Bridget Dunn: Wellington’s hospitality heroine

New Zealand’s small capital city of Wellington has earned an astounding international reputation for it’s independent coffee roasting and cafe scene. One of the stalwarts of the local industry, whose name is synonymous with this reputation, is hospitality heroine Bridget Dunn.

Honing her craft as a maître d since the age of 18, Bridget embodies everything ‘hospitality’. She has a list of impressive business-ownership credentials that have come about through determination and hard work, and most importantly – thinking well ahead of the game.

The roaring success of Bridget and partner Jeff Kennedy’s latest ventures, Wellington eatery Prefab and the adjoining Acme & Co coffee cups, is testament to their hands-on approach to working in the business. Here’s Bridget’s story:

A Day in the Life of Bridget Dunn

When was Prefab born and how did the idea for this eatery come about?

We opened in February 2013. Jeff and I had owned this building for a few years. We used to have tenants in it, and and then decided it would make an ideal warehouse for the cups we make under our other business – Acme & Co.

Espresso bar at @unlimitedcoffeetokyo #acmecups #specialtycoffee #acmeforlife

A photo posted by Specialty Coffee Cups (@acmeandco) on

I thought I could have a little espresso bar at the front with Jeff roasting coffee. I thought life would be quite simple – make a few coffees in the morning then dispatch the cups in the afternoon. Then the little espresso bar turned into a 180 seater café, with a full commercial bakery, and the cup warehouse turned into a 200 seater event hall. And now, the cups have gone ballistic!

What’s your philosophy behind Prefab and the food you serve?

We want to be your home away from home, which means the service is friendly and informal. The food is the kind of food you want to eat every day – fresh, seasonal and delicious, but simple. We also want to be for every body – whether you’re eating alone (our bar seating makes this very comfortable), with business colleagues or family. We’re like the old-fashioned home – we make everything on the premises, including preserves, smoked fish, sausages and all the breads and sweets.

Saturdays #prefab #acmeforlife

A photo posted by Prefab – Cafe, Hall & Lane (@prefabeatery) on

Prefab is distinctly different from all other Wellington cafes – it’s very polished, and its design and style is clearly an important feature. Tell us why you established a café of this nature?

Jeff designed Prefab. He draws. He’s got a wonderful naïve style of drawing, but if you saw the original sketches, with the fan and the long bar and the furniture – well it’s exactly how it’s turned out. He doesn’t compromise on fixtures, fittings or style. Our plumber tried to put plastic piping in, but forget about it – we have copper pipes and steel guttering.

Have you always worked in Wellington’s food industry?

I’ve always been in Wellington. I’ve been a maître d since I was 18. Jeff has a background in importing food products. He imported the country’s first ever panini machine. He used to own a spice business and we both owned a coffee company together – Caffe L’affare (which Jeff founded in 1990). We bought an espresso machine business together (Rocket Espresso) when we sold L’affare, and opened Prefab once we had seen out our restraint of trade.

We’ve travelled the world but we’ve never been tempted to reside anywhere else. We’ve never done anything embarrassing enough to have to leave!

Are you working on any new or interesting projects right now?

Watch this space (hint: we own another building).

Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few …  

Chopping boards and old coffee brewers – moka pots and espresso machines.

We have a fifth option! #redpeak #nzflag #nzflagdebate

A photo posted by Prefab – Cafe, Hall & Lane (@prefabeatery) on

What’s your favourite item in your #khoollection?

A Seraphine Pick painting that Jeff bought me recently – it’s a small oil of Audrey Hepburn.

Your advice when starting a food business?

Liking food is not a qualification for opening a café. It’s not a ‘lifestyle business’.

Who’s your #khoollectcrush?

Coco Chanel – brave, ahead of her time and synonymous with style.

Your go-to dish for any easy weeknight dinner?

Carbonara tagliatelle with fresh broccoli and tonnes of garlic (Jeff makes it).

Urban Favourites

Where do you call home and what do you love most about it?

Mt Victoria, Wellington. It’s the best part of Wellington – close to town, great sun. I love our view of the harbour and the yachts.

Your favourite place for coffee?

Prefab in the morning at 5am. It’s when I get to enjoy my café before anyone else gets here. I have a coffee and listen to National Radio.

Best spot for dinner?

My kitchen. With Jeff cooking. It’s wonderful just the two of us and Jeff’s a great cook.

Where do you like to pick up fresh produce?

Moore Wilsons – honest quality produce.

How do you spend a lazy Sunday?

It’s my day off. National radio, the ironing, and the best part: my weekly massage.

Favourite green space or park?

Wellington tennis club. I love the tennis green!

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

Maybe Paris in Coco Chanel’s apartment.

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Read about Khoollect’s visit to Prefab.

Try Prefab’s recipe for chia seed bircher muesli.

Visit Prefab’s website.

Find Prefab on Instagram – Facebook – Twitter

Team photo by Mike Farr.