Located in downtown Hamilton on Victoria Street, those of you familiar with the Waikato food scene will surely know of The River Kitchen. Recently renamed as The Sconery after moving to a larger premise, we have it on good authority that this iconic cafe will soon be returning to its’ original branding and name. As a long-time Wholesale customer of Volare – using our products on their menu and in their cabinet – they’re now also on-selling our loaves since our Central Store closed down last year.
When we last stopped by, we had the pleasure of meeting with Maria Senear – owner and head chef – to learn a bit more about The River Kitchen and what the future holds for this Hamilton institution. Keep reading for the full interview below.
How did The River Kitchen begin?
Lisa and Brent – who now own Weave Eatery and Hayes Common – originally founded The River Kitchen about 14 or 15 years ago. I was working for Scott’s Epicurean at the time, but lived just across the road from the original cafe and used to come in for breakfast on my day off. Eventually, I asked for a job and have been with The River Kitchen for almost 12 years.
When Lisa and Brent decided to open Hayes Common, I knew that I wanted to stay. I’ve now owned The River Kitchen for seven years – for three in the original cafe and for four in this new bigger premise just a few doors down.
How long have you been cheffing and how did you get into it?
I’ve been working as a chef for 30 years and worked at Wintec as a technician in the hospitality department prior to that. Most of my skills were picked up from watching and assisting my Grandma at the kitchen table when I was younger, which is why I have a real affinity for baking.
What’s your favourite Volare product?
I love all of the little pastries or basically, anything made with croissant dough. The Pork and Apple Sausage Rolls are also great.
How would you describe your menu and what is most popular?
I would say that we offer an elevated take on homely staples that Grandma might cook, such as posh porridge. Some recent customer favourites have been the Opera Slice and the Salmon Hash with Crispy Potatoes, Peas, and Remoulata or the Opera Slice. However, my favourite thing to make is cakes.
What is your most iconic dish?
Our most popular dish of all time – and one that customers still ask for today – would have to be the Spanish Beans with Chorizo, Black Pudding and Baked Eggs with Spinach, Harissa and Toast. I might need to bring that one back someday…
Is it important to you which providers you use and why?
Yes! It’s important that we use good quality ingredients and try to use local produce – such as Nature’s Corner, Kaipaki Milk, Atomic Coffee, and Volare Bread – wherever possible.
What exciting things does the future hold for your cafe?
Switching back to our original name – The River Kitchen – from The Sconery should be happening soon. We’ve come to realise that there was a sense of confusion around the rebrand and that The River Kitchen carries a lot of weight as a Hamilton institution. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
It was such a joy to sit down with Maria and watch her interact with her regular customers that continued to pour in throughout our short interview. With so many years in the industry, it’s no wonder she is as well-known and well-loved as her cafe. Above and beyond this, we were treated to an incredible coffee by the talented Latte artist, TK, while we waited.
So if you’ve been missing us since we closed down our Central Store, make sure to pop into The River Kitchen for all your Volare favourites.