1 Grey St, central Wellington
Opens 7.30am weekdays, 8.30am Sat; closes 4:30pm weekdays, 4:40pm Sat
Porridge $13.50, muesli $13.50; Allpress coffee, Harney & Sons tea
Situated right in the heart of the CBD, opposite the Intercontinental Hotel, and near Queen’s Wharf, Arabica Café tends to be patronised by business types as well as a handful of workers from nearby building projects. It serves a wide range of to-order and counter food, including both porridge (in winter) and muesli. Note that porridge doesn’t appear on the weekend brunch menu.
The porridge has a few slices of banana, three or four boysenberries, some walnuts, almond slivers and a honey drizzle on top. It is essentially rolled oat porridge with a topping. There is enough porridge to leave you feeling satisfied yet enough topping to jizz it up. I particularly appreciated that Arabica hadn’t gone overboard on the banana, as a whole banana with porridge is too much squishy carb together in my opinion.
Those with a keen eye will note that the porridge with coffee photo doesn’t look like the same porridge serving in the header photo. Aha! Correct. The lighting inside the café is poor for photography, so I went back a second time on a less wintery day and had my porridge at an outdoor table. It was pretty much exactly the same porridge, only the topping was a bit more submerged.
I also had tea on the second visit. The downside was that I got a single jug milk with tea and porridge that was good for tea, but not enough for porridge. HOWEVER, this was one of the better cups of tea I’ve had in a Wellington café. I got a pot of extra hot water without asking, the teapot was a good pourer, though a little small, the tea was leaf tea, and it was served in a tea cup. And the Harney & Sons tea tasted good.
I also had the tea a few days later with a cheese scone. The scone was huge, but not very cheesy. I wouldn’t rate it. The tea was served with a coffee cup this time, but still came with extra hot water.
Back to my first visit and the coffee: I ordered an Americano (no filter served) and it came in a huge mug, with the option of even more volume from an accompanying jug of hot water. I usually finish my coffee well before I’ve got to the bottom of my porridge or muesli, but this time I couldn’t even to manage to drink it all. With plenty of copies of the DomPost newspaper on hand – as befits a business context – you could still be sipping your coffee by the time you’d read the newspaper as well.
There were not very many people seated on a weekday morning around 8.30am soon after the Covid level 2 restrictions were lifted, yet the place was quite noisy. Customers were coming and going for takeaway coffees and the espresso machine was hissing constantly. Machine noises were coming from the kitchen too. And Tina Turner was shouting something about rolling on a river on the music system. I’d sit outside if the weather was good.
Having said this, on the second visit there was an Arabica takeaway coffee outlet opened adjacently, so this would siphon off people coming and going into the sit-down café. And more people were now seated inside than on my first visit. I have also passed by at lunch time when it has been full of office workers.
Well balanced, if not terribly remarkable porridge. Middle-of-the-road food offerings in general and a decor with no particular style. Huge Americano coffee with extra water as well. And excellent tea. Noisy environment inside, but you can sit out at the street tables. Overall, a reliable eatery, if lacking character or style, but worth a visit for tea or coffee.
Reviewed June-July 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.