Set up & site: In beautiful rural Clevedon, a world away from inner city Auckland, yet only 40 minutes' drive, Hinge & Co is surrounded by fields and bush. It includes two roomy dining areas, a sun-drenched veranda, well appointed (and well-stocked) bar and, in winter, an open fireplace. There's nothing country-kitsch about the decor, which is contemporary and urbane right down to the ceramic bowls, plates and platters food is served on. You can tell a lot about a dining establishment from its toilets – these were spotlessly clean and as thoughtfully decorated as the rest.
Sustenance & swill: We were spoiled for choice with a menu that features traditional brunch dishes given an up-to-date makeover: quinoa porridge with apple, berry and coconut yoghurt, three variations on "eggs benny" including a mushroom one, a big breakfast with all the necessities and a vegetarian option with falafel.
However, we opted for dishes from the small bites/platters and little plates (which were generous) section of the menu. We shared thick and perfectly crispy polenta chips with black garlic aioli ($10) and courgette fries with fennel tzatziki ($13). Divine. My companion picked a flavoursome dish of cauliflower couscous, dukha, dates, pumpkin seeds, preserved lemon ($19) while I had a small butternut gnocchi, lemon beets, candied walnuts, spiced Napoli sauce ($17). The gnocchi was light; the sauce possibly the richest and most authentic I have tasted for a long time. These were two of a number of innovative sounding plant-based dishes on the menu but carnivores are well catered for with pork, beef, lamb, duck and fish (including salmon and oysters).
It was brunch but, both being self-confessed chocoholics, the chocolate platter ($22) just had to be ordered. We didn't think we could eat our way through all the bite-sized and perfectly portioned morsels but we did. There was none left to take home to our children. We should have finished with coffee and hot chocolate; we celebrated our new find with a glass of rosé and pinot noir. Our server told us that the menu will soon change to a more winter-themed one, so we'll be back to try it.
Service & other stuff: The staff are pleasant and attentive; we were done and dusted in slightly over an hour but nothing felt rushed. This comes close to perfection; I'd recommend booking — especially on weekends.