103 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, Wellington
11am weekdays, 8am weekends; closes late every day
Granola $19, porridge $20; Halo coffee, T2 tea
Coene’s Bar & Eatery is in an upstairs section of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, a spiffing location, with an uninterrupted view over the yacht harbour. There is even a balcony where you can dine, though breakfast patrons tend not to eat here. Still, you should have no trouble getting a window seat most times.
The menu seems to change quite a lot, so don’t rely on the website. Currently (June 2021) the menu on the door says ‘ginger spiced granola’ but the subject of this review is what I had in October 2020. It was listed as ‘Natural unsweetened Lewis Road yoghurt with Harraway oats, fruits and berries’ but I’m considering it granola here. Yoghurt did indeed constitute a significant portion of the dish, but there were also a couple of delicious stewed black Doris plums as well as a crunchy granola, a sort of mousse and a fine chocolatey powder.
The yoghurt was nicely acid and quite runny. It’s a nice relief from the Greek-style thick yoghurt from Zany Zeus that is so common in Wellington’s eateries. The plums also were not bland and sugary. The granola was highly toasted, just this side of burnt, and had almond slices and pumpkin seeds besides oats. They were held together with a sugary binder, and seemed as though they had been toasted in a shallow layer to form a fused sheet which was then broken up into chunks – a bit like the original granola concept back in the 1880s.
I’m guessing the dark powder was Dutch chocolate, though it had a slightly crunchy texture and did not taste strongly of chocolate, so I’m not sure. And the blob of smooth mouse-like substance in the centre of the bowl is also something I don’t have the culinary knowledge to accurately describe, but it tasted pretty good.
Overall this dish was very good, though a bit too sugary in the granola department for me to want to have it again. But I can’t resist including a picture here of the previous Cones granola offering that I reviewed in October 2019. I’ve unfortunately had to modify that review into this one since it is no longer served, but it got my top marks at the time – for appearance if for nothing else, though it did taste great as well.
This version included smooth peanut butter, but not enough to be a gluggy party pooper; fresh fruit such as strawberries and banana slices; and all manner of swirls of delicious custards and gels. One seemed like lemon curd. Another had a lovely flower fragrance. And there were flowers for real as well. Below everything was a granola not unlike the one I am reviewing here. If ever this was a breakfast dish designed for Instagraming, this was it.
You might perhaps wonder who Coene is. Nope, he is not the owner. Lieut.-Commander Edgar J Coene was the US officer in charge of the boat harbour and sheds when American armed forces were stationed in NZ during WWII. The NZ government built the sheds you see either side of the slipway just north of the current yacht club building in 1942 for the US Navy, originally with an additional story. You can read about the history on the Wellington City Council’s heritage page. Within the eatery there is also a war time photo showing that all the boatsheds lining the harbour then had a second story.
There was no one seated when I arrived at about 8.15am on a Sunday, and by 9am there were a handful of other diners. I grabbed one of the booth seats at the far end where you get the sun and face a window. Wedged in there it was my own private seat with a view. Some rather crappy music played a bit loud ruined things at first but that seemed to drop away after a while.
The coffee was a good size and tasted OK, but wasn’t anything special, and on my last visit wasn’t even terribly hot. Maybe that was because I asked them to hold the coffee until the granola was ready, and rather than make it at this stage they had it sitting around in the cup while the granola was prepared. Other cafés seem to be able to deal with my request OK and pull the coffee once the dish is ready to go. Coenes isn’t a place to go for coffee alone.
Fantastic location and food to match. The granola (and porridge when available) has always been the most expensive in Wellington, but you get what you pay for. Note that breakfast is only available in weekends.
Reviewed October 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.