Artisan (Bolton Hotel)

Artisan - bircher close up

12 Bolton St, central Wellington
Open for breakfast 6.30am to 11am daily; dinner 6pm to 10pm Tues–Sat
Muesli $10, porridge $12, continental buffet with bircher museli $25; PG-Tips tea, Emporio coffee

Artisan is the restaurant at the Bolton Hotel, Bolton St. It is quite plush and tastefully designed, with a Rita Angus theme (because she painted in the Bolton St cemetery?) I had high tea here once and I was keen to come back because of the pleasant, boutique-feel surroundings and in the knowledge that they could do tea fairly well. The big question was whether the muesli listed as Artisan-made and available as a stand-alone dish was different from the muesli on offer in the buffet.

Artisan - bircher muesli and tea

I didn’t exactly solve this because I went for the buffet. But I suspect it is the same in both cases, as the buffet muesli was not an out-of-the-packet sort, though it wasn’t anything terribly special either (see photo further below).

Artisan - cereals bar

I skipped the bulk dispensers of muesli, cornflakes and chocolate rice puffs and mainly chose the bircher muesli. You can see this in the bowl at right below. I added berry compote, fruit salad and the stewed pear and rhubarb to create the bowl at the top of this page (apologies for the low quality – phone camera slipped into AI mode, and though artificial, it certainly wasn’t intelligent.)

Artisan - bircher stewed fruit bar

The bircher had raisins or sultanas in it plus sunflower seeds and almond slivers. It was pretty blah to be honest. The berry compote was delicious though. And I did try a little of the bulk muesli. It had large oat flakes and bran flakes as well as some dried fruit. You could pile on chocolate chips and more dried fruit if you wanted.

As for the English Breakfast tea, it was nicely presented in a shiny metal set. Good marks for serving it in a properly shaped cup. And there was plenty of it in the tea pot. The taste wasn’t anything very special however. I did ask at the outset whether it would be the same as served at high tea and was assured yes. But I was later told it was PG-Tips, which didn’t seem right, as they don’t offer the range of specialty teas you can have at Artisan’s high tea. I suspect that because I was having the buffet rather than ordering it specially I got the cheap version. That’s how it seems to work at other hotels.

Artisan - tea set

Still, I am drawn to the environment, especially that feature wall with the wooden shelves holding preserves, bottles of oil, framed reduced-size Rita Angus reproductions and various nick-nacks. And the cushy chairs and carpeted floor. It’s a long way from the wooden or metal stools and concrete floors of many a city café. So too are the patrons. No noisy hustle and bustle with people coming and going. It is very hushed, something that the pleasant, soft music in the background only emphasises. It feels isolated from the world, which is I guess the idea – to create a luxurious refuge from the outside world. But eating here is also a somewhat lonely experience.

Artisan - interior view to back wall

I think it is indicative that newspapers are not on offer. I did ask for one but was told that I could use the free wi-fi and the hotel’s login to access a whole pile of international newspapers on my mobile phone. There is even a printed card telling you about this. Newspapers are just too messy for such a controlled environment like this I guess. Pity. There is something civilised and leisured about a newspaper at breakfast.

Artisan - interior view to feature wall
Artisan - interior view to street
Bolton Hotel exterior
Conclusion

Luxury environment but the food is not all that fancy. Maybe it could be worth ordering porridge or muesli as stand alone dishes, but I suspect not. And maybe the same applies to tea.

Reviewed March 2020.

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