The Spinoff Reviews New Zealand #88: The Bugger Cafe

We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Alex Casey finds the Disneyland of Laughter.

I’ve long felt a spiritual pull towards The Bugger Cafe, although I’ve never really known exactly where it was. All I knew was the deep envy I felt seeing friends, colleagues and strangers on Instagram, beaming with joy as they sipped java in front of the most humorous décor since those barstools that have bum cheeks moulded onto the outside. Inside, it’s all bugger everything. Bugger this, bugger that, bugger you and, of course, bugger me. 

So you could imagine my excitement when, speeding down state highway 25 after a raucous women’s weekend in Whitianga (Love Island on the laptop and Alison Holst’s sausage rolls in the oven), a sign informed me that the Bugger Cafe was coming up on the left. I shrieked at my friend Zoe over the thunderous ABBA tuneage to pull the fuck over. We’d just had lunch in Tairua, sure, but it was time to get absolutely well and truly buggered (not like that).

Before I’d even stepped through the front door, I was chortling to the heavens. There was a tractor made to look as if it had driven into a ditch (bugger), a toilet for Bugger Cafe customers ONLY (bugger) and a huge sign featuring the glorious tagline “laugh a little” (bugger me – that’s good). As someone who steadfastly believes that one solid laugh a day is far more valuable than so-called “money” or “savings”, I was about to cash in big time at the Bank of Bugger. 

Strolling through the three large spaces that maketh the Bugger Cafe, it was hard to take in all the humour. Cartoons depicting what the internet would refer to as “fails”, collages of bugger-based phrases to weave into everyday life, and an interesting water feature that made it seem as if a tap was floating in mid-air. Not quite “bugger” but definitely “wow”. I stared in awe at the coffee machine, boasting a proud BUGGER personalised plate. 

Even the napkins and the takeaway coffee cups were bugger-ified. I normally wouldn’t endorse taking one of each as a souvenir via the environment but, in a way, climate change is the biggest bugger-up of all. Merch wise, a stack of rolled-up Bugger tea towels ($15.50) sat above the counter, and I was happy to hear another punter inquire as to whether or not the “Keep Calm and Bugger Off” t-shirts were available (not currently). 

I bought a black cherry-flavoured kombucha (I’m trying to have a glow-up, don’t look at me) and Zoe ordered an iced chocolate. We sat outside in the sunshine and watched a beaming elderly couple jump on their pushbikes and glide down the highway to their nearby country oasis. What a life! Kombucha be gone, what I really need for my wellbeing is to up sticks to Pipiroa and devote my life to soaking up rays outside the Bugger Cafe. 

As anyone who orders iced chocolates will know, it’s always a crapshoot as to whether or not you’ll receive an understated glass of chilled-out choco, or a completely humiliating freak shake extravaganza featuring a stack of donuts, your first childhood friend, and a Reader’s Digest jammed on top of it. Zoe, unfortunately, got the latter, all slathered in chocolate sauce and piled up with cream. It turned heads. It was the talk of the town. She didn’t like it very much – “too icy”.

My kombucha was fine, but sadly we didn’t have room for anything else. I took to Tripadvisor when I got home to see how other diners had fared. “The walls are funny to read and there is a video playing in a loop of Bugger moments, but our bugger moment was stopping there for lunch!” said one critic who had a hard time with some uncooked eggs. “If you cannot get a laugh here, you don’t have a sense of humour,” said John, “and the toilets were excellent.” 

Before we got back in the car to return to the drab, humourless north, I approached the unsmiling man behind the counter once more to buy a souvenir tea towel. At $15.50, it seemed a reasonable price to pay for so many different, never-seen-before fonts. I swiped my card excitedly, chuffed to have found the perfect souvenir from the perfect place. The machine thought about it for a moment. 

Declined. 

Good or bad? Crazy that you think laughter could ever be bad.

Verdict: Order wisely and chuckle stupidly.


The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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