By Pauline Stewart.
Niklas Brandt (Nik) has been the Head Chef and Manager of Coro Club Café since last October. Soon it will be Coro Café Club and Bar as the Liquor Licence process is almost over and soon Niklas and the staff can serve a nice glass of wine of bubbly in those leisurely afternoon hours.
When I have visited Coro Club Café on many occasions, there are diners who have come to have a meal, a sweat treat or both, or travellers waiting to catch their Barrier Air flight, or friends who have just seen off a traveller on Barrier Air. The setting of the airport is very pleasant, and Niklas looks forward to more flights becoming regular. “There is so much potential to do more here,” he says.
Niklas came to New Zealand directly from his home country, Sweden in 2018.
He came to visit a friend in Hot Water Beach and thought after that he would travel a bit and see New Zealand. “I was only going to stay a couple of months, but it was too good. I was having such a great time. Then I got a job at Blue Ginger, which for me was a sign to stay, and at Blue Ginger I met my partner, Ainsley. That was another pretty definite sign to extend this holiday by a whole lot more. I have made some time to travel around New Zealand, but this is the place for me,” adds Nik.
The opportunity came up through Nik’s friend and now business partner to manage the Coro Club Cafe. He had not done the whole café thing before as in managing every aspect, but his experience in cuisine was extensive and so Nik decided he was up for the challenge. His main concern at that time, was catering for the taste palettes of those who love that traditional Kiwi style baking. He need not have worried. He bakes just about everything on offer at the Coro Club, the slices, cakes, muffins, scones and light sumptuous cinnamon rolls as well as the menu items are very popular.
“I might order in the wraps and the breads, but even then, I source high quality premium products and finished items.”
Niklas can’t remember when he wasn’t baking. “My first memory was peeling potatoes with my Grandma. She gave me a knife, not a peeler, and I felt good about that, as if I was really part of the cooking team.”
Niklas has been working as a chef since he finished his training after leaving school in Sweden. I had eight years in six different restaurants. In five years, I went from doing salads and cold food (chef de partie) to Head Chef. I was 24 when I became Head Chef. It was after eight years, that the travel bug got hold of him and that took Niklas to the South of France working on super yachts as a chef around the Mediterranean. “A Head Chef puts in a lot of work and attention to detail and taste are at the top of the list. Now, I am 34 with a lot of experience and the international work has been valuable for me here in New Zealand.”
Nik sees this café setting as ideal. “We have an event space that has in the past, been called, ‘The Flight Club Ballroom’ but now it is called, ‘The Main Hangar’. It has space for 150 people, so if you are looking at a wedding venue or a milestone Birthday, it’s ideal. What you have is a total blank canvas which you can decorate to be whatever you conceive. It is a really beautiful spot at night; you can add trees and big plants and lights - lots of lights. There’s room for tables and seats for 150 people. There is so much potential.” says Niklas enthusiastically.
He is looking forward to the Summer. The last few have not been so wonderful. Coro Club Café summer will be a lounge or garden atmosphere to relax in. “With the liquor licence, we will stay open a little bit longer. There is potential for evenings if we get that good summer. I believe, with a good summer, there will be many more flights and the airfield will expand and the runway improve.”
This is very good for the Aero Club because this is the club rooms for members of the Aero Club. “They come in for coffees and a snack or have a meeting here. If they have a event, we would cater for it.” But Niklas is keen for everyone to know that there is no club to join for the Coro Club Café. It’s not an airport club where you pay membership.
“Everyone is welcome here. The focus for now is to make Coro Cub café a destination for residents in Mercury Bay as well as visitors and travellers,” says Niklas. “I would admit that the broken SH25A highway has really affected us. Weekends have been down; traffic flow is slower than we expected. Price increases in supplies such as flour and sugar and other staples have gone up consistently beginning in Covid and greatly accentuated by the storm damage. You have to worry when this happens. You can’t bake and maintain the same price. But you can’t pass it all on either. What we won’t do is give way to cutting corners - that’s in quality of food and service.”
For the winter setup. Niklas has three other staff. In Summer, that number will more than double and he will also take on some young people wanting to learn who have a real penchant for baking and café work.
The distinctive European touch to Coro café is an attraction. One classic dish which has become very popular is Swedish Toast Skagen. Ainsley suggested to Niklas to describe it on the menu so people know what a traditional Swedish dish was. That has worked super well.
“We first served it last Christmas and it has grown from in popularity from there,” says Niklas.
“My message is come here and treat yourself. Come here and get a smile and great service. This is your destination café.”
Caption: Niklas Brandt (Nik) with his staff at the Coro Club located at the Whitianga Aero Club.