139A Main Road, Tawa, Wellington
Opens 7am weekdays, 8am Sat, 9am Sun; closes 3pm, 2pm Sun
Muesli $8.50; Flight coffee (incl filter), Tea Total tea
Café el Porteño is at the southern end of Tawa, a bit before you get to the main shops. The name means one who lives in a port city. Maybe this is the Argentinian owner? He has added Argentinian panini and Argentinian slice to the menu, but otherwise the food caters pretty much to Kiwi tastes, and I don’t think there is anything specially South American about the muesli (billed as ‘gourmet granola’, though I define it as muesli).
There was no muesli actually to be seen when I got my bowl, but clearly it would have to be in there somewhere. Eating begins, then, with a deep layer of fairly runny yoghurt topped with sliced bananas and mixed berries (black currents, raspberries and boysenberries) that I assume were of the thawed frozen variety rather than a cooked compote. I enjoyed the acidic zing of the berries against the more starchy banana.
Far down was the muesli. Given the deep shape of the bowl I had to do a sort of archaeological dig to get a clear photo of it without the yoghurt mixing in and obscuring its nature. It was fairly fine grained, with oats, sunflower seeds, short-length coconut shred and sesame seeds. There may have been other things, but the sides of my excavation kept threatening to collapse before I could get a good handle on it. It was spiced with nutmeg, or maybe cardamom.
Apparently El Porteño is known for its cheese scones, so I was pleased that my companion ordered one. It came toasted with a side of berry jam. I thought scones always came with jam, whether cheese or not, but have been disappointed that most café cheese scones are simply served with butter. My work colleagues were even surprised that I might want jam with cheese scones when I raised the issue.
I had a bite of the scone. It was OK, but not in the Nikau, Pravda, Floriditas or Picnic league in my view. But it partly depends how you like your scones. It was generous in size, nicely toasted, and you can’t go past real strawberry jam (not the insipid imitation inside those plastic and foil packets some cafés throw in).
Apparently some people like the scones so much at El Porteño that cheese scone burgers are on the menu. Well, I guess if you can have brioche buns with a burger, why not? Speaking of the menu, there isn’t one online, and only a Facebook page for the café, not a website, so here is my shot of the food part of the menu.
The café was only moderately busy on a Saturday morning from 8.30 to 9.30, with some people stopping by for takeaway coffee, and others seated. It filled up and then almost emptied out now and then. This is convenient, as it is fairly small, with only about eight, two-person tables and a couple of armchairs. Google statistics show it getting busier later in the morning, but dropping off at lunchtimes in the weekend. Monday and Wednesdays are shown as very busy early morning. Maybe it is people coming in for takeaway food or coffee.
Exceptionally good value for money muesli. There is a lot of yoghurt, so it is a sort of yoghurt mixed with muesli dish, a bit like those plastic takeaway cups you can buy at supermarkets and at Wishbone, but with more substance. Nice atmosphere, good coffee, with single-origin batch filter available.
Reviewed October 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.