Photographs: David Straight
I’ve been going to the Coromandel for as long as I can remember, to a fibrolite bach above a white-sand beach. For the longest time, the roads were gravel and we took everything in with us and there really wasn’t anywhere to eat, which suited us just fine because that wasn’t why we went. Still isn’t. There’s more to eat now and better shops and the New World in Whitianga stocks coconut milk and Israeli cous cous, but the best stuff in the Coromandel still has a rough-hewn, cobbled-together feel. That’s what keeps me going back – long may it last. SFG
Luke’s Kitchen opened in the tiny hamlet of Kuaotunu a couple of years back – it’s not much more than a bar, a pizza oven and a few awnings. Prep gets done in a portacom and you find your own seat outside (with consequent chaos in summer). It’s the perfect beach-side pizza shack, in other words. Pizzas are made from scratch and they’re pretty good too. Best of all, it’s BYO.
Also in Kuaotunu is the Kuaotunu Farmers’ Market, which is really just a handful of stalls outside the fire station on Saturday afternoons. I always stock up from The Ferretti Growers: beautiful organic produce; they can do you a box to pick up from Whitianga on Wednesdays. The pork from Waitaia Road Farm, meanwhile, is great. Heritage breeds, nicely fatty, raised 500 metres up the road.
When he’s not surfing, Coffee LaLa’s Mark Tughendaft – New Yorker, draft dodger, former potter, anti-mining advocate – roasts coffee on two handmade roasters in the bush near Kuaotunu. Cafes around the peninsula use his coffee but for bach supply, he’ll send it anywhere . His house blend is good, but ask nicely for his Sidamo single origin from Ethiopia.
The peninsula now has two craft brewers and they’re both good. The Coromandel Brewing Company brews at Hahei – I like the Easy Rider Pale Ale – and the Hot Water Brewing Co, which has a restaurant and bar near Hot Water Beach if you want it on tap, but but which is also – get this – canning beer. It’s crisp and well made. (You’ll find both beers at Liquorland in Whitianga, among other places.)
Nearby, be sure to drop in on Purangi Estate. Their wine is, frankly, awful – they’d probably admit as much – but the fruit liqueurs and cider are brilliant. The pizza’s not half bad but the setting makes it: a rustic timber building set among regenerating bush.
For something a bit flash, head to Motu Kitchen in a small house on a back street in Whitianga. Deft, classic food using local ingredients; the service is friendly and assured.
Don’t dally: Coro Pies usually sells out by 2pm, the more so if you’re after the legendary mussel pie – mussels in a white sauce, so wrong yet so right – or the steak, oyster and bacon, which is a thing of great beauty. 41 Wharf Road, Coromandel.
While you’re in town, stock up at the Coromandel Quality Butchers (55 Kapanga Rd) on the main street – ask for sirloin on the bone and their eyes will light up – and the Coromandel Smoking Co Two words: smoked mussels.