Sugar at Chelsea Bay is the North Shore's new sweet spot

by Kate Richards / 26 October, 2018
Photography by Alex Blackwood.
Sugar cafe

Sugar at the Chelsea Sugar Factory in Birkenhead.

Chelsea Sugar Factory reopens its doors for tours and introduces new cafe Sugar, a Carson-Mazza collaboration.

When you visit Sugar, the latest from Aaron Carson and Francesca Mazza (owners of Rude Boy, Winona Forever, Fang and others), be sure to tack a Chelsea Sugar Factory tour onto your trip – the grand peach-coloured refinery provides the backdrop for the couple’s new cafe. Until recently, Chelsea Bay was viewable only from the Harbour Bridge and reinstating refinery tours has been an eight-year vision for managing director Jeremy Sutcliffe; the building has been closed to the public since the 1990s, and only reopened to school tours in June this year.

Inside the visitor centre, where the tour begins, there’s an interactive education room with digital cooking lessons by Annabel White, Edmonds and Chelsea memorabilia, and a commercial kitchen used for school cooking classes – roughly 60 kids have used it every day since it opened. Amongst the sites to marvel at on your train ride around the grounds is an impressive 30,000 tonne sugar mountain (the factory can store up to 40,000 tonnes of sugar at any one time).

Read more food news: New cafe Revolver is a fresh energetic addition to St Kevins Arcade

Then there’s Sugar cafe, with its candy-coloured cushions, polished concrete floor and exploding cabinet – an ever-present feature of Carson-Mazza collaborations. Sugar’s manicured lawn, play area, and breezy conservatory all overlook the Waitematā Harbour onto central Auckland. And happily, that view will be forever preserved. As Sugar is just a stone’s throw away from the sea, there’s no chance their vista will be spoilt by neighbouring builds – almost unheard of in Auckland.

The focus, really, is on high tea which costs $48 per person with tea, or $55 with champagne, and must be pre-booked online. The 13-strong tea selection by Harney and Sons has been chosen to complement the dainty treats that adorn each three-tiered cake stand, but there is Coffee Supreme coffee too, and a nanna-appropriate à la carte menu of breakfast and lunch favourites.

As summer rolls in, the lawn outside the cafe – large enough for a marquee – can be booked for functions. It strikes me that Chelsea Bay would be a very sweet place to get married (sorry). It’s an equally nice place just for coffee and cake; restful, and enough of a trek from central Auckland to feel like an activity. And, while you may leave with sore teeth following one of Mazza’s signature bakes, isn’t that the point when you visit a sugar factory? 

Sugar opens Saturday 27 October.

Sugar at Chelsea Bay
100 Colonial Rd
Birkenhead
@sugarchelseabay

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