Dove Chen's Hamilton

I am the Director of Grey St Kitchen and Grey Roasting Co in Hamilton. I am also a two-time NZ Barista Champion and was one of the semi-finalists in 2019 at the World Barista Championship in Boston.

My life is coffee. My coffee career started when I was a little boy, sneaking into the kitchen and drinking my parents’ instant coffee. After graduating in 2007 from the Waikato University with an economics degree, I quickly realised my path needed to include my passion for coffee, so I started running my first café in Hamilton.

I developed my passion for linking people, food and coffee and in 2013 I opened Grey St Kitchen, a café that embraces my values, personality and goals. Hamilton has given me opportunities to fulfil my dreams, and I love the people and community.  The pace of Hamilton is quite chilled and as we grow, more and more interesting creatives are finding their way to Hamilton.

High Tea and Zealong Tea Estate

495 Gordonton Road, Gordonton, Hamilton

Arriving at the entrance of Zealong Tea Estate, you immediately feel a sense of grandness, and the high tea experience is a must-do if you’re stopping in.  As you sit on the deck and enjoy the different teas and delectable tea-infused bites, you can cast your eyes out to the organic tea fields and get a real feeling of what’s involved in growing tea. My personal favourite is the aromatic oolong tea, which reminds me of some of my favourite coffee varieties.

The inside space at Zealong Tea.

Cheeky Chimps at Hamilton Zoo

183 Brymer Road, Baverstock, Hamilton

Hamilton Zoo is spread over 25 hectares and home to more than 600 animals. My all-time favourite animals to visit have to be the chimpanzees. They are so human-like and fascinating to watch as they go about their daily routines. They can be super cheeky, hiding away and then appearing out of nowhere, coveting your attention.

A chimpanzee eating.

Awesome food and tasty cocktails at Bahn Mi Caphe

Shop 8, River Bank Lane, 298 Victoria Street, Hamilton

Bahn Mi is an extremely popular spot in a great location with a buzzy ambiance and Vietnamese food at its finest. The dishes are made up of so many well-balanced flavours that have the taste buds asking  ‘What is this and how did they come up with this idea?’. Bahn Mi is owned and run by a lovely couple who clearly put their heart and soul into what they do, with awesome food, beautiful décor and tasty cocktails. 

A flatlay of food at Banh Mi.

Mood lift at Lykke Café

1 Greenwood Street, Frankton, Hamilton

Lykke, pronounced Luer-kah, is a Danish word meaning happiness and the café really captures this emotion. Every time I visit, I walk away feeling good. Lykke is one of the newest cafés in Hamilton and has one of the coolest interiors around, with happy pink, green and blue details. One of the features that sets this café apart, is the shop side where all your plant dreams can come true. The coffee is fantastic, and the food embraces some Danish influences. I highly recommend the Danish-style hot dog.

The pink interior at Lykke Cafe.

Boutiques on Casabella Lane

Casabella Lane, Hamilton Central

Casabella Lane sits bang in Hamilton’s centre and is an outdoor shopping experience with a French vibe. I like to go there for a stroll, take some friends along and explore the various stores. They have a number of very inventive pop-ups that are definitely worth checking out. Not too far from Casabella Lane is Sisters on London, a popular boutique stocking key New Zealand designers such as Karen Walker and Deadly Ponies.

Casabella Lane in Hamilton.

Chill out at Hamilton Lake

Hamilton Lake

After a long busy day, I like heading down to the lake to grab some fresh air, get some mindful exercise and relax. The walk around the lake has boardwalks and different paths, plus an awesome playground for the kids, not to mention ducks, geese and swans. I find the whole environment relaxing and on a sunny day it’s uplifting listening to the birds and kids' laughter.

The Hamilton Lake.

Hang out with the awa

298 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

Waikato River is the heart of Hamilton and the Riverbank development in town has been a very welcome addition. It has made the riverwalk more accessible and created a great hang out space where you can grab some fried chicken or an ice cream, and read a new-old book from Browsers bookstore while enjoying the atmosphere. The vantage point is impressive and you can admire the river’s activities – the rowing club is not far off and can be entertaining.

A bird's eye of view of the Waikato River.

Talk coffee at Rocket

302 Barton Street, Hamilton Central

For me, Rocket Coffee is one of the best coffee roasters in the world and I am so proud they reside in Hamilton. If you happen to be in town, you can smell their delicious beans roasting from two streets away. The standard of the green beans they buy is so high, and the owners are lovely, down to earth people. It’s a safe space to learn more about coffee, and you definitely need to taste a few before you leave. If you are that way inclined, have a nosey at the roasting department to appreciate the full passion involved.

The entrance to Rocket Coffee.

Experience the colourful dishes at The Kirk Café

6 Te Aroha Street, Hamilton East

The Kirk Café has the most colourful dishes and every time I go there, I get excited about the different flavours. The café is attached to one of Hamilton’s iconic churches, St Andrews, and has a beautiful outdoor area to enjoy. The owners are head chef Ben and manager Kersti. The focus here is undoubtedly food with the most delectable Crème Brulee French Toast I have ever sunk my teeth into. This dish has got to be experienced. It’s an explosion of both colour and flavour. YUM.

A waiter holding two plates of food.

Attend Gourmet in the Gardens

Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton

In summer, Hamilton Gardens fills with food and music on Sundays between 4pm and 8pm, with 25 food trucks and different live performances. It’s definitely my favourite time to visit the gardens, and it is good to see all the people and families having a picnic, taking in the relaxing environment and eating the tasty food.

A bird's eye view of Gourmet in the Gardens.