Lei: The new cafe bringing the Pacific back to Ponsonby

by Kate Richards / 07 September, 2017
Photo: Ken Downie
At Natasha Finau and brother Saione Greer’s Ponsonby cafe, a vanilla scent hangs in the air. This, alongside tropical flowers – fresh, faux and painted – and the sweet sounds of R&B makes you feel like you’re lunching in a faraway paradise, rather than underneath a massive Countdown. Of all the flowers in the room, the most striking is the enormous handmade lei next to the door – a welcome symbol and display of the sibling’s Tongan ancestry. “This [Ponsonby] used to be Polynesian central,” says Finau, as she fondly recalls her extended families ties to the area.

But the room, designed with Anya Brighouse of Beautiful Bedlam, isn’t just an ode to the islands; Finau and her partner had always wanted to open a cafe of their own but never got the chance before he passed away last year. She’s now ticking off their combined bucket list by herself, starting here. Help from Finau and Greer’s siblings and 20 longtime friends – who are all members of a group called #friendsarefamilytoo on Instagram – have made this possible. Their grainy portraits sit framed, above the pass, as safe guarders and honorary employees. 

The menu is simple, and while there are some “naughty treats” like pani popo (coconut buns), the food is nourishing – avocado salad with a poached egg, fruit-topped porridge et al, because Finau wants to encourage healthy eating in her community. Two of seven siblings, Finau and Greer also want to show it’s okay not to play it safe when life doesn’t go the way you think it will. “I said to Saione, how did two coconuts end up here!?” Finau laughs, “This is the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.”

Lei Cafe
4 Williamson Ave
Ponsonby

Latest

Is this the transformational government we were looking for?
91411 2018-05-24 00:00:00Z Politics

Is this the transformational government we were lo…

by The Listener

Finance Minister Grant Robertson described Budget 2018 as “bread and butter”. It was. But bread-and-butter pudding was what the public were after.

Read more
Crooked House – movie review
91198 2018-05-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Crooked House – movie review

by James Robins

A Christie adaptation has a bleak reveal.

Read more
The power of sharing stories about anxiety and depression
90669 2018-05-24 00:00:00Z Psychology

The power of sharing stories about anxiety and dep…

by Marc Wilson

People assailed by depression need to know they're not alone – and stories shared by celebrities and non-celebrities go a long way in helping.

Read more
Wynyard Quarter welcomes French patisserie La Petite Fourchette
91365 2018-05-23 15:41:53Z Auckland Eats

Wynyard Quarter welcomes French patisserie La Peti…

by Kate Richards

French cakes and tarts are the highlight at new Wynyard Quarter opening, La Petite Fourchette.

Read more
Can YouTube produce a Spotify killer?
91338 2018-05-23 12:41:02Z Tech

Can YouTube produce a Spotify killer?

by Peter Griffin

Youtube will today roll out its revamped subscription streaming service YouTube Music, upping the stakes in a market dominated by Spotify and Apple.

Read more
Otago University's attempt to silence a women's health issue was wrong - period.
91328 2018-05-23 11:51:31Z Social issues

Otago University's attempt to silence a women's he…

by Genevieve O’Halloran

Critic's controversial and crude cover wasn't going to win any design awards - but did it really warrant seizure by Otago University?

Read more
Auckland icon The French Cafe sold to top restaurateurs
91318 2018-05-23 10:28:45Z Auckland Eats

Auckland icon The French Cafe sold to top restaura…

by Kate Richards

Simon Wright and Creghan Molloy-Wright, who’ve owned The French Café for twenty years, have sold it to top restaurateurs Sid and Chand Sahrawat.

Read more
Eye off the ball: Why did Netball NZ let our winningest coach get away?
91311 2018-05-23 09:50:15Z Sport

Eye off the ball: Why did Netball NZ let our winni…

by Fiona Barber

Incredibly, Noeline Taurua – the only Kiwi coach to win the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship – didn’t even make shortlist for the new Silver Ferns coach.

Read more