1 Upland Rd, Kelburn, Wellington
Opens 9am daily; closes 3pm Sun–Thurs, 8pm Fri & Sat
Porridge $13; Emporio coffee, t-leaf-T tea
The Cable Top Eatery occupies an enviable site at the top of Wellington’s Cable Car. It was originally the location of the Kelburn Kiosk tea rooms, opened in 1905 in a magnificent Edwardian building. The tea rooms became the Skyline Restaurant, a pretty swanky venue in the 1960s and 70s. But two fires in 1982 destroyed the building. It was rebuilt, but was no longer as grand. The Skyline continued for three years before folding. Now it is the Cable Top, offering counter food and fairly standard cooked dishes, as well as selling gelato.
There seems to be a rule that a tourist clientele and great location make for overpriced, mediocre food and surly service. Cable Top definitely has tourists and a location with panoramic views, but the porridge I sampled was neither overpriced nor mediocre and the staff were very friendly and genuine.
The porridge was made from regular rolled oats and was nicely creamy, with just the right consistency. It was billed as spiced chai with winter fruit compote. Yes, it was mildly spiced, and it was topped with a stripe of berry compote, though the only way I can imagine berries as a winter fruit is to think of them coming from the chilled conditions of a freezer! The compote had a few sprigs of mint on it. Served in a nice large bowl, the whole dish was very well presented.
The Americano coffee (no filter available) was huge and only cost $3.50. It is rare that I eat my muesli or porridge with coffee and still have coffee left at the end of it, but this was such an occasion. There were newspapers to read with my porridge and coffee, along with a few magazines I think.
I popped in on a rainy Saturday afternoon in July 2021, a year after my porridge visit. The porridge has vanished form the menu I’m sad to report. I had a cup of tea and a cheese scone. The tea was not bad. Leaf tea, and served with a pot of hot water (so far, one of only two places I’ve found in Wellington that offers a pot of hot water as a matter of course). The cup was a small coffee cup though. So points off from an otherwise high score for that.
The scone was below par. It was very flat. It looked like it had spent the day being squashed by other ones on top of it. But I suspect it came out of the oven fairly flat as well. The only heating option was a microwave, so more points subtracted there. And the dough was very fatty, making the scone gluggy and crumbly. There wasn’t a lot of cheese in it. The only plus was that the butter was served soft, though maybe butter in one of those wretched plastic containers is not really anything to be proud about.
Returning to my original visit, there were few people eating at about 9.30 on a Sunday morning, but it was only a few days after the Covid level 3 lock-down had been lifted, and tourists were very thin on the ground – non-existent actually.
Wonderfully presented porridge, huge coffee, very nice staff, great views, sunny seating (including outdoors). Nothing super special about the porridge, but on some days that’s quite OK. Tea is good but I’d avoid the cheese scones. Muesli or granola was on the menu in the summer of 2019–20, so maybe that will come back…
Reviewed May 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.