One morning at work an Australian woman came in and asked me, ‘Where is a good, locally owned, place to get a substantial lunch from in the surrounding area?’ Working on Federal Street, I rattled through the usual. She asked where I would get a burger and I thought of Burger Fuel or Velvet Burger- but warned they were just franchises. I recommended Chuffed on High but, even in hindsight, was stretched to think of many more failsafe downtown cafés. To reach Auckland’s real lunching gold, I would argue, you need to hop on a bus and hit the fringe suburbs. The central city has no competition for the goldmine of relaxation found on the Outer Link bus circuit.
Exhibit A! RAD café on Mt Eden Road is awesome. All you need is a one-stage bus fare and you’re there. If you’re flamboyantly adventurous you could even walk, a short trip past the end of Symonds Street. The trek is worth it. The only place in Auckland to serve Wellington’s famed (and delicious) Flight Coffee- my snob-senses were simmering from the first step. The coffee is great, served in an appropriately large mug. The food is excellent as well; my co-eater in chief went full on white girl and got a chicken, kale and quinoa salad, which, I was assured, was superb. I had one of the best Vietnamese Banh Mi I’ve had, fantastically balanced flavours, large chunks of chillis’ offset by long slices of turnip, carrot and cucumber. I 100% recommend this, a house specialty well worth the twelve dollars.
Photo cred here
The interior is awesome as well; they have a theme of nostalgic and simple carried through the restaurant. You sit on wooden chairs at wooden tables, your table numbers are constructed out of Lego and there are large photos of Storm troopers on one of the walls. It’s all cubic and looks pieced together in a very cohesive way so that you notice all the little touches but it doesn’t look in your face or at all childish. Especially when the woman at the counter passed me my little ‘15’ made from Lego, it was as if it was the most normal thing. The service is super chill as well. Everyone looked smart in their uniforms and genuinely happy. The place has an awesome buzz.
RAD is part of a Pantheon of cafes and eateries around the hem of the central city. Its awesome, with great food and amazing coffee but it’s just out of reach of a quick lunch trip without necessitating a journey- even if that journey is pretty small. I would argue that, in order to create a better more (sorry for the horrendous cliché) liveable city, more of these sorts of places should be enticed to open up in the central city. Although I’ll happily take the trip out to Mt Eden or Ponsonby to enjoy a lunch with a couple friends, it would be far more seamless if that top quality eating spot were a five-minute walk from Queen Street. Auckland could transform from a city of expansive suburbs necessitating exploration to become more metropolitan and focused. All that said, RAD’s location is through no fault of their own. And to be honest, it’s no big hike if you’re based out that way anyway. I would definitely recommend.
" Rad is more than just comfy sneakers, cruisy bikes, trampolines or the occasional spontaneous skinny dip, Rad is something you find when you’re not looking for it because Rad is random. That’s why at The Return of Rad we’ve made a place for it, somewhere awesome where you can cruise in and out quickly, or linger all day if you want to. The dosage of Rad is up to you, coffee made to perfection is our job." - www.thereturnofrad.co.nz