By Harriet Boucher, Images Ashlee DeCaires
There is something familiar about Hamilton central’s newest eatery – Dot & Winnie’s. It could be the space, which was once Mr Milton’s, a much-loved café that disappeared a few years ago. It could be the smiling faces that greet you. This small team, led by owners Mike and Laura Pritchard, are made up of some local hospitality stalwarts. Or perhaps that’s it, the feeling that you’re welcome, some old school hospitality.
“We don’t care what walk of life you come from, everyone is welcome here,” Laura says proudly. They understand that times are tough and know that people choose wisely about where to part with their money. “We want to respect that,” adds Laura, “by providing our customers with the best service and food possible.”
Named after their nanas, Dot being Laura’s and Winnie being Mike’s, that familiarity may well be that you feel at home.
While the name may pay homage to their nanas, don’t expect any lace and doilies here. Instead, the great bones of this café space have been added to but not overly embellished to create a warm and inviting environment.
As Mr Milton’s fans, Mike and Laura knew the potential of this space. “It’s a great location and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Laura says. Alexandra Street is bustling with owner operated businesses who have been very welcoming to their new neighbours.
It is in fact the space that piqued their interest, as the pair were not looking to open a café, it just kind of fell into place. Rachel Caldwell, who works for the landlord, the DV Bryant Trust, was visiting earlier this year while their daughters had a play date and asked if they knew of anyone who might want to fill the space she had for lease. Their minds started ticking about the possibility of being those people. The seed had been planted and on their wedding anniversary, they had the day off together and with a little cautious excitement, called Rachel to have a look at the site. It all snowballed from there and Dot & Winnie’s opened on May 15th.
Mike has been a chef for thirty years, working in Scotland, the UK and a few popular Hamilton establishments, spending the last 10 years of his career at Montana catering. Laura is renowned for her baking repertoire, which includes perfected classics like caramel slice and yo-yo’s, both of which she can’t keep up with. They have four kids, Jacob, who is helping in the kitchen over the school holidays; George, who helps mum with the baking and dishes on a Sunday; and Libby and Angus, who happily help test taste the yo-yo’s.
Their family orientated values also reflect their staff culture. “We want to create a joyful environment for the staff.” When you pay them a visit, you might recognise friendly Hamilton barista Misty serving up Supreme coffee. Misty always has a smile on his face. “The customers love him”, I’m told.
Their food ethos is simple but tasty classics; food that provides nostalgia, familiarity and makes you feel at home. They make their food from scratch where possible, including the hash on the ever so popular eggs bene. As I read the menu, I’m eyeing up the steak sandwich with blue cheese spread, caramelised onions, greens and beetroot feta whip on Turkish pide. You’ll also find Winnie’s spicy beans, Dot’s posh porridge and a few café classics there. Their mushrooms with greens, confit garlic feta whip and truffle are a hot favourite too. There’s also a cabinet filled with tasty options to grab and go or dine in. It’s a fun way for Mike to play around with flavours and see what works or what doesn’t.
Along with their menu and cabinet offerings, their other focus is catering. “Nothing’s too big or too small,” Mike says. “Catering is second nature to me.” From office morning teas to corporate lunches, to weddings and family events, they’re up for anything. Mike will create a bespoke menu for your event and is always happy to cater to dietary requirements. I hear there’s Christmas dinner packs in the pipeline too, so watch this space.
Laura’s famous baking extends to Christmas cakes and mince tarts. Her dark Christmas cake recipe has half a litre of brandy in it – you can almost smell it through the pages. She’s taking orders now via their website. There’s nothing like being organised for the festive season.
Dot & Winnie’s Eatery is a welcome addition to Hamilton’s CBD. They’ve done an incredible job making the iconic space their own. Hospitality is undeniably in their genes.
Dot & Winnie’s Eatery
127 Alexandra Sreet, Hamilton