Set up & site
Although this is where The Hip Group began its assault on Auckland's brunch scene in 2004, the place now feels strangely un-Hip. The room is small and a bit too tight, and it's lacking in the sort of design flourishes that mark their other cafes, giving it a bit of a vanilla feel. Having said that, the view directly across the road and water to Rangitoto draws you outside anyway. Having said that, on an otherwise warm recent Auckland morning, the fresh sea breeze made sitting outside not all that fun, so I asked to be moved inside as soon as possible — and there we were put in the back corner. We could still see most of Rangitoto though and there is nothing wrong with that.
Sustenance & swill
I'm a sucker for gnocchi in butter and the Kohi version ($21) came with a good ricotta, a thorough spread of peas and plenty of sprouts. It's a well-balanced and subtle brunch dish, tasty but delicate, not the type of thing you might typically think about eating at 10am on a Sunday until you do it and then wonder why you usually don't. Typically for a Hip Group joint, the menu offers plenty of this type of edgy-not-edgy stuff, suggesting adventure and/or elegance without neglecting comfort. For instance, there are no hash browns on the menu, but there is a truffled potato galette. My wife ordered the eggs benedict with smoked fish ($22). The eggs were a little short of a perfect poach but the fish was full-flavoured and earthy. The whole thing came on a good slice of sourdough, making it a thick and fulfilling edition of a classic dish.
Service & other stuff
Having asked to be moved inside, we were told that this would be no problem and we were offered blankets in the meantime. Seating requests like these are often forgotten in busy high-turnover cafes like this, but ours wasn't. Later, a waiter asked about our day and appeared to genuinely care about our answer, then, when asked about her own day, offered a warm and thoughtful reply that ended at the exact point it needed to. Our orders were taken quickly, our needs were met. We made trouble, but they never appeared to find us too much trouble.