Why signs are important: Railway Cafe, Swanson

door panel

My new hood in West Auckland is just a hope skip and a drunken stumble from the semi-rural idle of Swanson. The ‘town’ (for all intents and purposes) is snuggled into the out stretched chin-cleft of the Waitakere Ranges which are big and green and pretty. They smell nice, like wood and trees.

The Cafe building has history, well for New Zealand it’s history. It was built around about 1880 as the Avondale station house. It got mugged out by teenagers and vandalised within an inch of it’s life until the kindly people are Swanson did a bit of fund raising and saved it from demolition. I love old things, specially Grannies and architecture so it made me feel warm and fuzzy. The brick and Rimu (I think, I don’t know wood but it was pretty and old) fire place, masked lead light windows and other solid woody features added to the allure.

exterior station

Luck cat

Luck cat was there to wish us well on our journey to Brunch Land.



plastic flowers

The plastic flowers on the tables were a tad off putting, though kind of amusing in an unintentional kitsch way. It was kind of at odds with the beautiful Grand Old Dame building, so subtle and reticent to blow her own late Victorian trumpet. The plastic flowers shout *TWO DOLLAR STORE!!!!!* at the tops of their garish fushia lungs and clashed with the charm of the woody 135 odd year old building. Woody.

picture window

This little ticket window made me smile plenty.

The food was fine too but that’s all blah blah blah…. I went on a scout to find their loos and after circling the building (in the pissing rain I might add) I still couldn’t find a sign. So I was left to ask the girl behind the counter where I might find the public convenience. Turns out it was the funny little stump on the end of the building which I had taken for storage space. Am I amiss to expect decent signage?? I don’t think I am. I like that the toilets are a decent distance from the eating area, privacy and quiet are two of my fav features in a loo.

exteriorinterior doors

Inside there were two bathrooms, both unisex or at least again unlabelled so who knows! They had cute features like this little medical cabinet on the wall which was retained by virtue of the mirror on the front and ability to hold rolls of loo paper.



It had no baby changing facilities (in case your child was also a Pokemon and wanted a bit of privacy), one loo looked big enough for a wheel chair and had a holdy rail so up to some kind of standard but over all I felt they could have tried a bit harder.

It could be so nice if they put a bit of work and thought into it, reclaimed vintage fittings and a few pictures on the walls. Sadly the bathrooms echoed the earlier stated building/plastic flower contradiction. The bones are lovely but go unnoticed as they are heaped under a thin layer of cheap dressing and lack of thought for over all experience. It had a real “this’ll do” feeling to it. Bathrooms as an after thought don’t float my boat.

I would LOVE to see it change hands and be re-birthed as a heritage restoration. Nothing that a bit of paint stripper, sniff of brasso and dump of aesthetic thinking couldn’t fix.




Cleanliness: 8/10

Interior: 6/10

Exterior: 6/10 Get some signs people!!!

Safety: 9/10 Other than the rain which could have melted my skin.

Snugglitude: 5/10 all points given for the hints of former glory peaking out of banality, plastic flowers and supermarket hand wash.

Total: 34/50


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