The Bus Stop Cafe: One of the Kapiti Coast’s best-kept secrets

by Sharon Stephenson / 03 June, 2018
Bus Stop Cafe, Kapiti

Chef Kirsty Green inside the 1964 Bedford bus she’s converted into a cafe filled with knick-knacks. During weekends, patrons often tether their horses outside. Photos/Nicola Edmonds.

One of the Kapiti Coast’s best-kept secrets is a 1964 Bedford bus and its Cordon Bleu chef.

If you ever find yourself in Te Hōro on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between 9am and 4pm, here’s what you should do: point the car towards the beach and, just beyond the rash of weather-beaten baches, veer right into Sims Rd until you come to a big blue Bedford bus. That’s where you’ll find Kirsty Green, who’ll offer you a decent coffee and a toasted sandwich made from her own sourdough bread and filled with garlicky mushrooms picked not too far from here, or one of her famous brioche doughnuts (both, if you’re lucky).

This is the Bus Stop Cafe, a kitchen and seating space shoehorned into a 54-year-old bus. “People are surprised there’s a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef turning out slices and pies in an old bus in the middle of a paddock,” laughs Green. “But that’s part of the fun.”

It’s second-time lucky for the quirky cafe. In 2011, Green parked the stripped-out bus outside her home in the Kapiti Coast township and opened for business, but was forced to shutter it when neighbours took exception to the steady stream of hungry patrons.

Porcini risotto cake.

A few years later, fate delivered a lifeline when an elderly customer sold her a 10-acre lifestyle block in Te Hōro, and Green was able to re-open the cafe last year. Not that she was sure the bus, which hadn’t been moved for six years, would make it to its new home. “I’d only driven her twice before – once to Levin to get her registered, and the second time to Paeroa to get the gas and water fitted,” she says. “But we filled her up with diesel, chucked in some new batteries and she started first time.” 

Green hasn’t needed to advertise the fact she’s back in business: the punters have simply followed their noses, drawn by the aroma of freshly cooked Bakewell tarts and blueberry lamingtons. The menu, which changes weekly, also draws on Green’s more classical culinary training. The day I visit, it includes porcini risotto cakes with mushrooms, and potato rosti with garlic labne (a thick yoghurt cheese).

The interior of the bus is decorated with an eclectic array of colourful bunting and vintage knick-knacks that Green has collected over the years. A small shed next to the bus sells an equally diverse range of goods, from Green’s preserves to earrings made by a local jeweller.

The youngest of three, born in Michigan where her doctor father was completing a residency, after leaving school Green landed a job in a Wellington cafe. “I wasn’t academic and I’ve always cooked, so I naturally gravitated towards that.”

Preferring community-based cafes to urban ones, she bought a deli/cafe in the Wellington suburban of Karori, which she ran for a decade before moving to Te Hōro. She saw the 1964 Bedford advertised on Trade Me.

“A guy in Taranaki had been running her as a mobile cafe, so the bones of the kitchen were already in place,” she says. “She was pretty shabby, though, so I got my HT licence and spent 18 months relining, refitting and painting her.”

Green reckons it’s pretty much as close to the perfect life as she’s likely to get. “I potter and bake for most of the week and then spend three days meeting and feeding people. What could be better?” 

This was published in the May 2018 issue of North & South.

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