I am old enough to remember the Matterhorn as a trendy coffee-house of the 70’s. Suzies in Willis St was another also run by a European immigrant, it was this generation of immigrants who introduced the coffee culture to Wellington.
The Matterhorn coffee-house was opened in the 60’s by a Swiss German couple, whose names have disappeared from my memory bank. The fact I can’t remember their names is a concern, as they were my bosses in the early 70’s. I worked for them on a Friday after school for a couple of years. Late night shopping on a Friday used to bring hoards of people into the city for that after work retail experience, this is pre-weekend opening.
This couple where the archetype of a business marriage they worked hard and had high standards and expectations of their staff. Waitresses had to wear a uniform, not just a skirt and blouse, but the full maids outfit! A milk chocolate-brown dress with a bodice and full knee-length skirt gathered at the waist, a white short sleeve puff shirt and to top it off a starched white ruffle fringed apron. Maid fantasies must have been on the minds of many a male patron, not that I was aware of that possibility in my naïve teens. I do remember many of the older European immigrants who came to the café the women dressed in their finest cashmere coats, hats with plumage, white gloves and handbags that snapped shut after the pennies were exchanged.
The menu was reflective of its time and pandered to the NZ palate. Not only did the sausage roll’s fill the pie warmer but you could have mince on toast and toasted sandwiches with a number combinations, ham, cheese and tomato being a favourite. They did manage to slip in a few European specialities’ frankfurters with potato salad and iced coffee and chocolate were popular.
I am not certain but I think they may have owned the building or had elements constructed for them? The facade above the street veranda is a superb example of branding from the era. Funny not a lot of people have noticed this feature. The other famous element of the establishment was the large black and white photograph of the Matterhorn Mountain the image dominated the seating area that was encased by a Swiss style veranda as you entered the coffee-house. And of course the famous outdoor seating area at the rear of the building, it was a lovely place to sit with your cuppa, have a fag and feed the sparrow population.
Forty years later it’s great to see such a large number of coffee houses filling Cuba St. The passing of the waiting staff wearing uniforms gives us more to look at with the staff now more likely to have nose studs, dreadlocks, purple hair and other interesting fashion statements reflecting their individuality.