Chameleon – Intercontinental Hotel

Chameleon - bircher header image

2 Grey St, central Wellington
Opens: early
Continental breakfast $27, cooked $35; Vittoria Coffee, T2 tea

Hotels are a place where you can typically find muesli or porridge at breakfast, so are worth considering when hunting about for the best eatery cereal dishes. There are a few issues though. One is that the dry cereals on offer at most hotels are remarkably consistent and equally poor quality. They must get them from the same source. You can balance that with your toppings though, and quality and variety in this department is where the differences between hotels may lie. The other issue is that buffet breakfasts may appear great value for money given the variety of food. But the value you can extract depends on much you can stuff into your stomach at one sitting without feeling ill.

Chameleon - dry cereals

I thought I would see if Wellington’s swankiest hotel could offer something better in the cereal line at its Chameleon restaurant. The short answer, as you can see above, is no, just the usual: cornflakes, coco pops, cheap muesli, Multigrain and rice bubbles. No real surprise there, but lets look at the toppings:

Chameleon - stewed fruits and bircher

We have fresh orange and melon slices, plump prunes, canned peaches, and a berry compote that has clearly also come out of a can. In the photo above there is also bircher muesli, but I’ll come back to that. Then there is yoghurt (two types I think), as well as various nuts to enhance your cereal: sunflower, pumpkin, walnuts, cashews and pistachio nuts.

Chameleon - muesli and coffee

Then there is also a selection of smoothies (berry, spirulina and chocolate), as well as a delicious chia, coconut yoghurt and mango pudding in a glass. You could potentially pour any of these on your cereal I guess.

Porridge is available, but you have to pay for the cooked breakfast to get that. Likewise for waffles. But there is the usual selection of cheeses, cold meats, salmon slices, and a variety of breads, muffins and pastries. Since it was a few days after Christmas when I visited, stollen and Christmas mince pies were on offer.

Chameleon - breads

Honey and marmalade were available at the bread station, and at each table an assortment of jams in small jars. It looked like each was unopened, so I suppose you spread your bread and they replace the entire jar for the next person.

Chameleon - table jams

Indeed, the service was very efficient, and obliging. Wait staff were buzzing around everywhere, clearing and preparing tables on high rotate as well as delivering tea and coffees. And the person greeting me was most helpful as I wrestled with the question of whether to have cooked or continental breakfast. He even took me to the buffet area to let me see the options with my own eyes after I was overwhelmed by the proffered menu listing.

As mentioned, tea or coffee orders are at the table. No help yourself here. Nor was there bottomless filter coffee, as you get at Whitby’s in the James Cook Hotel and Hippopotamus at QT Hotel, for example. It was all espresso. I wasn’t sure how many cups I was allowed for my $27 but I wasn’t charged extra for a second and perhaps there is no limit.

Chameleon - interior to wall of hands

The entire wall at one end of Chameleon is covered with a sculptural installation of stainless steel hands poking out from the wall. You can catch a glimpse in the above photo. It’s quite a statement. It was designed by a former chef at the restaurant I was told.

There were no newspapers on offer. Instead you can log into a service and read a variety from around the world online. I’d rather read a paper version myself than muck about scrolling from story to story on my cellphone at breakfast.

Chameleon exterior - view to waterfront

If you can nab a window seat you get quite a nice view of the pohutukawas lining the street (one with huge, bushy aerial roots) and of Post Office Square. This is so named because Wellington’s chief post office was formerly on the site now part-occupied by the Intercontinental Hotel. The kiosk you can see in the square was originally a tram stop shelter, freight depot and women’s restroom. When Queen’s Wharf was the centre of the country’s largest port the square opposite was a very busy place.

Conclusion

The bircher was good but the dry cereals were the usual disappointing hotel breakfast buffet offering. This is made up for somewhat by the toppings, though I think the range at the James Cook Hotel’s Whitby’s restaurant is better. Service was excellent.

Reviewed December 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.

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