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Putting the fun into food wins café top award

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It’s not often the CBD Business Awards comes up with a best of the best but taking out three categories put Cream Eatery ahead of the bunch this year.

Cream won best café, best social media and the café won best space for design studio Designwell.

Celebrating a year in business recently, Cream owner and fab baker Chrissy Houghton says the award is the icing on the cake for the stylish central city eatery.

“It’s really exciting. Especially after the end of our first year, which has been pretty wild with all lockdowns and stuff. It’s nice for our team, I think, quite exciting working somewhere that is recognised that way.”

Chrissy owns and runs the café alongside husband Luke, who is the brains behind some of the sensational food coming out of the kitchen.

She also creates special occasion cakes under the moniker Chrissy Cakes and is the talent behind the countertop baked goods at the café.

The cinni bunz are a hot favourite and the delectable cinnamon bun even has its own range of merchandise as well, including tees and tote bags, which are designed and printed in Hamilton.

A chef by trade, Luke is always adapting the menu to showcase not only what’s seasonal but to allow his creative culinary flare shine through.

Chrissy describes the menu items as seasonal, fun, traditional mixed with the unexpected and to cater to her love of a sprinkle, she says the cabinet food is like something from a refined children’s party.

One of the favourites dishes on the menu – Luke’s Fried Eggs – keeps the punters coming back for more.

“The fried eggs have a cult following,” she laughs.

So popular they sold take home fried egg kits for Father’s Day during the last lockdown.

“They got all the different elements they needed – the bread, the eggs, the whipped feta, the spice. It was really well received.”

They’ve since morphed the kit into just selling the spice mix to give people a taste of the dish from the comfort of their home.

Hospitality businesses have been one of the biggest losers in the ever-evolving pandemic climate and Chrissy says for many it has meant make or break.

“I think we were quite lucky we weren’t open in 2020. Because we could spend that time watching what some of our favourite cafes in Melbourne and Sydney were doing and saw that not a lot of people were doing it here (in New Zealand). We took a lot of those ideas, and they just kept us going.”

The couple waited until December 2020 to start work on the café, with Luke doing as much of the work as he could.

“We spent Christmas break with Luke tiling because January is kind of a write off for tradies and he did a lot of stuff just to get us open as quickly as we could. We felt like we’ve been waiting a long time by then.”

The wait started back in 2019 after they sold the name and brand of their previous eatery Winner, Winner in Hamilton East to Burger Fuel in 2017 (the pair have nearly 30 years hospitality experience between them).

They stuck it out for a while, learning as much as they could and once the business became a franchise they moved on.

“Luke doesn’t like keeping things the same for long and franchises tend to have a menu that they keep for years and years.”

They spent 2020 formulating their plans for Cream and of course watching the pandemic play out.

“We wanted to bring something different to the CBD and appeal to a wide range of people. I love looking out at the café at lunch and seeing all the different types of people who come in and enjoy our space. We’re always striving to provide a space where people feel welcome and staff want to serve you and give you the best experience they can. That’s really important to me. And Luke just likes to have fun in the kitchen and do things a little bit differently.”

The goal for the eatery this year is to ride the Omicron wave and then look to expanding the kitchen and dining area later in the year.

“We want to get through the next couple of months as unscathed as possible and preparing for what that might look like, especially if we have to close down for any period of time.”

In the year they’ve been open, the café has grown in popularity and outgrown the space, Chrissy says.

“We tend to get full at lunch and it would be nice to have a bit more space for people. We’ve outgrown our kitchen as well and we need more fridge space and dry storage space for our chef to be able to work.”

Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Vanessa Williams says Hamilton’s CBD is continuing to evolve and the high-quality developments happening around the city attract high calibre tenancies like Cream Eatery.

“From the moment they opened their beautifully designed doors, Cream have had a loyal following. They have shown adaptability and flexibility during alert level changes and working within the required frameworks, they have held industry events to support their sector and they are quickly becoming a landmark feature of Garden Place. We were really excited to see them take out the Best Café and Best Social Media awards and with Designwell, winning the under 250sqm award for the Cream Eatery space.”

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