You wouldn’t have guessed it from looking at the size of the Powerhouse Cafe, but it was originally a hydroelectric station that provided power for a small portion of Hanmer Springs. Its size seems much better suited to a bakery and cafe that offers a small indoor area complemented by plenty of outdoor dining space.
When I arrived, I was greeted by Mary, the owner and chef of the restaurant. She told me about the history of the cafe and how they now strive to offer a wide selection of tasty dishes as well as being “Hanmer’s gluten free specialists.”
All of the fresh baked goodies sitting in a window near the cash register were very tempting, but rafting had made me quite hungry so I chose to have a sit down brunch. The menu had a wide array of options, from the standard (eggs florentine or a big breakfast complete with lamb & mint sausage) to the not-so-standard (roast kumara & corn cake or a kedgeree, which is apparently a smoked fish risotto). Surprisingly, the menu also offered favourites that I would expect on a menu in a waffle house in America rather than in New Zealand. I had a hard time choosing between two of these — should I get the sugary goodness of French toast with bacon, bananas, and maple syrup, or the cheesy goodness of huevos rancheros heaped with avocados?
After some internal debate, I ended up choosing the huevos rancheros, complemented by a fresh berry smoothie. Mary brought the smoothie over to my table and then pulled up a chair, which was a great change from the single dining I’d been used to thus far on the trip. I enjoyed being able to talk to her about the Hanmer Springs area and even got some good advice on where to go for the best view of Hanmer & its surrounding mountains (although this required at least a 30-minute walk, which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do).
The smoothie that Mary brought over was delicious. I could tell it was made from real fresh fruit and it wasn’t excessively sugary like a lot of smoothies can be. Only the brain freeze stopped me from slurping it down as fast as I could!
My brunch didn’t take long at all and arrived on my table looking just as I expect huevos rancheros to look — that is, it was a heaping pile of Mexican goodness. The salsa had just the right amount of bite to it and there was a huge amount of avocado to mix in. The eggs were cooked perfectly — just a bit soft — and their taste mingled with the cheese and tomato quite well. I couldn’t believe that I’d found one of the best Mexican meals I’d had in a long time in the alpine resort town of Hanmer Springs in New Zealand, and I made sure not to leave a single scrap of cheese on the plate.
Even if you’re not as much of a Mexican fiend as I am, I know that if you have lunch at the Powerhouse Cafe you’ll find something that suits your fancy and hits the spot perfectly. And with a location only just around the corner from the hot springs, there’s no excuse not to have a meal there!
The Powerhouse Cafe is located at 8 Jacks Pass Road, Hanmer Springs (just around the corner from the thermal pools). In the summer they are open from 8am-4pm and on Fridays and Saturdays after 6.30pm for dinner. In the winter they are open from 8am-3pm.