You can’t miss the smart new Mavis at Rototuna. She’s right beside New World supermarket, dressed with bold signage and a chic fit-out.

Mavis Cafe Bar Bistro—to use her full title—is a sister to Mavis & Co in Hamilton East, which began in 2008 as a Hamilton Farmers Market stall and grew into a popular local cafe. The Mavis duo is now owned by business partners Chace Tian and Ally Li. They’re hands-on owner-operators, a well-organised tag team covering coffee, food, service and administration.

Coffee is one of Chace’s responsibilities, and Mavis uses its own blend of beans, roasted to order by an Auckland provider. Chace, from southern China, says although he grew up in a tea-drinking culture he was always drawn to coffee. He came to Hamilton 11 years ago to study at Waikato University’s management school and aimed to run a hospitality business in the city.

He and Ally bought Mavis in Hamilton East last February, just a few weeks before the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. It was a worrying time for them as new owners but staff and customers have remained loyal, and Chace is thankful for that.

He says he and Ally really rate their staff: “We all enjoy working together. We want Mavis to be a fun place for everyone.” They value their customers, too, and Chace says they are always open to feedback. “We like to please people.”

Today, we’re talking to him about ‘New Mavis’. It occupies the former Lugtons Real Estate premises, now stripped and refitted to a design by Luke Lee and Beebe Lam, of Hamilton-based Lamb Creative Agency. It is light and airy with honey-coloured wood panelling; there is a generous counter and bar, a mix of bench and booth seating and standalone tables, and a comfortable room at the rear (Rūma Hui) that can be closed off for private functions.

Chace says they’re pitching this Mavis for the fast-growing north Hamilton area. “It’s family friendly and affordable. We do handcrafted seasonal food, breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

To explain: Mavis Bar Cafe Bistro at Rototuna covers all culinary bases. It’s open seven days for breakfast, lunch, coffee or a glass of wine. From Wednesday to Saturday, it offers a bistro-style dinner menu.

The kitchen is headed by chef Vineet Arora, who formerly had his own eatery in Takapuna. Vineet and his team cook the day and night menus. Cabinet food (savoury and sweet) comes out of the Hamilton East Mavis kitchen, ferried fresh across town each morning.

From the all-day menu, you could have apple crumble porridge, Belgian waffles, Turkish eggs, smashed avocado, grilled cauliflower, fried chicken burger, and more. Each dish has a tasty treatment of herbs, spices, condiments and other ingredients. Dietary requirements are well catered for.

Then there’s the dinner menu, mixing classics with contemporary dishes, drawing on quality regional ingredients and flavours from East and West.

So what better thing to do than call in for a meal on the first night they go live with their bistro service. Chace and Ally are on the floor, customers are drifting in, and our table ponders the brand new menu.

Entrees include pork belly pancake, Mavis fried chicken, burrata (fresh mozzarella with curds), and South Island lamb rack. For mains, there is pork belly, curry-roasted market fish, braised beef cheek, grilled cauliflower, and Merino whole lamb shoulder (for two).

Each dish has its own carefully chosen accompaniments. The lamb rack, for example, is plated with salsa verde and pomegranate; the fried chicken with Sriracha mayo and McClures pickles; the fish with laksa sauce, burnt lemon, coriander oil and turmeric potatoes. And so on.

I have my eye on dessert, too, so opt for a lighter entrée then a sweet treat. The entrée also turns out to be a treat: First Light venison carpaccio with beetroot, caperberries, truffle mayo and sherry dressing. The raw venison is delicate and melt-in-the-mouth-tender, working neatly with the dressing, the earthy beetroot and salty-sharp caperberries.

Other dishes at our table are the Mavis fried chicken and Asian-inspired pork belly pancake. Both get full approval. There is also room for baked lemon tart with vanilla mascarpone, meringue and passionfruit to cut the sweetness.

We’ve had very good food, a nice drop of wine (Matawhero Gisborne Merlot), friendly service and the pleasure of supporting a new business.

Best of luck, Mavis@Rototuna.

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