Owner of the ever-popular Miann patisseries, as well the original chef at Milse, the laneway dessert bar off Tyler St, Brian Campbell is a man who truly knows dessert – even if he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth himself.
Where were you brought up?
Lewis. It’s a small island off the coast of Scotland.
Tell us about the name Miann.
Miann is a Scottish name. It means “desire”. It’s an evolution of everywhere I’ve travelled, probably.
How did it happen?
I got into pastry by chance. I was working in a really nice hotel in Bath as a cook, and the pastry chef walked out halfway through the day and my chef at the time just threw the recipe book at me and said, “You’re on that section. Figure it out.” It took a lot of mistakes, but I hardly took a day off for the better part of three, four, five years. I figured it out. Then I moved through England as a pastry chef working in two or three Michelin star restaurants. I got a call out of the blue one day from Simon Wright who started the French cafe and asked me to come out here. In the UK, there are agencies that place you in positions and I think the guy that placed me in a couple of positions moved to New Zealand and knew Simon. I just came for one year… 15 or 16 years ago. I didn’t know anything about New Zealand at the time. I thought it was going to be tropical. I arrived in June in my shorts and t-shirt. I opened up Milse. It has a Scottish name as well, but… things happened and I left. It’s good to be back in Britomart with Miann – in the best site in Britomart, I think!
What’s the Britomart Miann speciality?
The cakes. We make them in Fort Street. The chocolates we make in the chocolate factory in Morningside. We weren’t allowed a kitchen in here because it’s a listed building. You’ll see the guys running across with a trolley from Fort Street with boxes of cakes.
What’s your most popular cake?
Anything chocolate, salted caramel and nuts. That’s kind of like the go-to. Salted caramel is our generation’s crack.
What’s your favourite?
I like fruity flavours. I don’t like things to be too sweet. I think when you try our stuff, the sweetness level isn’t too high. It’s not sickening. We try to pare it back and if there’s fruit in it, we try to let the fruit speak for itself or let the chocolate speak for itself. Sugar kills the flavour to a certain degree, so we try to pull back the sugar for the flavour.
I’ve heard your hot chocolates are very good here too.
Yeah, we bring in cocoa beans from 20 different farms from around the world, so 20 different origins. We keep them all single-origin. It’s like wine. We do a tasting in Morningside. Not for hot chocolate, but of the chocolate. Maybe we’ll do that in winter.
I’ll be there. Where’s your favourite place to dine around here?
It’s between Mexico and Hanoi.
What would you say is the best thing on the menu?
Mexico, the fried chicken. Hanoi, maybe their shaking beef dish.
If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
Can you do tricks?
Yeah. I used to teach. I wouldn’t say they’re amazing, but 360s off the jump and stuff.
What’s your favourite thing to spend money on?
My wife! I have to say that.