1 Okowai Rd, Aotea, Porirua
Opens 9am Wed to Sun; closes 4pm
Gear Eatery & Bar is in the Gear Homestead, a Category 2 historic place. The house was built in 1887 for the founder of the Gear Meat Preserving and Freezing Company, James Gear, in the then fashionable Italianate style. Gear’s company was one of the largest employers in Wellington at one point and the meat works a major feature of Petone.
The building was sold to Porirua City Council in 1975 and has been used as the location for several movies and TV series, including Peter Jackson’s first film, Bad Taste. I don’t know if I should tell you that it was a splatter movie (appropriate, given the home’s original ownership by a butcher!) but its all been cleaned up now. Also, that the house blasted into space in the end, since it was actually an alien spaceship in disguise. Again, don’t worry, laughable in the movie and improbable in real life.
The building is set in beautiful, spacious grounds, sheltered by large pine trees used for the high-wire Adrenaline Forest experience to the south. I guess these trees were not there when the house was built, as the south wall is apparently 30 cm thick and filled with sawdust against southerly winds. Now there’s insulation for you!
I had a coffee and something sweet here a few years back when it operated more like a tea room on the Sunday outing circuit. In May 2021 it was substantially redeveloped with the intention of being family friendly (there’s a gelato bar), and a community hub (with the bar upstairs).
The ‘maple and cashew’ granola was based on well-toasted whole-grain oats that clumped together in small nuggets here and there. To this were added cashew nuts, raisins, and chopped dried apricot pieces. The ubiquitous twins of many a café muesli/granola – sunflower and pumpkin seeds – were absent for a change.
The mix was topped with a plain poached pear (no spices or syrup), and ‘pressed berry yoghurt’. I’ve no idea what pressed yoghurt is. Mr Google tells me that strained yoghurt (which I guess is similar) removes the whey, making it richer and creamier. I didn’t really notice. Overall, the dish was a little bit too sugary, and quite a filling start to my day.
The décor is interesting and rather unexpected of a nineteenth century historic house. The tables and chairs are retro Formica and vinyl – genuine items from the 1960s or earlier. On the wall are hand-coloured scenic photographs, mostly by the well-known firm of Whites Aviation who were active from the 1940s to the 70s. There is a massive example of Mt Maunganui from the air behind the counter.
Perhaps more in keeping are stuffed game birds and rabbits (or hares) on the walls of the main room, eccentrically paired with old pedal cars. And a vintage outboard motor leans against the wall below. It is as though NZ retro is a signaler style for certain family-oriented eateries – I’m thinking of Seashore Cabaret and to some extent Maranui. It says comfort, informality and relaxed bach holidays.
I spied some promising looking cheese scones on the counter as I left but I’d already eaten enough for a while. So another time perhaps. Later in the day would be ideal, as the sun would swing around on the building. At 9am on a Saturday in April it was just a bit shady. It could be fine at that hour in summer though. You might then be able to catch the sun on the new outdoor seating area.
There were only about four patrons between 9 and 9.45 but I was told it gets busy from about 11am. So turning up before 11am should secure you one of those scones. And even if you are earlier there are still patches of sunlight on the grounds.
I like the Gear Homestead. The grounds are achingly beautiful. I’d love to have a live-in job as a caretaker, though maybe it could be a bit spooky to be there alone. And the revamp of the décor and food and drink offerings is great. The granola (which wasn’t previously on the menu) is acceptable, but I wouldn’t come all the way specially, and it is a little hard to get there without a car. (It’s about 30 mins walk from Porirua station, or 12 mins on Whitby bus 230 from Porirua Station, which only go hourly in the weekends.) Worth a visit on a nice day all the same.
Reviewed April 2022.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.