On our last day in Auckland, we spotted a Mexican restaurant that was open for breakfast. I said to my husband, “Mexican food for breakfast?” He said, “If it’s Mexican and open for breakfast, it has breakfast burritos.” Yum. Mexican food is one of those things that I pine for when I travel.
The place was awesome. It’s called Mexicali Fresh, California Mexican fresh food, and it’s on Hobson Street, with several other locations in Auckland.
Turns out the restaurant is owned by a California transplant. We had an interesting conversation. I was really impressed by his business plan and his design skills. He was able to immigrate 11 years or so ago, with an Expression of Interest Visa, because he had graphic design skills, which they didn’t have enough of at the time.
His design skills really showed in the restaurant. I was impressed with how he nailed the exact design flavor, California fresh Mex. The color scheme was bright and vibrant hues from the south American palette, there was a rustic feel imparted by distressed bricks and wood, and attention to detail showed in electrical conduits painted an attractive bright orange which rendered them a color pop instead of an eyesore. I was also impressed by the use of technology: Three big-screen TVs displayed the menu in rotating graphics that showed specials with photos of the dishes. As for the business plan, he has 10 shops now in Auckland and it looks from his website like he offers franchise opportunities.
When we were there, he was training an employee on using the IPad for management tasks.
He looks like a surfer dude, casual, fit, relatively young. After he finished training his employee and talking to us, he headed off, probably to visit another store.
Now for the cultural observations. I noticed that he talked to us quietly, coming over to stand by our table so he could speak softly. In fact, I noticed this quietness in New Zealand a lot. When we rode the public bus back from the Northland tour, the passengers were very quiet, and if you were loud (which I tend to be), people gave you a dirty look. Well, the young people did. The older folks didn’t seem to mind. I quieted down, adjusting to local norms. Although, one caveat I have, the restaurant where we had dinner in Paihea, (Lovely Place in Maori, the access town for the Bay of Islands), was very loud, but there was a group there who had participated in a race car rally that day and they were partying. Plus there was an obnoxious group of big guys who came in to do a hazing ritual by singing loudly until the manager kicked them out. So maybe it’s not possible to generalize too much, but overall, people seemed to be quiet in public.
The other observation comes from something that the Mexicali owner said. He is from Southern California. He said when he goes back to California, he is struck by how different it is from New Zealand. Naturally, I asked him in what way California is different from New Zealand, expecting him to say it’s more crowded. (There are around four million people in New Zealand. It’s really not crowded.) But he said, while waving his hand over his eyes, he wasn’t used to being bombarded by so much constant advertising.
I looked out the window, considered everywhere we had been in New Zealand, and found his observation to be true. There were very few billboards, none on the highways, and just a few in Auckland. I hadn’t realized how much Americans are subjected to advertising. I can’t complain too much, since I advertise my books! But it was interesting to compare the two experiences.
Here are some more shots from New Zealand for you to enjoy.