614 Marine Parade, Days Bay, Lower Hutt
Opens 7am week days, 8am weekend; closes 3 pm, 4pm Sat, Sun
Granola $14; Karamu coffee, T-leaf-t teas
Yes, I know, the name! Puleeze! OK, Chocolate Daze might have been a worse play on the location Days Bay. But, you know, chocolate doesn’t even particularly feature in the food offerings. Maybe once upon a time the café specialised in chocolate, and altering an ‘s’ to a ‘z’ wasn’t naff then (1980s?). And the café had such a strong following that later owners decided to coast on this reputation by sticking with the name. Who knows? The café’s website throws no light on the subject.
The food is pretty much of the standard Kiwi café variety, with both counter and menu items available. The latter includes ‘Home-made toasted muesli’. I call it granola. As you can see, it comes dusted with icing sugar, turning the granola into a snow-obscured landscape, so we will have to dig down into that later. There is fresh fruit on top (apple, banana and orange), a sprig of mint, some sweetish compote that includes strawberries, blueberries and (I think) boysenberries, and a creamy-thick, yellowish yoghurt.
There isn’t actually a lot of granola once you scoop away the fruit and yoghurt. It consists of highly toasted small grain oats, plus dried currants (a welcome change from the ubiquitous sultanas), one or two dried cranberries, almond flakes, and pumpkin seeds. There is a pleasant spicy taste throughout and here and there the mix clusters into minor clumps. It is this clumping and the high degree of toasting that makes me classify it as granola, but you could argue the toss.
I was served a more than sufficient jug of milk with the dish, but the small amount of granola combined with the fresh fruit, yoghurt and compote meant I didn’t really need it. I wasn’t offered a choice of milk, but the menu does have a note at the bottom to ask for vegan options, so I imagine you could request plant based milk. I don’t know they would swap out dairy yoghurt for coconut though.
The granola mix is slightly sweet, but not overly so. However, the ample serve of compote does add quite a bit of sugar to it, as it inevitably soaks into the granola. Overall, I’d rate the sugar content of the dish as a little high but not at the sickly sweet level.
What I like most of all about Chocolate Dayz is the domestic nature of the architecture (it must be a converted house), the semi-rustic furniture and the many seating options. You can range from fully outside on the small deck or footpath through to semi-covered under skylights (with clear blinds to keep out the weather at the side if needed) or fully indoors.
In theory the café has a sea view, but unfortunately this is somewhat obscured by parked cars opposite. Also, the sun doesn’t really shine on it until later in the day, especially in the winter months. I think I would long to be in the sun rather than a spectator onto it on a crisp sunny day.
I believe the place can get pretty crowded around lunchtime on a fine summer weekend but it is definitely slow to fill up on a Saturday morning for breakfast, and there are so many different spots to sit that you don’t have to worry about missing out on a good seat.
One of the issues for me is getting to the café. On weekends the first bus doesn’t arrive until 8.40 am, while the earliest ferry ties up two hours later. Weekdays are a different story though, and you could easily take a ferry over on a nice day. Services taking 25 mins arrive at 8:10, 8:40 and 9:10.
And if you are thinking of other places to eat oat-based dishes in the Eastern Bays, there aren’t any. A few years ago the nearby Days Bay Pavilion had muesli and the Sea Salt Cafe & Eatery offered granola. And a bit further along, in Eastbourne, Tartines and possibly Hive had muesli. Now the Bays are a muesli wasteland. I guess if you can afford to live here then you can eat gourmet muesli in the privacy of your multi-million dollar home.
You might also be safely away from any circulating Covid-19. I must say I was surprised there was no emphasis on checking vaccine passports when I visited. I had to ask if they wanted to see mine. And even then it was given no more than a cursory glance: no checking with the validating app. Is Chocolate Dayz anti-vax or just doesn’t care?
The Days Bay setting is stunning on a good day. The granola at Chocolate Dayz is rather less special, but then not bad either. The coffee is fine (no filter), non-dairy milks are not offered but may be available, there is only one newspaper to read, and the café environment is very comfortable. Unlike some places, it doesn’t get packed out at breakfast time. The beach is pretty deserted until later in the day too. I’d be happy to go again.
Reviewed January 2022.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.