Here’s some news so new that Google doesn’t know it: Kokako Café has rebranded. The space at 492 Parnell Road is now known as Domain and Ayr.
No longer run by the guy who owns the Kokako roastery, the newly-named café still serves the same excellent coffee. But the change is bigger than just in name: Domain and Ayr serves meat.
Kokako had never advertised itself as vegetarian, and more than once I overheard new visitors surprised at the lack of bacon on the menu. Having changed hands a couple of times since its original owners decided to keep meat off the menu, it was probably inevitable that the question would come up again.
And so it has. The new menu doesn’t just add meat, but goes into all kinds of locavore detail about which New Zealand organic farms the animals were raised by.
Prices are also a little more expensive than they have been previously (not just because there are animal options – a side of vegetarian sausages somehow costs more than ‘free-range bacon’ or ‘house smoked citrus salmon’, and a half-avocado is almost $5).
I tried a vegan Ayr Breakfast the other day. It’s not clear from the menu whether it’s cooked that way by default, but they were happy to make it vegan.
The Ayr was a plate of fresh, simple flavours: 7-grain toast, oven-dried tomatoes, brown button mushrooms, crushed peas, herb hash browns and vegetarian sausages that might have been Bean Supreme.
The food was actually much better than it has been in recent months – perhaps because the business owners are now designing the menu they want rather than riffing off the vegetarian one they inherited.
I have really mixed feelings on this change. The move from vegetarian to trendy locavore organic meat is pretty disappointing – there are so few vegetarian cafés in this town that the owners could so easily have decided to build on their history and focus on developing an amazing vegetarian menu – even marketing specifically to vegans, who are always hungry for more options. On the other hand, so far I prefer the vegan breakfast they’re making now that they’re not restricted to cooking in a way they seemingly don’t care about.
So: there’s a new vegan breakfast option in town, but one less vegetarian business.
Edited to add: since writing this post, Domain and Ayr has changed their vegetarian sausage supplier, and I’m not sure whether they’re still vegan. Please check before ordering, and definitely make it clear if ordering that you’re vegan. Nothing is usually labelled as vegan at this place, so you can’t assume.