Chef Series: Hayes Common, Hamilton

08 December 2022

Meet the Chef: Dan Lawrence, Hayes Common Hamilton

Many of you will already be familiar with Hayes Common – especially if you’re based in the Waikato – as it’s been a favourite Hamilton restaurant for some time now. And if you haven’t yet heard of Hayes Common, you’ll likely remember Hydro Cafe that once sat in the same place at the heart of Hamilton East in Hayes Paddock. Offering a creative and robust menu with craft beer, carefully selected wine and great coffee – it’s the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

An inspired collaboration between executive chef Karl Martin-Boulton, head chef Dan Lawrence, and owners Lisa and Brent Quarrie, their menu focuses on seasonal food and good honest flavours. Sourcing fresh ingredients from local suppliers and their own kitchen garden where they can, it’s no wonder each dish is so unbelievably good.

We stopped by a few weeks ago to catch up with Dan and Lisa and were lucky enough to get our hands on the most mouth-watering Korean Chicken Burger we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Made with crispy fried chicken, kimchi salsa, daikon, Korean bbq sauce, and aioli –all sandwiched between a Volare Gourmet Burger Bun– with the option to add thick-cut bacon or a side of fries. So tender, so juicy, and so worth the visit!

You’ll find Volare bread in a few other Hayes Common dishes too – and at their sister restaurant Weave Eatery – like the Avocado Toast and eggs on toast that both come with our San Francisco Sourdough. And they’ve also got a range of Volare pastries on display in their cabinet, like the ever-popular Almond Croissant.

Click here for their full menu.

Where it all began...

Also worth the visit was getting to chat with Lisa about the Hayes Common origin story and what has made it the success that it is. Moving down from Auckland 16 years ago, Lisa and Brent first got involved with the Waikato hospitality scene when they opened The River Kitchen (now The Sconery) in central Hamilton. Over the course of 9 years, the cafe grew to be a huge success, but when the opportunity arose to take over the iconic Hydro Cafe – situated just down the road from their home at the time – they leaped at the chance.

Fast-forward 7 years – with several lockdowns and, until last week, a slew of roadworks to compete with – Lisa admits that it’s been quite a journey but that they’ve felt incredibly supported along the way. The more that time goes on, she mentioned, the more that people feel that Hayes is a staple of their community and patrons have a sense of ownership of the place.

When taking it over, their goal was to make it feel as though it had always been there. By referencing the aesthetic of surrounding state houses and using materials that felt natural and gave a sense of home away from home, they’ve created a really approachable community hub that is often hired for events and weddings.

When they took on the project, Lisa and Brent understood that cafes and eateries have become central to communities throughout New Zealand, often taking the place of a church or a town hall for folks to come together. So it was important for the space to be really welcoming for a broad range of people and occasions.

Many of their staff have been with them a long time and Lisa believes that it comes down to their culture and values, something that they talk about regularly with staff. And while Lisa and Brent are now mostly focused on running the business behind the scenes, you’ll still find them out on the floor most days, helping out wherever they’re needed.

Time to meet the chef...

One such staff member that has been with part of the family for the past 3.5 years is Dan Lawrence. Starting as a chef de partie (station chef or line cook) at the well-known Chim Choo Ree before it sold, he quickly worked his way up and is now the head chef at Hayes Common, managing a kitchen team of 5 chefs and 2 kitchen hands.

Having completed a Culinary Arts degree at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Dan has been working in kitchens throughout Hamilton and Auckland for over 10 years . He said that, while he highly recommends the program he went through at AUT, it’s not the only way to become a chef and that you can also look for an apprenticeship for a more hand-on learning experience.

His favourite Volare product to work with is the San Francisco Sourdough because it’s so consistent and reliable (couldn’t have said it better ourselves) and when asked to explain his approach to food, he said that his style fits in with the Hayes vibe. He loves to focus on fresh and local ingredients, using things properly, and letting them shine for that they are.

So, the key to that delicious burger we tried? Not overcomplicating it and focusing on the strength of the flavours within.

Want to try Hayes Common for yourself?

You’ll find Hayes Common on the corner of Jellicoe Drive and Plunket Terrace, down by the Waikato River Wellington Street Beach. There’s plenty of parking and a playground over the road for the kids. Stop in for coffee, stay for lunch or linger for dinner in the evening. And don’t let the roadworks deter you, they are still very much in business and as welcoming as ever.

They will be closed for 10 days between December 25th and January 5th to give their staff a break, but they still have some room for reservations and even some larger Christmas gatherings.

Click here to book, and be quick!

Not in the Waikato?

Can’t make it to Hayes but want to try your own cheffing skills at home – shop our Gourmet Burger Buns and reliable San Francisco Sourdough in your nearest Volare Store or online at

And lastly, if you’re using Volare in your cafe or restaurant and want to be featured in our next Meet The Chef article, send us an email and put a plate aside for us, we’d be happy to pay you a visit!