Clifton Cafe in Te Awanga is the furthermost cafe on the Hawke’s Bay coastline offering sensational undisturbed views out to Cape Kidnappers and back towards Napier city. Driving through Te Awanga, reminds me of a bygone era of New Zealand beach life. The suburb is little changed from my childhood holiday memories here. Of course, there have been some new arrivals like Elephant Hill juxtaposed next to Te Awanga’s oldest winery Clearview, but the seaside holiday vibe Clifton evokes has been preserved.
Sue and her husband have been at the helm at Clifton Cafe for just a few weeks, making some well needed tweaks to the cafe to enhance the experience. Sue and Trevor started
looking for a business they could do together, that played to their strengths. “Around 8 years ago I was restaurant manager at Clearview, before retiring briefly, then came back to complete a five year stint at Black Barn managing the River Room and out catered functions.” Trevor works at Unison, but you might see him behind the bar. “When he’s here, people will come up and speak to him about hiring for functions, they don’t feel they’re interrupting.”
When you walk into Clifton Cafe, you probably won’t notice any big differences but there are plenty that have been made including a broader cabinet selection, a drinks and ice cream fridge and a specialty selection of treats for kids. “All the baking is made on site, beautiful lemon slice, ginger crunch, lots of different variety of scones and muffins and it changes every day, there’s more selection in the cabinet too.” The kids biscuits
today are pig-themed with the owl biscuits about to be added to the selection alongside the kids 50c ‘chocolate spoons’. “They’re great to pop in and get on the way to the beach.” says Sue. Children of all ages have lots of options to keep them busy including a toy box, books, a trampoline and even a retro swing ball set. “We love seeing fathers out with their kids playing swing ball.” The new kids menu offers healthier options than just the usual crumbed frozen hoki bites. “There’s a picnic box for kids too.”
While head chef Ben Saunders is finishing things up in the kitchen with his fellow chefs Anthony Lemon and Mandy Tiopira, I ask Sue what feedback she is hearing from the locals as they enter the refreshed cafe. “The feedback has been great, locals are excited. They’re saying it seems brighter, cleaner and friendlier. A couple of Sundays ago we served 190 meals, and it started about 10am and then at 2pm the wind came up and everyone moved inside so there was an absolute buzz here.” The plastic internal wall has gone so everything is open and the best corner for the view and sun is open to the whole cafe. I also notice a quiet reading area stacked with subscription magazines behind the new fireside couches we’re relaxing on. Ben joins us and I ask him to tell me about the menu. “Everything is new on the breakfast and lunch menu. It’s been totally revamped. I think the main focus of what
we’re trying to achieve is everything is super fresh. We don’t use processed food. Everything including the burgers is made from scratch. We’re proud of everything we put up.” says Ben. One dish I hadn’t seen before is the fried porridge on the breakfast menu. Ben clocks my facial expression and says “That’s how everyone reacts. Everyone who’s tried it has then been blown away.” says Ben. Breakfast starts at 9am and is available till 1130am. I try the fried porridge and it’s got all the flavours you’d expect of bacon and banana pancakes, but with a luscious creamy texture revealed in the fried oat bars. You have to try it!
Clifton’s friendliness extends to requests if your dish needs to be x-free, whether the x is gluten, dairy, nut or otherwise. “There’s always a gluten free cake available and dairy free options, we can do pan fried fish and chips as well. Don’t be afraid to ask.” says Ben. “The popular lunchtime dishes are currently the fish cakes, arancini (stuffed risotto balls) and people are really positive on the salads too.” adds Sue. The lunch menu starts at 11am and there’s plenty of options if you arrive after lunch finishes at 3pm. Clifton Cafe stays open for afternoon coffees and baking until 4pm or an early glass of wine, opening seven days starting beginning of October coinciding with the start of the school holidays. When you arrive, you will most likely be greeted by Dachet who is also resident artist and it shows with her coffee cup art.
Going into summer there will be a new menu and new wine list inspired by the Hawke’s Bay Boutique Winemakers. Clearview’s range and Black Barn Pinot Gris are the house wines available by the glass . ”We want to make people feel welcome and you can expect to get a good meal no matter how busy we get throughout the year.” says Ben. A locals tip for summer is if you’re in a hurry, pick something up from the cabinet and head down to the beach then get on your way.
For those looking to make a day of it on the East Coast, here’s five FREE ideas to inspire your next weekend out at Clifton:
1. Walk from Clifton up to Cape Kidnappers with the family finishing up with a late lunch at Clifton Cafe.
2. Put your bikes on the back of the car and offload to start your ride at the Black Black Bridge. Cycle the 10km to Clifton Cafe and reward yourself with a late lunch wine or beer. On the way back, stop in at Elephant Hill and Clearview Winery for wine tasting. No bikes? Hire cruisers from Coastal Wine Cycles.
3. Let the kids feed the animals at the Farmyard Zoo for $1. No bookings needed, just drop in on the way.
4. When it’s berry season again, go and say hi to the team at the Berry Farm. You can even pick your own raspberries and boysenberries sometimes!
5. Make Clifton Cafe the end point for your next Art Gallery tour. If you come through Clive, Haumoana and Te Awanga stop at one of these nine boutique art galleries you may not have seen for a while.