The winner (Photo: Madeleine Chapman)
The winner (Photo: Madeleine Chapman)

KaiJune 6, 2024

Revealed: the best cheese scone in Auckland

The winner (Photo: Madeleine Chapman)
The winner (Photo: Madeleine Chapman)

Madeleine Chapman crowns a reluctant winner in the Auckland cheese scone division.

I have been meaning to write this story for nearly two years, because it was about two years ago when I first had this cheese scone. As someone who apparently enjoys being disappointed, my default order at any cafe between 2012 and 2022 was a cheese scone. No matter what they looked like or what strange additions the chef had made, I was ordering a cheese scone with my coffee. And eight times out of 10, I was disappointed.

Why order them then? I have a lot of allergies (including all nuts and raw egg) so cheese scones were the most reliable safe item for me to eat. But after a decade of eating them all over the country, I started to wonder if it wasn’t a matter of cheese scones being hit or miss – maybe cheese scones were just bad? Maybe they’re supposed to be dry and floury and bland. Maybe some people love to sweep up a mountain of crumbs after taking a single bite. Maybe everyone was making a really good cheese scone but even a really good cheese scone was bad. What a sad realisation to have, hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars later.

Then I went to Burnt Butter in Avondale and had the best cheese scone in Auckland.

an exterior shot of burnt butter diner with orange window sills and the Moana Fresh arts store next door with a silver glittery curtain
Burnt Butter Diner in Avondale (Image:

I don’t even know how to explain why it was so good but I’ll try. Many cheese scones are just so unbelievably dry. Like messy-to-eat dry. You can tell as soon as it’s put down at the table, and it’s confirmed when you try to butter it and it crumbles under the knife. When Alice Neville wrote about the competitive Wellington cheese scone scene in 2019, she quoted the former chef at Nikau Cafe (great scone makers) as saying the key was “just so much cheese. A ridiculous amount of cheese.” Cheese is expensive, so it would make sense that many cafes would rather not include “a ridiculous amount” of it in their scones. But Burnt Butter Diner does (I presume). Burnt Butter’s cheese scone does not crumble. In fact, it’s incredibly tidy to eat. And when you bite into it, there’s so much cheese you almost get the stringy pull that you would when eating a pizza.

I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea what else is in their scones besides cheese. Is there a hint of paprika? Who knows! Is there some secret ingredient? Maybe! I could just ask: Burnt Butter is owned and run by Claudia Long and Ryan Pearce (Long makes the sweets, Pearce makes the savouries), who are in the diner every day and cook all the food served there, including the scones. But I’m not writing this as an investigative journalist, I’m writing this as a fan.

And what I have realised in writing this is that even if the recipe was released and I could make these at home, I’m not sure they would be near as good. Because what also makes the Burnt Butter cheese scones so bloody good is how they’re prepared. While they might look like any other cheese scone (one of the downsides to cheese scones is it’s near impossible to tell on sight whether one will be bad – you just have to buy it and hope for the best), when they’re served, they’re a different beast entirely. Rather than simply warmed and served with butter on the side, they’re toasted so they look like a cheese toastie, and then they pre-butter it with what I can only assume is about three times the amount you’d think. Would it still be the best cheese scone in Auckland if it wasn’t prepared and served in that particular way? Probably not. But that’s the joy of cooking – every little decision can elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

On that day nearly two years ago, I sat down at a new cafe in Avondale and ordered a cheese scone out of habit. It was the last time I did because all other cheese scones are ruined for me now. They’re also ruined for chef Pearce, who recently threatened to stop making them after doing some maths and realising he’d made about 25,000 of them. Mere moments ago I visited the diner to order a fresh one, after realising that the scones never seemed to appear on the Burnt Butter instagram page alongside other menu items – almost as if they’re not keen to advertise them at all.

When I arrived, they were sold out but a fresh batch was on its way. I told Long and Pearce I’d happily wait as I needed a photo for this article declaring their cheese scone the best in Auckland.

Long laughed and turned to Pearce. “You’ll love that,” she said sarcastically. Pearce just looked into the middle distance before returning to the kitchen.

Burnt Butter Diner serves the best cheese scones in Auckland. Here’s hoping they continue to do so.

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