61 Ottawa Rd, Ngaio, Wellington
Opens: 8.30am weekdays, 9.30am weekends; closes 4pm
Muesli $13.50; Supreme coffee, t-leaf-T tea
Cafe Villa is in a wooden former house – definitely not a villa, more a stripped bungalow – to one side of the Ngaio village. I walked past it on a sunny day months ago and thought it looked a pleasant place to visit, though the menu gave little away about what I might expect of the muesli (‘toasted highland muesli with fresh fruit, served with yoghurt and milk’).
The muesli was, indeed, pretty matter of fact: lightly toasted muesli with fresh (and dried) fruit, served with runny, acidic yoghurt on the side and milk. I couldn’t understand why it was described as ‘highland muesli’. Sure, muesli is based on that Scottish food staple, oats, but since when have Scottish Highlanders been known as muesli eaters?
The fresh fruit included orange, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple and banana and was layered across the top of the deep bowl, obscuring the muesli below. I had to take a piece of banana off to give you a sense of the muesli in my first photo above. In doing so I was surprised to discover the underside of the bananas semi-mutilated and containing what looked like fork holes – as if someone had struggled to dispatch a writhing fruit. Strange.
But more of an issue was finding that the muesli below was straight out of a Moore Wilson’s catering pack. This was freely confirmed by the waitress. There was a time, many years ago, when I didn’t know any better and lived off this stuff. It does have whole grain oats, whole almonds and coconut flakes. But it also has a lot of cheap dried fruit: sultanas, pineapple, mango, papaya and the nastiest form, banana chips. Is there somebody out there who actually likes banana chips?
The ‘highland’ mystery is solved here though. ‘Highlands’, with an ‘s’, appears to be a brand name, though I can’t find a company with that name online. You can buy the same product at Davis Trading, the Mediterranean Food Warehouse and other suppliers to the restaurant trade. I suspect it is what’s served at hotel buffet breakfasts as well. And just to warn you, it has a whopping 30% sugar content according to the packet label.
My Americano coffee was good, though the saucer beneath the cup had been scoured by over-enthusiastic kitchen hands to the point where the glaze was completely gone. First they treat the simple act of slicing a banana as a wrestling match, then they clean their crockery to bits. Calm down folks.
There were copies of the Dominion Post newspaper to read. At opening on a Saturday morning there were relatively few patrons present, though the place filled up by 10.30am or so. But even with just a few people the acoustics seemed to make the café very noisy. Never mind when two family groups in turn sat at the only large table (photo above), near the back, and seriously assaulted my eardrums. You could potentially escape to the decking area outside, but it is small; or to the tables at front if you don’t mind sitting next to a busy street.
The outdoor seating does make the place dog-friendly, and some took advantage of that to bring their pooch. There was at least one dog inside as well.
I really can’t say much in favour of Cafe Villa. A neighbourhood café in an old house sounds like it could be pretty nice, but the muesli was of very low standard and the place was noisy. So that’s a thumbs-down from me.
Reviewed December 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.