Anh Chaimontree's Hamilton

I run Banh Mi Caphe with my husband, chef Pat Chaimontree. I grew up in Hamilton and spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother, Hong Nguyen. My earliest job was plucking herbs, but my grandmother began teaching me more and more about the light, fresh flavours and ingredients that underpin my family's Vietnamese cuisine. Working in a restaurant doesn’t give us much time for eating out, but Pat and I always have Sunday morning off with no kids, and we love to try different cafes for coffee and brunch.

Get lost in the Surrealist Garden

Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton

The new theme garden at Hamilton Gardens makes you feel like you’re in Alice in Wonderland. There’s a huge door and these moving, mechanical hedges and a chequered tile walkway. You actually feel like you’re going down the rabbit hole. The gardens are so huge, we just do one little one in a weekend and then another the next. Over summer, Gourmet in the Gardens pops up with food trucks. You can bring a picnic blanket and BYO alcohol and eat your food on the lawn.

The Surrealist Garden at the Hamilton Gardens.

The smell of coffee at Raglan Roast

539 Te Rapa Road, Hamilton

This is sort of a secret hidden spot. Raglan Roast originated in Raglan and then shifted its roasting operations to Te Rapa. I love to go first thing in the morning when you can smell the coffee roasting. It’s just down the road from my school run, so if I’m not running late, I love to stop in here.

The exterior of Brown Lightning Bros.

Scones from River Kitchen

217 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

This is the kind of place where you walk in and everybody knows your name. They know I’m coming in for a coffee and a scone, and they pretty much have it ready before I’m even in the door. The 1920s Art Deco building has been stripped right back to its high ceilings and exposed brick walls. The owner, Maria, is famous for her scones. The date and custard is a date scone that folds over a thin layer of custard, almost like a sandwich. The savoury scone has red capsicum and sliced baby potatoes. I’m a bit of a savoury girl, normally, but I do love Maria’s date scones.

A scone on a table.

Chilli scramble at Grey Street Kitchen

355 Grey Street, Hamilton East

A Sunday brunch favourite is Grey Street Kitchen. They’ve got good coffee and breakfast is amazing. Chilli scramble is my absolute favourite. The eggs are never overcooked and it comes with grainy bread, feta and chilli jam. It’s the perfect balance between sweet and salty. This Scandi-style café is consistently good and the service is great. We like to sit by the window or outside for the best people watching.

The inside of the cafe Grey Street Kitchen.

Noodle fix at Donburi Ya

789 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

Our daughters love noodles! We take them to get their fix at Donburi Ya. It’s not fancy, but it’s good, honest food cooked from the heart. The couple that run it have had it for a long time. Pat always talks hospo with the owners when we go there. My daughter, Lucy, loves the Peraki Chicken and Rice, which she often shares with me. The Tonkatsu Pork Ramen is another favourite.

A plate of noodles on a table.

Grab a page turner at Poppies Bookshop

19 Casabella Lane, Hamilton Central

Sometimes it feels like actually having a book is a dying thing. I love just holding a book and turning pages over, so it’s nice that we have this cool bookshop, Poppies. It’s really satisfying to be able to go in there and find something enjoyable to read.

The entrance to Poppies Bookshop in Hamilton.

Browsing at Browsers

298 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

Browsers is another amazing bookshop. There’s lots of weird and wonderful things in here. They’re all secondhand books, which they on-sell for other people, so you never know what you’re going to find. This is quite close to the restaurant and I often pop in for a browse when I’m on a break.

A man browsing books inside Browsers Bookshop in Hamilton.

Culinary Inspiration at The Scullery

371 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

I don’t do a lot of it now, but I love baking. My parents owned a bakery and I grew up enjoying baking and cake decorating. The Scullery is a kitchen shop with lots of different items of kitchen equipment. My weakness is piping nozzles - you’re forever losing them.

The entrance to The Scullery in Hamilton.

Bartender's choice at Wonder Horse

236 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

At the end of a shift, quite often we’ll go and have one drink at Wonder Horse before we head home. It’s always busy and always full. They have a wonderful cocktail menu. When Pat goes, he’ll say, “Just make me something.” I’m really boring and always go for a mojito, but if I don’t feel like drinking, they’ll make me a special mocktail.

A bar man making a cocktail at Wonder Horse.

Pick your own Waikato River Walk

Waikato River, Hamilton Central

We live quite close to the Waikato River and the restaurant is linked to the river so I often head down here. I always feel quite relaxed walking along the river. It’s my chillout zone. You can follow the river in so many different directions. There are all these connections with bridges. It’s almost like you can design a new walk each time. We can go from our restaurant all the way along the river to the Hamilton Gardens.

The Waikato River.