Words: Kate Underwood | Image: Brydie Thompson

In the eye of Rotorua lies a cafe where a passion for hunting, people and flavour come together to support and sustain the diverse village of locals and visitors, seven days a week. Dana and Steven Greer are the heartfelt humans behind Scope, the quirky daytime eatery where fun, deer-inspired décor and delicious food coexist in a vibrant, animated space.

Aside from smiling faces and a convivial atmosphere, the first thing you’ll notice when you enter Scope is the impressive and colossal antler chandelier, made locally in Lake Tarawera from fallen antlers of red and wapiti deer. It sits above a cabinet of drool-worthy sweet treats and savoury options, piled generously to induce the right kind of overwhelm, like the adult version of a kid in a candy store. Freshly baked blue cheese scones perch next to the Wicked Toffee Coffee Walnut Slice stacked on rustic wooden stands, amidst decorative pinecones, and Banana Dark Chocolate and Maple Muffins.

Along with the fully-loaded cabinet, the butchers roll showcases a menu of approachable, cleverly-named brunch and lunch options, with a tasteful hunting twist. The food is both familiar and packed with character, all made from scratch without an ounce of pretence. The ‘Butchers Best’ venison burger is the signature, served with beetroot relish, curly fries and aioli and can be matched with a locally brewed Croucher IPA beer. Owner Steven is partial to a burger for breakfast—perfectly acceptable pre-hunting fare he reckons. There’s even a dish dubbed ‘The One That Got Away’, a vege stack involving hashbrowns, mushrooms and an Otaika Valley poached egg.

The story of Scope is a unique combination of Dana’s vivacious personality and extensive hospitality experience alongside Steven’s calm persona, business nous and a love for the hunt. Dana is Transylvanian by heritage and coming from a big, social family she’d always had an affinity for Kiwi’s laid-back, friendly nature. She moved to New Zealand in 1998 to complete her business degree and somewhere along the way the couple met as colleagues in the world of finance. Several businesses later, including four cafes it was time to create their combined dream.

In May 2017, after revamping the run-down Thai restaurant on Tutanekai Street, they opened their doors to feed and caffeinate visitors and locals alike. Both the aesthetic and menu offerings are intentionally designed to be ‘man friendly’. “We want the men to be dragged in here by their wives or girlfriends on their first visit, and then willingly return every time after that,” explains Dana. A plan that has clearly been working, as in 2018 Scope won People’s Choice in the Rotorua Hospitality Awards and was a finalist in Café of the Year, an incredible achievement for just their second year in the game. The notoriously decadent ‘Snickers’ chocolate/caramel/peanut hybrid slice may also have had something to do with it, guaranteed to make any day, infinitely better.

The cafe’s catch phrase is ‘wild about flavour’, but what it should really say is wild about community. There’s a genuine warmth in this place, where everyone moves swiftly from stranger to friend. Dana tells us, “Life is so serious outside these doors, but inside we want our customers to have a laugh and feel joyous and uplifted”, either by the Altura coffee in their cup, the eccentric wallpaper with dogs wearing suits or the virtuously ‘healthier’ caramel slice loaded with dates, nuts and dark cacao. “We spend most of our lives here, so we really just want everyone to enjoy it.”

Since their inception they’ve supported the Salvation Army’s ‘coffee for a can appeal’, last year arranging three separate pick-ups, thanks to the crazy amount of cans they collected. They work with Ronald McDonald House, donate to the local school galas and during lockdown Dana rallied her crew of fellow local business friends to organise a special goodie bag for the ultimate ladies day out (worth $1400) to give away to a deserving front line worker, as well as proactively gifting vouchers to Hospice for their online Zoom bingo classes. “We really just love giving back, it makes us both feel good,” says Dana.

It’s this fierce loyalty to serve their community that provides the type of business narrative where ‘support local’ means more than just a post-lockdown hashtag. Despite being part of an industry navigating the unknown, a quote by K.J Parker sums up the Scope empire brilliantly: “To hunt successfully you should know your ground, your pack and your quarry.” Armed with their positive attitude and a host of loyal customers, Dana and Steven clearly have all the ammunition they need to continue to deliver joy and wild flavour to their community at a time when it’s appreciated most.

Scope Rotorua
1296 Tutanekai St, Rotorua
07 282 2090

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Kate Underwood
@relishthememory

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