There’s something special about Orakei on a good day. Sun beaming down on the basin, sky tower in view, beers outside the Brothers Brewery, it's a pretty special spot. Down at the foot of the basin rising above the train tracks was the presumed abandoned warehouse, now fitted out to be the Eastern bays own version of Ponsonby Central with an equally healthy number of Land Rovers and BMW X5’s parked out front. Ampersand, one of the latest additions to the fast growing Orakei Bay Village is the new all day eatery stalwart changing the face of Orakei (quite literally). Part bistro, part roastery, part bar, Ampersand means serious business.
A collaboration between sommelier Amanda Rogers (ex-Sidart) and her partner; Bracu old boy; Mikey Newlands, Ampersand is a 120-seater designed by Ctrl Space, with a gorgeous hangar-style fit out and an open plan space to drool over, an intricately stocked bar splits the roastery from the restaurant. Behind the bar is a f***-off big coffee roaster standing guard, they've got Espresso Workshop on the brew, and the team can run a seamless operation of roastery and kitchen. This layout makes things a little confusing if you enter from the roll-doors beneath the Ampersand signage out front, make your way in from the forecourt of the village, where the maître d will formally greet you, although I’m never comfortable being call “sir”.
With what seems like a serious identity crisis going on, Ampersand sits in the realm of we-make-breakfast-but-we-don’t-want-to-bore-you-to-death; serving a rotating cast of dishes like Ramen before midday or the ever risky Crumpets; paired with a splash of we’re-sick-of-all-these-god-damn-food-adjectives, throwing caution into the wind on the trend of needing a dictionary to order a bloody sandwich (c/o The Hip Group), at Ampersand what you read on the menu is written in plain english, with no bulls***.
Don’t go into it expecting your regular menu, though. Although they like to keep it simple in language, the menu reflects anything but. Try the Burnt Honey Lamb Featherblade, lovingly prepared with burnt baby spinach, or the Fresh Stuffed pasta, because theres something supremely sexy about handmade carbs. There are satiable vegetarian and vegan options with an easy flexibility around gluten and dairy requirements (as every restaurant should).
This place is as large and intimidating as it is Instagrammable, if you're like me and you're finally halfway satisfied with how good Orakei can be, then you will love Ampersand. It’s what we needed in the lost suburb between the city and the bays, forever needing something in rolling distance of our front doors that will satisfy the hangover in its entirety. Get amongst, even if its just for coffee, it’s definitely worth a try.