By Pauline Stewart
Five year birthday at Hula with Winter Lunch menu.
Hula Cafe is five years old and inviting Mercury Bay to enjoy their Winter birthday lunch menu for August. Five years ago this month, Gabriel and Rachel Johnson opened the doors of their café after arriving from Wellington. They are celebrating by offering a $15 lunch menu. It’s very enticing and generous and The Informer decided to print it so that you can come and enjoy.
Hula Café sits on Albert Street just a few metres from Buffalo Beach Road, right next to Buffalo Beach 4 Square and the BB takeaways. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 7.30am to 2.00pm with the winter lunch menu commencing at 11.00am. The winter sun bathes the customers on these winter mornings and the garden bar area to the side, with very comfy seating, is protected from breezes.
Hula is marked by its relaxed hospitality and all the menu and cabinet food has been prepared, baked or cooked in Hula’s kitchen. “We don’t believe that food establishments should buy pre-made food and re-sell it to customers. Our industry is quickly moving that way. Yes, it’s a lot more hard work, but really worth it.”
Rachel and Gabe are trained and experienced chefs and enthusiasts for fresh, seasonal, fermented and preserved foods. “We cook to the season, and we make our own home-made chai, hot chocolate sauce, chutney’s, sauces, kimchi and sauerkraut. We believe in the diversity of food that we create ourselves. We also use Bread Mobile, locally handmade organic sourdough for our breakfast and toasties. Gabe and Rachel both trained in hospitality and met though their love of hospitality. This genuine love of preparing food and providing an atmosphere of relaxed community is the bedrock of their ‘laid back’ commitment to make a success of their family café. Before coming to Whitianga, they ran a very successful café in Wellington, Baobab Café, similar to Hula, but they were looking for a warmer climate and a smaller community to develop their hospitality business and for their children Isaiah and Sairee to experience. They love Whitianga and their family has grown to include three-year-old Tobias.
Evening events: Last Saturday night, beginning at 5.00pm, Hula café opened its door to the town for another of their very special music and dinner evenings. Stuart Pedley was the featured artist. The timing enables families to come and enjoy a meal in very relaxed surroundings emanating from the outdoor garden restaurant area. The air might be a little crisp, but a good drink warms the body as does the brazier fire which is a toasty visual experience to add to everyone’s enjoyment of the music. There’s no tension at Hula, just relaxed people enjoying their food, the company which is all ages, and the music. Stuart Pedley’s music definitely warms the heart and cheers everyone and his signature of punctuating his concert performance with lyrics that has everyone thinking carefully about their world and their neighbours, is much appreciated.
The Future: In terms of their business, these last three years have been a struggle for the Johnson family as it has with other restaurants and cafes – perhaps even more so with their geographical location near the beach end of Albert Street away from the commercial area of town.
“We hope that our end of Albert Street, which is really the beginning of Albert Street, will be included in future street festival events,” says Gabe. “Last time, for Matariki, the street was closed off in such a way to exclude this part. We understand we are at a short distance from central, but we have a youthful vibe here and with Buffalo Beach Takeaways next door and 4 Square and adding a stage for music, we could offer something special extending to the beach.”
Music: The Johnson family also bring their music to Hula Café and the community. Gabriel is the bass guitarist in Corrosive Moses, a very popular local band, and Isaiah plays drums in another band with his school friends. Rachel is also a DJ and is planning some low-key garden sessions for the spring. To find out about what's going on, check out Hula's socials, - Facebook & Instagram - for upcoming music events or have a look at the posters in Hula's window next time you're passing by.
We say ‘well done’ to Hula, and Gabe and Rachel look forward to seeing many on the Peninsula for lunch or brunch.
Caption: Hula Logo.