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Cafe perfection

February 8, 2010

As you will have noticed, I don’t really do very many reviews of cafes on this blog. To date, this is usually because most things at cafes do not impress me much, and what’s to say about an overpriced dry muffin that must be consumed in a pretentious yet somehow also tacky surroundings? Uni cafes, I am looking at you (although 101 does do *some* good food admittedly). Thus it was with some trepidation that Ro and I visited a cafe called Beauvais today, in Avonhead (we tried to go to a tea house which it turns out has been closed since 2008. Woops), as a second choice. As soon as I entered and took a glance at the cabinet though, I was impressed. Everything was well presented and looked home made, but what was this?! Affordable pricing?! At a cafe?! (Scroll to bottom to see these, although my memory is a little fuzzy as the blood rushes downward to digest the insane amount of food I ate). This is why I must share this place with anyone who loves good food but doesn’t have the benefit of Daddy’s plastic (not that there is anything wrong with getting lunch shouted by your parents at this place. No doubt they will be impressed with your impeccable taste and have to invite you many more times to thank you for introducing them to the place).

This is one of the few cafes that has an excellent balance of cafe and restaurant. The cabinet has exciting sweet temptations at affordable prices (50c for hazelnut biscotti meringues, drizzled with espresso…I thought I was dreaming! $2 for a small but heavenly slice of the kind of chocolate tart you normally get charged $12 a plate for), and you can see that the bread is home made. Even the muffins looked moist and the flavour combination (lemon and white chocolate) was unique without sounding weird and over-adventurous. And oh. My. God. The breakfast and lunch menu?! Why, it featured such delectable options such as brioche and orange butter pancakes for breakfast, and prawn and lemon risotto for lunch. So. Ro and I started with those delectable meringues (the espresso was a lovely touch and I don’t know how, but it didn’t make the meringue soggy. These people are magic!), and a piece of chocolate tart each. Holy heaven, the crust was so thin I could almost see the chocolate through it! And the filling! Airy and light yet decadently moist and rich, and best of all, still mouthwateringly chocolatey! Plus somehow there was a little bit of crunch from the edges, a good touch. The meringue was splendidly crisp and airy and the hint of hazelnut and espresso a match made in heaven, and I’m not even a fan of meringue – I was drawn to the hazelnut! Then our massive iced coffees arrived, and they were amazing too! I was worried the mains would be where the excellence stopped – surely you can’t get everything right?

Out came the prawn and lemon risotto and the mushroom and parmesan gnocchi (in good time), on very large plates considering we were lunching, and both first bites were accompanied by the sort of eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-head that is normally reserved for excessively priced French desserts. The lemon and prawns were a perfect combination that cut back on the excess of a risotto. The perfectly cooked mushrooms in the gnocchi and generous amount of creamy sauce and parmesan, plus the pillowy and perfectly cooked gnocchi (yes, I am using “perfect” a lot, and I normally don’t, so listen up!), almost made me want to cry like an orphan that had just been offered their first piece of chocolate. This is what all cafes should be. Passionate about their food. Smiley, attentive people who clearly care about the food too. Gorgeous, polished setting. Clean. Well styled. With a vege garden (and that made me want to cry like…like…with pure joy). The outdoor area was nicely enclosed so you couldn’t see any traffic, and there were wooden and gorgeous wrought iron tables with clean tiles and options for those who liked sun and those who loved sun before sunburn. The indoors has comfy, modern chairs with tasteful artwork and nice dark wooden tables. The people were just lovely and you could see they were excited about the food and working at such a fabulous establishment. One of the ladies even noticed we had the wrong cutlery for our gnocchi and risotto, and immediately rectified this before our mains arrived. We also paid after our meals, which is always nice and reassuring. There’s nothing worse than arguing with waitresses once you’ve already paid, not that that would be a concern here. The professional genius, as it turns out, partly comes from the head chef who used to work at Rotherhams on Riccarton, and Beauvais is an attempt at affordably priced foodie food. I’ve been to Rotherhams before and I can say quite frankly that this place takes the cake, easily.

Oh me! Oh my! I came out a different person! Quite literally considering I changed into looser pants as soon as I got home.

You have yourself some regulars, Beauvais.

Beauvais (espresso, breakfast, lunch)
186 Yaldhurst Rd, Christchurch, New Zealand
Ph 03 342 4283

Hazelnut biscotti espresso meringues, 50c each (say what?!)
Decadent chocolate tart, $2 a slice
Iced coffee, $4.90
Lemon, prawn and parmesan risotto, $17.50
Mushroom parmesan gnocchi in a creamy sauce, $17.50

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