7 Jun 2017

Cafe review: Once Strangers, Upper Symonds St

Saturday's lunch: bulgogi beef burger and pear and walnut waffles
The story behind this cafe is a unique and personal one. Emily and Aaron, the owners, are now engaged, but previously they were once strangers who got to know each other at a cafe. Their vision for their newly established eatery, appropriately named  'Once Strangers', was to create a social place; a space to talk, eat and enjoy each other's company over affordable meals. Every element you see has a story behind in; the menus, logo, table numbers, the feature wall.
Conveniently located in front of the bus stop on Symonds Street where Mt Eden Road and Khyber Pass Road buses converge (next to Gina's Italian restaurant) the cafe greets you with a welcoming airy glass frontage. The interior is bright and fresh, bustling on a Saturday afternoon.
The menu is one of those menus that you could spend 20 minutes trying to decide. Because, ooh the waffles! But ooh soft baked eggs? Yum I love pork belly. But the bulgogi beef burger...
Breakfast waffles; bacon, grilled banana, whipped cream and maple syrup $15
I love waffles. Not many cafes serve them, usually brunch menus only extend to pancakes and french toast. But there are two sweet waffle options and a savoury one here!
Pear & walnut waffles served with poached pear, walnut crumble,
whipped cream and caramel drizzle $14
It tasted as good as it looks. The waffles were the perfect texture; not crunchy and not chewy, the right crisp and fluffiness. My friend loved the poached pear and I loved the biscuit flavor of the walnut crumble although I prefer the bacon less crispy with the savoury option.
Pork belly bao bun with pear coleslaw $18.50
Bao is a Chinese style steamed bun that is ever so slightly sweet but the combination is delectable when filled with meat, vegetables and asian style seasoning. Once Strangers did it just right; soft and not at all dry. There are two options for order: spicy, stir-fried thin sliced pork belly or honey balsamic thick pork belly. For those of you undecided you can get one of each for $18.50 or a single one for $9.50. We were one of the undecided ones.

I have to say I'm not keen on pork but my friend who ordered it is, and he says the best one is the honey balsamic because it had a hint of sweetness that complemented the savoury pork flavor.

You know the food is good when you look up and there, across the table, is your friend eating with his eyes closed.
Bulgogi marinated beef patty, housemade potato rosti,
caramelised onion in a brioche bun with fries $18
The king meal for the hungry: bulgogi beef burger. The bulgogi beef is a korean BBQ style tangy sauce. It tasted absolutely amazing. The potato rosti (hash) was tasty and paired well with the caramelised onion and bulgogi flavor. It was a massive burger that you'll regret not finishing later. The fries were crispy and came with aioli (slightly too lemony, I thought). This burger is a definite winner and I'd recommend it without hesitation if you come here.

They had an extensive drinks selection, from acai smoothie to Vietnamese iced coffee. It's worth coming here even if you're not ordering food. They have affogato and a Kohu Road ice cream cabinet which you can buy in scoop or make into a milkshake. My friend is a coffee snob so when he says the coffee is good; the coffee must be good.
Kohu Road ice cream
Once Strangers' menu is their strength. There is a lot of variety that I imagine would satisfy almost everyone. Not too much variety in their cabinet mealwise, although the sweet slices looked unique and tempting paired with a coffee.
Cabinet food selection
What makes this cafe unique is their personalised touches.

The table numbers are made up of people's names who helped made the cafe what it is.

There are packs of personally made conversation cards on every table; blue to break the ice and pink for "date conversations". Or if you're here alone, there is free wifi!

Both my friends have said they want to make a second visit. With a menu variety like this and the quality of food we've had, I'm keen to go again.

This is the place to go for your next brunch/ date.



Menu below taken from their Facebook page. Eat off each others' plates like I did if you can't decide what to order :p

Once Strangers
159 Symonds Street,
Eden Terrace
HOURS | Tues - Fri 7-3pm, Sat 9-4pm