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.