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The Wholemeal Cafe, Golden Bay, New Zealand

There’s a Whole Lot to Love

I’m writing about The Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka because I believe that if you are lucky enough to find yourself traveling almost anywhere in Golden Bay, you should make a stop at The Wholemeal Cafe.
I’ll go so far as to say that you should visit The Wholemeal even if you’re as far away as Nelson.  We actually planned our first visit from Texas.
You just have to be prepared for “the hill“.

” I like coffee culture. It’s got integrity. After all, we are legal drug dealers, so why not have integrity?”

Wayne Green

The Granddaddy of Kiwi Cafe-Culture

If you’ve spent any time traveling in New Zealand, you’ve no doubt experienced New Zealand cafes.  I think the concept is slowly catching on in the U.S., but in many destinations here they’re missing entirely. Or you have to really work to find them.
Not so in NZ.  There are cafes everywhere, with many serving simply outstanding food.
And in my opinion, none does it better than The Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka.

Pinwheels can be seen in the upper left and lower right of the display case

A Brief History of The Wholemeal Cafe

The Wholemeal Cafe started out life as The Wholemeal Trading Company in 1977, as a sort of bulk food co-op.  The current owners took over more than 25 years ago and have “gently guided” Wholemeal to what it is today.
Located in the small, but exceptionally sited township of Takaka, The Wholemeal Cafe is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
In 2000 they expanded into other parts of the old theatre building and the cafe took on the space and shape it still has today.
The Wholemeal Cafe is a place for the young and the old; for hipsters and hippies; for tourists and locals.

Fresh, tasty and unpretentious cafe-culture food

What You Should Eat at The Wholemeal Cafe

Anything.
Seriously, whatever strikes your fancy.  I’ve had everything from coffee to baked goods to wraps to salads to breakfast to meet pies to fish/chips.
So hopefully you get the picture.  It’s all good. Really.
So my typical MO is to go for breakfast, getting a quiche or eggs, along with the infamous Flat White coffee.  But I never leave without lunch to go in the form of a scone, or meat pie, whatever delectable fruit-filled bar they may have, a pinwheel, a salad of some sort, and a wrap.
I’m not really a wrap fan.  The only places I will eat them are at The Wholemeal Café and at T and Me Tea Company in Gulfport, Florida.  (Which is sadly no longer in business.  Come back? Please?)  Wraps not on the menu but you’ll see them in the display case.  If you’re lucky, they may have one or two leftover from the previous day and you can get those at a discount.

Insider Tip: The Wholemeal Trading Co. Green Salad Dressing

You’ll want some.  It’s self-serve, on the counters at all times in those ketchup/mustard-style squeeze bottles.  So no need to ask for dressing “on the side”. and definitely no judgement for how much of it you’ll be wanting to put on your food.

The Flat White was gone before I finished taking the photo

Whatever you decide, make sure to at least get at least one item that you can put the Wholemeal Trading Co. Green Salad Dressing on.  This might be the most perfect, both tasty and versatile, salad dressing on the planet.

About the only items this would not go well on would probably be any fruit bar or scone, or of course, not in your coffee. Or maybe in coffee would be ok.  Other than that, I think everything else is fair game as a potential vessel for this outstanding dressing.

The only caveat to getting lunch to go is that The Wholemeal is a responsible restaurant. Therefore, it isn’t chock-full of “to-go” packaging.  I’ve put the dressing on my wrap before leaving the café before, and wasn’t thrilled with the effect when I delayed eating for several hours.  So earlier this year they gave us a to-go coffee cup that we put the dressing in and covered it with plastic wrap. Needless to say this might not be the best set-up if you have an active day planned.  So if you’re traveling with a small close-able container, you’ll be set and you can add your dressing at the perfectly precise moment..

It’s a bit of a gathering place – check the local bulletin board to find out what’s going on

When To Go

This part is a little trickier.  Wholemeal Café opens early – between 7:30 am and 8:30 am most days.  But they also close early too, around 3 or 3:30 pm.
But it seems like they may now be staying open for dinner on Fridays, at least until around 8 pm.

Insider Tip: The Wholemeal Cafe cookbooks

Now there are three.  We have the first two.  The third came out earlier this year. Both of the first two contain the salad dressing recipe. For several years Terry and I ate this salad dressing on our salads every single day.  It was the perfect icing on the cake for our salad.  (Recipe to be shared later!)

Filling the display to start off the day

How to Get There

The Wholemeal Café is in the burgeoning metropolis of Takaka, the largest town in the Golden Bay region with a population of just over 1100.  (After you’ve been in New Zealand awhile, you’ll start to think of towns like Takaka and Motueka as big. And Motueka IS big – population almost 8,000!)
Just don’t be misled by the number of kilometers (104) between Nelson and Takaka. The kms don’t begin to tell the story.  In between those two towns is Takaka Hill. (If you spend much time in the region, you may see some cute t-shirts with references to The Hill on them.)

Insider Tip: Trust me, you’ll want a container

As is the norm in New Zealand, The Wholemeal Cafe runs pretty lean in terms of to-go packaging.  So you may want to bring small container if you’d like to take some green salad dressing for later.

The road through Takaka Hill is very steep with many bends.  But on good weather days the views over Tasman Bay and Golden Bay are simply stunning.  There’s no need to rush and there are plenty of places to turn out if the traffic behind is pressing you.

Takaka is going to be on your way if you’re heading up to Onekaka, Pupu Springs, Collingwood or the Farewell Spit from Nelson.  And frankly, it’s a great central place to stay, and more affordable for trips in Abel Tasman National Park than places in Kaiteriteri.

The Dressing

” Simple recipes handed down can become timeless treasures, enriching our identity and our culture.”

Wayne Green

Leave a comment below and tell us if you’ve been to The Wholemeal Cafe!