In the little town of Inglewood, you’ll find a cosy spot serving up top-notch pies, decadent doughnuts and coffee as good as any you’d get in the big smoke.
Sixteen kilometres southeast of New Plymouth, under the shadow of maunga Taranaki, lies a little rural town by the name of Inglewood. With a population of 3580, it’s surrounded by farmland and intersected by rushing rivers as they journey down the slopes of the mountain towards the wild west coast.
It’s an industrious town. Fun Ho! Toys, famous for its brightly coloured die-cast toys, still manufactures its products there. Remember those red, black and yellow trikes every Kiwi kid gets for their first birthday? Yip, they were manufactured in Inglewood too. It’s a small rural community with a lot of spirit and, if you’ll take my word for it, the best pies, doughnuts and coffee this side of the black stump!
In 2005, Craig Williamson and wife Sue bought Oscars, a little fish and chip shop in the heart of Inglewood. Craig was a trained chef, earning his qualifications in the army in Waiouru. While business was good and they loved their new place in the community, Craig felt an urge to diversify, spread his wings and experiment in the kitchen. More specifically, he wanted to make and serve the best pies and doughnuts he possibly could.
Space was limited, so after five years in business the duo decided to move next door to a corner site, giving them more space in a prime location. Oscars then became Oscars Kiwi Kafe and daughter Tessa took the reins. Tessa used to take the bus straight to the cafe after school, and learnt all she could under the guidance of Craig, finding she too shared a love of good food. So it was that the new doors opened and Craig’s dream of serving pies and doughnuts was at last realised.
The team at Oscars are proud of their place, their tūrangawaewae. Tessa speaks fondly of her customers and the relationships she’s built with them over the years. In the middle of the shop there’s a long communal table where customers cosy up by the fire, sharing good coffee and company.
The Oscars team source local produce where possible, teaming up with the fine folks at Green Meadows Beef to ensure a steady supply of top-quality beef to fill their pies. Green Meadows also supplies their small goods, including burger patties, so you can be assured you’re getting quality. There’s always a pot on the stove out the back with one cut of meat or another simmering away in anticipation of the next batch of pies, of which there can be 15 or more in the warmer at any time.
Not only have they perfected the good old Kiwi classics like mince and cheese and steak and onion, Oscars also make pies that deliberately challenge the status quo. Inspiration for some of the more interesting flavour combinations comes from Craig and his love of hunting and fishing. Rabbit pies, duck pies and even thar pies make an appearance in the pie warmer when these game meats are available. If you’re feeling a little seedy, then the hangover pie is just the ticket. Filled with hash browns, eggs, bacon and baked beans, it’s guaranteed to soak up last night’s sins.
The day I visited, I had a beef and blue cheese pie – a firm favourite among customers. As with all Oscars pies, the pastry is golden brown and beautifully flaky, generously enveloping the filling within. On first bite the beef, tender and slow-cooked to perfection, reveals itself along with the tangy blue cheese. The sweet spicy cheese marries perfectly with the richness of the beef and before I know it my plate is empty and I’m considering picking it up and licking it.
Now that I’ve polished off my pie I figure it’s only polite to indulge in one of the doughnuts Craig worked so hard to perfect. I’m not disappointed. These are donuts the way they used to be made. No garish sickly sweet icing or rainbow sprinkles in sight. These bad boys are crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside and filled with exactly the right amount of lightly whipped fresh cream, finished off with a lick of raspberry jam and a snowy dusting of icing sugar. Perfection. I order a coffee to finish off. I drink mine with coconut milk and, as always, it’s excellent. Beautifully presented, just the right temperature and expertly extracted.
Yes, Taranaki is off the beaten path for many, but if you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to swing by Oscars – just make sure you’re there before the lunchtime rush, or you might arrive to an empty pie warmer.