First Look: Scratch Headquarters
Photos by Ken Downie.
The rise and rise of café proprietors Steve and Sarah Vanderput has been one of the real pleasures of Auckland dining in recent years. They started by opening Newmarket’s Teed St Larder in 2009, and soon added Wai Kitchen and Little Wai on Waiheke Island and Toru in Ponsonby Central. Following a merger with Jonny McKessar’s Three Beans Coffee, the group, now known as V&M Cafes, opened K’ Rd’s Scullery and City Works Depot’s Scratch Bakers and Three Beans Roastery.
Smooth sailing? Not so much. With a rapidly growing bakery business, the miniscule kitchen out the back of Scratch Bakers was struggling to keep up. “Every time the bakers started work on something, they’d have to spend 10 minutes moving stuff to make room,” says Jonny. “We were getting so inefficient.” Worse, lack of capacity meant they were regularly turning away new business.
Enter Scratch Headquarters (aka “HQ”), a spacious new full-service café and bakery, tucked away on a side street off Wellesley St West. The site, formerly the home of Touchdown Productions/Eyeworks TV, is centred around a huge glass-windowed kitchen from which emerges the gorgeous baking Scratch is known for: crème brulee and fruit tarts, house-made pies, luscious cakes, loaves, quiches, brioches and much more. And now they’ve the space, there are plans to make their own bread too.
On the other side of the kitchen are the café team, headed by Steve and executive chef Andy McGregor. Theirs is yet another brilliantly creative V&M menu, full of the sort of things you can’t wait to eat. On our brunch list: the salted churros with manchego cheese, serrano ham and a poached egg; the spanner crab omelette with spiced coconut cream; and the potato waffle with beetroot-cured salmon, horseradish and poached eggs, shown above. Baked-to-order brioches are a speciality. Have them topped with serrano ham, white truffle butter and buffalo mozzarella (pictured above); with confit duck, oyster mushrooms and mascarpone; or with rhubarb, vanilla sugar and crème fraiche.
The lunch menu includes plenty of healthy, gluten-free options – Les Mills is just around the corner, after all – and dishes designed to appeal to even the most jaded café-going palate. Tired of pork belly? Try it with naked (hulless) barley, Urban Hippie miso, ginger and sesame. Over lamb and beef? Go for game, like Scratch HQ’s wild hare with brown rice, golden beetroot, kale and pecorino, or venison cutlet with potato puree, salsa verde and anchovies.
The fitout is by Laura Smith, a talented interior designer and art director (her film credits include the comedy horror Housebound) who previously worked with Steve and Jonny on their City Works Depot sites. The feel she’s created for HQ is lived-in with a touch of luxury: exposed brick, raw wood and big linen cushions, perfect for winter snuggling. At the back of the room is Three Beans’ distribution centre (the beans will continue to be roasted at City Works Depot) and in a few weeks the outdoor courtyard will be complete. It’s been a long road – the place was originally scheduled to open back in February – but Steve, Jonny and the team have done it. And we couldn’t be more impressed.
5 Graham St
Open 7 days. Monday-Friday 7am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-3pm.