234 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens: 7.30am weekdays, 8am Sat, 9am Sun; closes 3pm Mon-Thurs, 9pm Fri & Sat, 4.30 Sun
Muesli $14; Havana coffee
Fidel’s has been operating since 1996. The owner, Roger Young, apparently drew the name from a high school project on Cuba, but its location in Cuba St also makes the reference to President Fidel Castro logical. This is complemented with 1950s Cuban revolution memorabilia and graphics throughout the premises and a certain run-down, or rusticated, grunge aesthetic.
The muesli came with runny coconut yoghurt, a jug of cows’ milk and a fruit compote. The compote included blueberries, one or two boysenberries, strawberries and apple. I’ve come across cooked strawberries in a few other café compotes and I really don’t see the point. They end up as mushy, tasteless things. On the other hand, the apple was nice, both visually and in taste, as it was barely cooked, providing a contrasting crispness of texture and taking on the red stain of the berries.
Now, to the muesli itself. It was mostly well-toasted, fine grained oats with very little other content. I spied a few pieces of cashew nuts and occasional sunflower and pumpkin seeds. There were four or five dried cranberries and possibly a few pieces of other dried fruit (apricot and apple?) too small to really identify. My companion pronounced the muesli “A bit monotonous and needed more sense of adventure.” Exactly. It was too uniform and needed more ingredients. The only plus was that it wasn’t highly sweetened.
The Americano coffee from single origin Cuban beans was OK, but didn’t stand out for me. Filter is not served.
As mentioned above, the general aesthetic is a very comfortable grunge retro. The premises have sprawled since first opening, and now include two semi-open spaces. One, out the back, is permanently covered with translucent roofing; the one facing the street has a removable awning. In between are the dark and narrow original premises and a former hair salon with its sign-written name ‘Super Cuts’ still on the window. I guess Fidel’s kept the redundant signage because of its 1950s-look typography, though Super Cuts is actually an international franchise that began in the 1970s.
Fidel’s seems to be phenomenally popular, especially with 20-somethings later in the day. I guess they don’t do breakfast though, as only a handful of people were present at 8am on a Friday when I visited. The music was soft reggae and a few other styles. I don’t recall seeing newspapers, but they may have been present.
Thumbs down for the muesli. On the plus side, it is relatively low in sugar and you get coconut yoghurt as standard. On the negative it is a cheap and unimaginative mix with not much besides just oats, and the fruit compote is somewhat bland. The environment is very pleasant though, with lots of spaces to sit; from naturally lit, to dark spots, to the outdoor section. And there is plenty to look at. I’d visit again, but not for the muesli.
Reviewed November 2020.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.