SET UP & SITE
Cali Press has just opened below the Herald's offices, and every day it's packed. A workmate and I head down one lunchtime to find nearly all the signature cold press juices gone and just a handful of salads left. Sadly there's no Indonesian gado gado (a cabbage salad with boiled egg and peanut sauce $14) but we make do with a Baja Beets cold-pressed beetroot juice ($8 for 350ml) and two $5 "tonic shots" — the Beautifier which is supposed to help your skin and the Glow, which I think is supposed to do the same thing. The space itself boasts the now ubiquitous exposed beams and industrial low-hanging light bulbs with which Auckland cafes seem contractually obliged to decorate, as well as several large and inviting-looking framed photos of the Californian coast.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL
Cynical journalist that I am, I kind of wanted Cali Press to be bad. As the name suggests, the cafe's concept was dreamed up by a group of Sydneysiders after a trip to LA, and the #clean #living aesthetic is one that is easy to revile for being too earnest, too aspirational. Unfortunately, the food is really good. My workmate and I shared three slices of toast from the "toast bar" (just a section of the menu): the beets toast with beetroot hummus, goat feta and pistachio dukkah ($6.50); the salmon smash with smoked salmon and an edamame and pea mash sprinkled with chilli flakes and squeezed with lemon ($7.50); and the avo toast with kale pesto, cherry tomatoes and sunflower seeds — called pepitas on the menu ($6.50). All the toasts are served on deliciously tangy sourdough and can be ordered in pairs, but I would recommend trying a range of single slices. All three flavours were fresh and the bases were whipped and airy. The dukkah had an aromatic nuttiness, the chilli on the salmon had a decent kick and the avocado toast, available everywhere, stood out thanks to the kale pesto, which gave it a slightly earthy taste.
SERVICE & OTHER STUFF
The staff are friendly and happy to tell you about the benefits of their tonics and juices in particular. They all look very healthy. There's no table service and everything is served to go even if you eat at one of the handful of tables, an assortment of disposable cutlery sits on the counter above a shelf display of reusable coffee cups and metal straws for sale. A welcome addition to what's on offer down the Victoria Park end of the CBD.