133 Riddiford St, Newtown, Wellington
Opens: 7.30am weekdays, 9am Sat, 9am Sun; closes 4.30pm except 3pm Sun
Granola smoothie bowl $15; Havana coffee (incl filter)
Black Coffee is a newish place in Newtown, south of Newtown School and the vegetable market that operates there on Saturday mornings. I looked in one day when I was visiting the market and it was packed with Newtown hipsters so I thought I’d better return. It was hard to say from the menu whether the ‘power bowl’ would qualify as muesli or granola for my reviewing purposes, but it turned out to have enough nuts, seeds, etc to be included here.
As you can see from the photo, the power bowl is basically a fruit smoothie with a topping of sliced apple and granola/muesli (the distinction is a fine one here, so I will go with the cafe’s terminology of granola). The smoothie was somewhat watery, without banana or yoghurt as a thickening agent, but that wasn’t an issue for me.
The fruit was described on the menu as ‘seasonal’. I’m not sure you can describe granny smith apples in that way. Are they not available most of the year? Alright, raspberries are definitely seasonal, but there was only one, so I don’t think that counts either. Broken and spread over the top, it did add an attractive embellishment though.
The other ‘fruit’ was dried banana chips. Heavens above, what compelled someone to add this staple of the cheapest and nastiest mueslis? How difficult would fresh banana be? You could buy one from Jimmy’s Fruit Shop not 50m away, or even the above-mentioned market.
The dish is rated gluten free, and yes, no oats. The granola component consisted of pumpkin and a few sunflower seeds, lots of highly roasted cashew nuts, walnuts, a few almond flakes, sesame seeds, a lot of coconut flakes and a modest amount of dried apricot and pawpaw. In places these all clumped together with a sweetish sort of binder, but overall there wasn’t too much sugar. There were chia seeds listed on the menu, but I didn’t spot them.
Also, according to the menu, there was to be coconut yoghurt, but definitely no sign of that. I would have liked some.
The café is very small. It is a narrow space, so very difficult to photograph. My first shot above is taken from the counter looking out to the street. The next shows an alcove with a bench and stools on the way to the toilets and garden at the back. It’s pretty intimate in the garden, with just three small tables. And ‘garden’ might be an exaggerated description. It’s the outdoor seating area with freaky wall murals.
The website suggests you can ‘enjoy a game of pinball’ (yes, there is a machine), ‘browse over local and international art’ (I must have missed that), and ‘immense yourself in quality classic and modern vinyl [records]’ (missed out on immensing too, I’m sad to say). There were copies of the Dominion Post newspaper to read though. And there is a scattering of retro objects and at least one steam punk creation to look at.
My filter coffee was good and certainly generous. It was served in a tall glass. You can order a bottomless coffee, but there was enough in the single serve to last my stay.
There were only two or three other people present just after opening on a Saturday morning. This increased by no more than four or five over the next 40 minutes, but then it was holiday time in mid-January.
A potentially excellent bowl of muesli/granola compromised by banana chips and missing its advertised coconut yoghurt. Well presented though, and served with a generous glass of filter coffee. The hip vibe makes me want to give this place another go some time. Maybe I will bring a fresh banana and ask them to use it instead of the dried chips. They might have some art on the walls this time too.
Reviewed January 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.