For lack of a better word- “good” berry and chocolate muffin from Mosaik. It has a good consistency, a good amount of chocolate, but my chain-cafe prejudice gives this fella a somewhat capitalist/mono cafe-culture aftertaste.
A chain-store rant before I begin (given the nature of my rant, I beg to be corrected if anything I write is inaccurate): In an ideal world, all muffins would not be made equal. That is, they would all taste equally good, but each one would be unique with a slightly different shape and flavour. When we make muffins from scratch, even when using an identical recipe, this is usually the result and what we produce depends on how we beat the mixture, exactly how we add the ingredients, how we are feeling at the time and, of course, the love we have for our baking. For those who have read Como Agua para Chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate or seen the film, you will understand where I am coming from on this last note. Urban Cafe has recently shown testament to this fact when the infamous date and orange scone began to be made by somebody other than the scone king or queen; the recipe is the same, the flavours are almost the same, but a blind taste-test, and even a 20/20 vision taste-test, would reveal two very different scones.
An ideal world would be muffin utopia where our value of top-quality muffins ruled above our lazy desire to buy the most convenient (and sometimes cheapest) option. This tendency is dangerous and can lead us down a road of mono-cafe and mono-muffin culture. Big chain coffee stores are capable of destroying muffin choice and threaten to leave us with overpriced, spongy, topless, chocolateless, fruitless muffins and even worse coffee!
Starbucks, which actually used to do a pretty good muffin is the prime example of mono-cafe mono-muffin culture. From what I have seen, a new branch pops up with a good, reasonably priced muffin. It attracts new customers with its brand and affordability, and initially makes a short-term loss as it bombards the muffin and coffee market. Amongst the hype and competition, it then forces smaller, not necessarily worse quality, cafes to shut down.It then ups the prices, downs the quality, and we are left without muffin variety or quality. This seems to have happened to a large degree in Central Auckland, particularly when you take into account other chains such as Esquires, Colombus, Gloria Jeans, Hollywood and Sierra. Starbucks did set a precedent to begin with, on how a comfortable coffee store should be set out, but whilst the interiors look good, they cheap and uncomfortable. Furthermore, I find both Starbucks and Esquires to be not overly that clean in Auckland.
I am aware that Columbus Coffee recently opened next to Auckland Hospital (sandwiched between the next Colombus 1km away on K-Road and another 500m away in the Auckland Museum). As I hang around other cafes quite a lot, I overhear a lot of the concerns of the small cafe owners and workers nearby to the opening of a large chain cafe. At Grafton cafe I became very concerned when I overheard the owner’s (?) comments regarding the Columbus down the road. These comments only emphasised what we observe time and time again with the conglomeration of wealth and resources into fewer and fewer hands. As other cafes start to struggle it is apparent that their profits decline, and to compete, they are forced to cut costs, when what really needs to be done, it to invest more and “out-quality” the competition. Instead, food turnover times and standards go down, thus leading to a vicious cycle of push factors away from small cafes and pull factors from larger ones. I fear for one of my favourite hot spots in the area, Domain Deli, and also Story which have far superior baking and coffee, and which may suffer as a consequence of Columbus’ convenience and seating. Yes, Columbus is the best for seating in the immediate vicinity, but this seems so unfortunate. A cafe should win out over the others based on the quality of its baking and coffee, not solely on its ability to afford greater space due to larger initial investment capital, and thus its seating capacity. I often think about how Esquires won the lease to serve Auckland City Library, and how sad this is when we compare it to the institution that is Clark’s Cafe at Wellington City Library, and the superb quality and culture that is fostered there.
This brings me (finally)to Mount Eden. Mount Eden is home to some of Auckland’s best cafes: Frasers, Ironique, Olaf’s and Circus Circus (to name a few of my favourites). Here Mosaik has recently opened up across the road. I was unaware on first visiting the cafe the extent to which Mosaik is making an appearance in Auckland, and before entering was oblivious to the fact it is a chain. This soon became obvious and especially upon trying the coffee-yowzers…it has chain store written all over it! Admittedly, this store is North Shore-born and based, and from what I gather, not yet a franchise (of which I approve). I agree successful business owners should be praised and rewarded because they have obviously done something right to deserve their success. In this case it is obvious that care has into the design of this cafe, the decor, and the baking selection, but I am also aware they are expanding fast, and independent of my chainstore prejudices, feel cracks in the quality of service, coffee and muffins are appearing, as one sees in some of the larger chains.
Baking: The muffin and cake selection is vast and reasonably priced (although rumour has it this is part of the colonisation strategy). and the muffins are actually quite nice. I have tried a savoury and a choc-berry and ,whilst the savoury left me feeling rather blobby, the sweet one had a good consistency, muffin top and ratio of muffin: chocolate and berries. Nonetheless, I did not enjoy my muffin flavour, it tasted like it was lacking that certain something, I like to call muffin lovemaking..(oh, that came out wrong, but does really encompass the idea)…that is, I felt it lacked the taste of having been made by a real person, who enjoyed making the muffin and felt a connection to the consumer, i.e. the intention of making the muffin was for someone to enjoy it. My muffin felt like it had no personality, no character, no uniqueness and, like the savoury muffin (dare I say it), was too buttery. I feel an overly buttery muffin is a sign of a short-cut-to-tasty muffin. As I alluded to with my experience at Little and Friday, adding too much butter, sugar or salt indicates that sweetness and fat have been used to make up for inadequacies in other areas- such as the ability to produce an inherently flavoursome muffin. (Supermarkets tend to do this with icing…but I for some reason have a soft spot for their disgustingly decadent muffins, despite my aversion to supermarkets and spongy muffins).
Mosaik was empty the first few weeks after opening, and I am incredibly surprised at the speed in which business has picked up. I walked past last Saturday to see it full, like the other popular Mount Eden shops. This leaves me fearing the worst, that this growing cafe empire will run at least one of the others out of business in addition to the Sierra that has also made itself known. The places mentioned above should be fine, as they are firmly grounded in the area, but some of the smaller places that are trying to make a name for themselves in this cafe hub are likely to suffer. I will have to get onto trying their muffins before making any further comments other than, long live muffin utopia! In a perfect world we will continue to support the underdog and smaller cafes, that do great unique muffins, made in true baking style and spirit.
Gluten Free Options: TBC
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 6.30am – late, Sat – Sun 7am – late
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Warm- especially by the fire. The doors seem to be kept closed which is a definite positive.
Table size: Good.
Ambiance: Cosy if you get the spot by the fire. It is clean and quite light. Maybe a little sterile-feeling, but nicely decorated.
Coffee: Not so good. You could probably buy something similar from a machine:( $4.0o regular, $4.50 large.
Service: Er, not impressed. Impersonal and staff spend most of the time gossiping between themselves and in an unprofessional manner. I was told I was not allowed to serve myself water, was served, and subsequently was unable to get another glass while I was there (the water jugs were continually empty).
WIFI: Limited Auckland City Tomizone- 3omins
X-factors: You can buy beer there too…everyone loves a cafe/bar AND there is a FIREPLACE!!!
Cons: Please see above.
Location: 421 Mt Eden Rd , Mt Eden, Auckland City
Ph: 09 630 2044