86A Upland Rd, Kelburn, Wellington
Opens 7.30am weekdays, 8am weekends; closes 4pm
Porridge $11; Havana coffee, Harney & Sons English Breakfast tea
It is winter as I write this and Caffe Mode have taken their muesli off the menu and added three (yes, three) different types of porridge: apple, date and cinnamon; blueberry and vanilla; honey and banana. I went for the blueberry and vanilla on my first visit.
It was modestly priced and modestly conceived, made simply of porridge and fresh blueberries. (Maybe the berries had been frozen, but they were certainly plump and often whole.) The menu says ‘served with a side of vanilla syrup’ but I got brown sugar instead. I really should take note of menu listings and ask when I don’t get what they say (which is surprisingly often).
The porridge consisted of small oat flakes, only just cooked, which gave a nice, bran-like texture. Not cooked many minutes to a paste, as some people aim for. This and the other two porridge dishes are cooked with milk and cream according to the menu, though you can ask for dairy free. Maybe the cooking with milk was why no milk was served with the bowl, but unless porridge is really liquid, or has squashy fruit, your really have to eat it with milk. Staff seemed nonplussed when I asked for some and it was offered in a tea pot. No milk jugs apparently.
The coffee wasn’t much chop. It was the well respected Havana brand, but my Americano was lukewarm and seemed to lack in volume, being only half a regular cup. I think they forgot to put the hot water in it.
With three types of reasonably priced porridge to choose from, I thought I had better come back to try at least one of the others. The apple, date and cinnamon was also very textured, like the blueberry one, but it felt like it was made from smallish whole grains. Very chewy and quite thick.
The chopped granny smith apple on top looked disconcertingly like pickled vegetables – gherkins perhaps. I wonder if it had been sauteed in oil as well as syrup to create a partly translucent look. The chopped dates and cinnamon were mixed through the porridge. And I did get offered a jug of milk this time. My assessment? It was OK-ish. Nothing startling, a bit sweet, and very filling (I didn’t make it to the bottom of the bowl).
The venue consists of two fairly narrow rooms in a former house, or perhaps shop, perched on the edge of a steep bank. The view to the street (in the above two images) is pleasant and good for people watching; the window seats over the valley below are great. Everything in-between is a bit constrained and dingy. Here is the reverse view of the above image:
As this one shows the most desirable spot, with the window seat:
Not many people eat early at Caffe Mode, either on a weekday or in the weekend, though there is a steady stream popping in to get takeaway coffee. This may be because it faces west and it is a rather dark and cold feeling place in the morning. Its best time is the later afternoon when sun streams in the windows, but you can expect it to be busy then. It is a popular weekend café. Maybe this is a time to try the cheese scones: they looked promising. There is no online menu (no website, only Facebook) but you can open my copy of the June 2020 menu here.
I can’t remember if there was background music on my first visit, but it was louder than I like on the second. Some was Bob Dylan (latest album?) Depends what you are into I guess, but I could have done without it and the Saturday newspaper had still not arrived by 8.45am when I left. So, what with the rather uninviting space in the morning, this isn’t really the sort of place I would look to while away a pleasant hour or so early on a Saturday or Sunday.
Three selections of modestly priced, not too fancy but fancy enough, porridge. Café environment not really at its best in the morning, and the breakfast menu ceases at 11:45am. Might be better on a summer morning, but then no porridge, so you can’t win. Afternoon visit for tea and cake might be your best bet.
Reviewed June and July 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.