While traversing the many hills, cities, and back country of New Zealand, my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a retro eatery in New Plymouth that gave Pulp Fiction’s Hawthorne Grill a run for its money: Elixir.
The exterior is unassuming. A general glance at its outdoor benches and rickety chairs and you would surmise it as any other normal coffee shop. Elixir’s charm triumphs through its interior design. As soon as we stepped over the threshold, I was glad I had my camera with me because I knew I had to document this café for everyone back home. Posters, photographs, and wearable memorabilia plastered the right wall of the restaurant while the left side gave off an eerie pink, green, and yellow glow from the multiple florescent tubes. Colanders hung from the lighting fixtures and the floor underneath our table was a haphazard mash of coloured, black, and white tiles. Our eyes had been accosted. In my mind, the bright hues of cherry red, robin’s egg blue, and lime green shouldn’t have worked, but they blended coherently with Elixir’s interior décor. It was the strangest and most intriguing design I’d ever experienced outside of Bye Bye Birdie.
Given my own penchant for judging a café by its cover, so to speak, I was nervous about how the food would turn out. However, the tables were packed with patrons, the coffee smelled decent, and the service was extremely friendly, which did much to ease my anxiety. As we perused their all-day menu and decided on our meals, I did notice a flaw in Elixir’s interior design. Long, thick metal bars stretched across the ceiling to floor windows, blocking out a lot of essential natural light. I’m assuming this decision was made to accentuate the neon lighting within the restaurant, but I sort of felt as if I were sitting in a prison cell.
The brew of choice was from Ozone Coffee Roasters, which I was served in the form of a cinnamon-topped cappuccino. Can I make a digression here to note that I wished Australia also offered cinnamon-topped cappuccinos? Throughout New Zealand I was asked if I’d like cinnamon or chocolate shaken over my coffee, and I now highly prefer cinnamon. It isn’t offered in coffee shops in Australia and I think it should be!
My cappuccino at Elixir was pretty decent. It was frothy, hot, and smothered in cinnamon. The blend itself was okay – much better than any other coffee we’d had in New Zealand thus far – but it lacked the smoothness and quality you receive from a Melbourne roaster. Ozone is a solid 6.5/10.
Our breakfasts arrived shortly after the coffees. My boyfriend ordered Elixir’s Famous Mince ($17 NZD) which was delicious. After one bite of his mince on toast, I no longer feared the quality of Elixir’s food. The eggs were perfectly poached, and the mince was sautéed well and had outstanding flavour. He told me after a couple bites that the brioche they served him was the best he’d ever had! The whole dish was superb; the brioche’s sweetness combined with the beef’s barbeque flavours reminded me of my mom’s sloppy joes.
My breakfast of Green Eggs and Ham ($16.80 NZD) was equally fabulous. Although the café ran out of ham, the server was happy to substitute bacon for it without any fuss. As a Canadian, I am very judgmental about other countries’ bacon, but I am proud to say that Elixir’s bacon passed my test. It had just the right amount of salt to accentuate the taste of the pork. The pesto they serve mixed in with the scrambled eggs is amazing. It’s not exceedingly garlicy, which I find some pestos tend to be, and had enough zip to overpower the eggs. I did find the swipe of balsamic reduction on the plate a bit out of place when it arrived, but it ended up tasting okay with the dish.
The people who work at Elixir are very kind, accommodating, and attentive. They work well as a team and are more than willing to go beyond their call of duty to make sure you have a great experience. I would have been more than happy to work with any of these ladies and gents.
If you ever find yourself in New Plymouth, make sure you take a stroll past Elixir and step inside to appreciate the zany designs, the exceptional food, and the wonderful service. It was one of the best breakfasts we had in New Zealand and certainly deserves some international praise.