of the cafe around the purchase of three chairs, the same chair in three different colours – white, orange and charcoal. They opted to buy them first, rather than leave chairs and tables to the last, at the point of running out money, like many operators, after set up costs. “They were something a bit different and funky and no one else was going to have,” says Joseph, providing a “sort of beachy, bachy feel.” Stripy coloured squabs on the bench seats in the outdoor courtyard also evoke 60’s Kiwi bach.
In line with a simple decor, the Goddards drew up a menu featuring what they’ve described as recession-proof prices. “People seem to appreciate the fact that they can come in and eat, and have a glass of wine for under $30 a head, ” says Joseph, “and they’ll come back two or three times a week as opposed to going out once a week, or month, and making it a special event. ”
The all day menu has only two dishes over $20 – the Tay Beef ‘n Reef at $25 and the Seafood Paella for $22. There are 12 dishes to choose from with all available as a takeaway. Suitably, for a seaside spot, five are seafood, including beer-battered fish. The remainder cover the usual meaty bases of chicken, chicken, lamb, pork and beef. The Crispy Pork Belly – with a udon noodle and bok choy stir fry and soy miso dressing (also available in a vegetarian option), has already emerged as a firm favourite. Note to parents: the cafe caters for youngsters with smaller ‘kids options.’
As a big fan of seafood laksa, I was more than satisfied with my $15 model. For a start, it came with some of the freshest vegetables I’ve encountered in this dish, (including coriander that’ll go limp and discolour at the drop of a chef’s hat.) The not ungenerous seafood content ran to chunks of salmon, scallops, and large, plump and delectable prawns. The amount of chilli and coriander were about right: producing a warm spicy glow without the need to fight fires with ice water.
Tay Street has a more than adequate wine list that won’t grievously injure your wallet. There’s about a dozen wines to choose from under the $40 mark, with prices ranging from $32 for a bottle of locally produced Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet, to the classic French bubbly, Pol Roger Brut Reserve at $115. The cafe is fully licensed with a variety of beers and spirits, plus juices and coffees for non drinkers and detoxers.
The couple’s concept was a place where you can go and “graze,” on a spur of the moment decision. “It’s not a big event – you’re not planning it weeks in advance. You just decide ‘tonight I want to go out for dinner,’ and you just go out.”
Making the menu affordable is all about how your structure your food and menu, says Joesph, adding that a lot of restaurants have got carried away, charging $35 for mains which have a lot of ingredients to make the dish complicated, “but it doesn’t always make it taste well.”
Joesph Goddard acknowledges that in gauging their success, it’s still early day, and cites the beachside location as probably a big factor in drawing customers. But he points to other moves, such as providing table service, instead of the order-at-the-counter of most cafes. It’s great to have had the support of local residents, he notes, and they’ve also drawn customers who are holidaymakers, staying at the local timeshare and apartments nearby.
Citing a combination of luck, hard work and lots of preparation, they “just might have struck the right sort of chord – in terms of design, location, food and the service concept. ” ( Review by Grant Dyson)
Tay Street Beach Cafe – Cnr Tay Street & Marine Parade, tel 572 0691
Opening hours: 8 am to 10 pm daily (4 pm Sunday)