Words: DENISE IRVINE | Images: ASHLEE DECAIRES

Fin Irwin could be described as the master of reinvention. He’s moved from the construction industry to cafe ownership, and in the past couple of years he’s learned to roast decent coffee.

He’s named his new brew Diesel, and it has a part to play in some upcoming changes in his Hamilton hospitality business. And while going from construction to hospitality may seem quite a leap, Fin jokes that he grew up in a supermarket so he learned about customer service early. This was back in the days when his parents owned the New World in Carterton, in the Wairarapa.

A quick history: in the beginning, there was Mavis & Co, started in 2008 with former wife Jayne as a Hamilton Farmers Market stall. It grew into a catering company, and then came Mavis & Co cafe, in Hamilton East. Later, Mavis Made to Order at Wintec House, in the CBD, joined the stable, and after that Fin added Mavis Lounge at Hamilton Airport.

Mavis food was always fresh and boldly flavoured; it drew loyal customers and there were queues at the counters. But earlier this year, Fin said farewell to Mavis, selling the Hamilton East cafe and the airport business, and rebranding the city eatery as Made to Order (minus the Mavis).

Now, he and his business partners, Sarah-Jane Firth and Madeline Molloy (who are sisters), are embracing a new name and a proposed new look, in the form of Madeline Cafe and Bar, a reinvention of Made to Order.

This morning, Fin’s drinking his Diesel coffee at Made to Order, and flagging the changes they hope to see in place there by the end of the year. They’ll refurbish, rearrange and rename the premises, continuing a daytime menu and cabinet treats as well as creating a space that glams up for evening drinks and casual food.

Says Fin: “We’ll change the look at night with curtains and feature lighting. It will be a more intimate experience with a smart bar and tapas-style plates.”

Madeline Cafe and Bar, he says, will be beautiful, and have plenty of attitude and sass. And it will offer the fresh, tasty food that he admires. And while Fin won’t actually do the cooking, he’s bound to have a hand in designing the menu.

He’s created the current menu at Made to Order, going for winter classics  such as braised beef cheek with creamy polenta and red wine jus; tuna melt Best Ugly Bagel with tomato salsa; and huevos rotos, Spanish broken eggs with chorizo, roasted potato, deep-fried egg, prosciutto and rich gravy.

There are always cabinet slices and cakes to follow. And if you’re in the market for another sweet treat, the richly caramel Amber Belgian hot white chocolate has quite a following. There is a salted caramel version as well, made with flaky sea salt.

In the early days of Mavis, Fin was the breadmaker: “Every now and then, to the shock of everyone here (at Made to Order), I get in the kitchen and make bread. But the most I’m allowed to do, really, is the dishes.”

The coffee, though, is firmly his domain. Currently, he’s roasting his artisan Diesel Coffee Works brand in the premises of Raglan Diesel (engine repair service) at Te Rapa, the industrial setting lending itself neatly to the brand name. “I didn’t know anything about roasting coffee when I started. It took about a year to learn, to get it perfect. There was a lot of cupping and over-dosing in that time.”

Diesel is small-batch roasted to ensure quality and consistency, and Fin uses a blend of beans from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Columbia, Brazil and Kenya; he’s named his brew Socio, slang for good friend in some Latin American countries. “It’s an all-rounder coffee.” He’s working on a Diesel black blend, for a stronger hit.

Diesel will shortly move from Te Rapa into the CBD, to a new location in a lane off Alexander Street.

“Coffee’s a fun business. I’m taking small steps at present. I love it.”

So that’s Diesel, the upcoming Madeline, plus a family project he’s involved in back in Carterton that will include a cafe. Probably about enough new stuff for the moment?

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