Bonobo: a benevolent primate, a trip-hop artist and more recently a plant-based cuisine destination in the seaside suburb of Sumner. Bonobo is a bold café making waves in more ways than one.
Owners Annelies and Deane, both Sumner locals, spent lockdown ruminating on the endless possibilities for this stand-out corner hospitality spot on Marriner Street. They approached the then owners about buying, a seed was planted, and they opened after a big renovation job in late 2021. The black exterior juxtaposes brilliantly with the bright hot pink and turquoise blue interior, awash with plants and natural light giving you the sense you are close to nature yet embraced by vibrant colour. Throughout the year, they host sundowners out on their generously sized courtyard on Friday nights complete with DJ and the place radiates with positive energy inside and out.
There are surprising delights on the menu too, for starters, it is 100% vegan. And for the less discerning, subtleties may pass you by without so much as a bat of an eyelid. It was a conscious decision not to be overtly “vegan”, in fact, Annelies and Deane purposefully wanted it to be discreet in a bid to challenge perceptions about what it means to eat plant-based. And it's working. A bustling café with people from all walks swing by for tasty kai from the cabinet and a delicious coffee, or a memorable meal from their menu. Annelies explains a lot of effort goes into making every dish an explosion of flavours, an experience of wholesome, real food with unexpected tasty twists. And we know what she means. The egg style sandwich, for instance, is a remarkable doppelganger and may leave you feeling a little perplexed, how was that not egg?
Predominantly a café, Bonobo does open late for dinner on Fridays and has a modest cocktail, wine and beer menu that showcases drinks that are free from animal-derived ingredients to accompany their food menu. With all their decision making, it’s easy to see their kaupapa of kindness in everything they do. Bonobo wants to be kind to the planet, to the animals, to our health and to each other, and will be using profits to open an animal sanctuary on the Banks Peninsula in a few years. Killing it with kindness is where it’s at.
PhotographerNancy Zhou & Ashleigh Vermaak