Judy Cole likes a challenge. On the first of October she began running Woodlands Café, nestled on the Woodlands estate.
A familiar face to many – she was a Waikato District Councillor for 12 years – Judy has served on the Woodlands Trust and undertaken much voluntary work in the district.
From England originally, she trained as a nurse and says this is her first venture into the world of hospitality.
“But I rather think it’s in my blood – my grandfather, who I never knew – used to have a café on the outskirts of Bristol.”
Now she’s learning a range of new skills. “One of the first things I had to come to terms with was paying people on-line – I didn’t grow up with computers. And then there’s making a good cup of coffee. You have to stretch the milk – it does stretch, it rises and test the temperature by hand and all the rest. The whole thing is quite an art.”
It’s important to use good beans, she adds, and says their coffee is sourced from Essenza, just out of Morrinsville.
“He imports the beans and roasts them, they’re beautiful and fresh.”
Most of all, she enjoys being around the café and interacting with customers.
“It’s just beautiful here, the ambiance is lovely. In my first three weeks we had a 21st, an 80th birthday and a group involved with dog training. The gardens, all15 acres of them, are looking absolutely beautiful, perfect for a stroll.”
Husband Rod Wise – the pair were married at Woodlands in April – lends a hand.
“He’s wonderful. He shops for fresh bread and fish every morning, helps with the wine list and in so many other ways. My daughter called in on her day off and ended up doing the dishes and waiting on tables.”
There have been changes already – “we’re still the Woodlands Café, but trading as the Oval Clubhouse, which refers to where we are, perched next to the Woodlands cricket pitch and takes in some of the history.
“In the first few weeks we revamped the main room, painted it fresh and hung some art (pieces by Jacquie Haselden) on the walls.”
They are also opening up on Tuesdays. “I’d often be here with the volunteers in the garden and see cars coming down the driveway, then leave again. We need to be open another day in the summer. And I still get Mondays off.”
Ross Curle, the former chef, continues to whip up culinary magic in the kitchen.
“We have a new summer menu; avocado and prawn salad, sweetcorn fritters and a daily chef’s special.
A marriage celebrant, she is looking forward to doing weddings at the café. “When I marry a couple, I ask them to donate to a Woodland’s project. We’re fund raising to build an archive room.”
When Judy and Rod married, in lieu of gifts, guests were asked to contribute to this, and they raised $3000. The total now stands at $11,000. We’re getting there.”
And she is settling into café work. A group of men were lunching and she asked if they wanted more wine.
“One gentleman looked at me and loudly exclaimed ‘yes, my girl!’ Every day is a pleasure and it’s all very exciting. We’re looking forward to a wonderful summer and many, many satisfied customers.”