Officially the best! New Mount hot spot, The General, is fast becoming an institution, with its fresh menu and extra warm service.

WORDS TALIA WALDEGRAVE / PHOTOS TRACIE HEASMAN

Less than a year in, this cool café, housed in a his­tor­i­cal Mount land­mark, has been named the UNO. Mag­a­zine Out­stand­ing Café at the Bay Hos­pi­tal­i­ty Awards, thanks to its incred­i­bly tal­ent­ed own­ers, Malika Gan­ley and Aaron Win­ter.

I’VE BEEN TO THE GENERAL ON PACIFIC AVENUE IN THE MOUNT A FEW TIMES, and when I say a few, I mean that I went for five con­sec­u­tive days. It’s that good. I sit down with Malika.

I WAS LITERALLY BORN IN A CAFÉ. MY FAMILY TELLS ME ABOUT THE TIMES I’D CONSTANTLY BE PUT TO BED IN THE DRY STORE! We always owned cafés or restau­rants when I was young, so that’s why cook­ing is in my blood.”

MOROCCAN AND KIWI BLOOD, THAT IS. BUT IT WAS THE HIBISCUS COAST WHERE MALIKA GANLEY’S HOSPITALITY SEEDS WERE SOWN. What grew was a pas­sion for food and an edu­ca­tion cov­er­ing nutri­tion, culi­nary arts, being a chef on supery­achts, and an impres­sive total of almost 15 years in kitchens. “For me, the biggest mem­o­ries always come from food. We want­ed to be able to cre­ate that here.”

THE GENERAL’S MENU IS EXCITING. STEADFAST BRUNCHERS WILL APPRECIATE THE APPEARANCE OF THE CLASSICS, LIKE EGGS BENE. But those who like to keep up with the culi­nary pace will be grate­ful for the mod­ern, healthy, and most de nite­ly avour­some addi­tions. My per­son­al favourite is the Cil­bir (Turk­ish Eggs), made with Alep­po pep­per that Malika has own in from Aus­tralia. For lunch, don’t go past the Mar­ket Fish, piled atop a mor­eish sal­ad.

Clev­er­ly done, this menu is the epit­o­me of a bal­anc­ing act.

WE WANTED TO CREATE SOMETHING THAT INCORPORATED DIFFERENT CUISINES. That won’t always please every­one, but we had to stay true to what we believe in – we nev­er want­ed our food to be gener­ic. So much can be given through food and good ser­vice.”

It was dur­ing her time on the boats that Malika met Bay-born-and-bred Aaron, the oth­er half of The Gen­er­al.

MALIKA SAYS, “WE WERE SO LUCKY TO HAVE HAD THAT TIME ON THE SUPERYACHTS. We dis­cov­ered what hos­pi­tal­i­ty should look like, by watch­ing and learn­ing from some of the best in the world. But we’d been away for so long, and it was time to come home and start our own thing – we just hadn’t decid­ed where. I’m so glad we chose the lifestyle, beach and grow­ing com­mu­ni­ty here in Mount Maun­ganui.”

AARON SPENDS MOST OF HIS TIME BEHIND THE SCENES IN THE CAFÉ. But evi­dence
of his tal­ent and painstak­ing crafts­man­ship as a car­pen­ter is every­where. “Aaron is the biggest per­fec­tion­ist.” She’s right. The t-out in the large, airy space on Paci c Avenue is immac­u­late and suits the the­me; mint green tones, rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal cor­ner store from a bygone era. And, of course, this was the orig­i­nal site of the rst Gen­er­al Store.

AARON SAYS, “WE ARE QUITE TRADITIONAL AND WE LOVE HISTORY – it’s part of what drew us here to this loca­tion.”

I TELL MALIKA I REMEMBER MEETING HER DURING MY FIVE-DAY BREAKFAST BINGE. To my sur­prise she remem­bers me, too. It’s this ser­vice, the impec­ca­ble atten­tion to detail, the high lev­el of hos­pi­tal­i­ty and, of course, the sen­sa­tion­al yet hon­est food, which must have clinched the well-deserved acco­lade as the most out­stand­ing café in the Bay of Plen­ty.