241 Tinakori Rd, Thorndon, Wellington
Opens 11am Tues to Fri, 8.30am weekends; closes 2.30pm, then re-opens for dinner
Bircher muesli $9; People’s Coffee, T-2 tea
Hillside Kitchen & Cellar is a boutique eatery that does weekend brunch as well as lunch and dinner most days. Its dishes are almost entirely plant based and made from locally sourced produce. It has been voted by Cuisine magazine as one of the top (100 or so) restaurants in New Zealand in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
I popped in early on a Saturday morning. No-one else was yet there, which was pleasing, as the place is very small indeed. It didn’t take long for my tea and muesli to be served. The bircher was covered completely with a very attractive mixture of sliced cherries, strawberries and apples.
The bircher itself was mixed with thick Zany Zeus yoghurt and was remarkably stiff. It was a bit difficult to tell exactly what was in it – as it is with any bircher – but its basis was large-sized rolled oats, with pumpkin seeds, dried fig (an unusual but interesting addition), and chia seeds. You get some sense of it below, after I’d demolished most of the fruit.
The mixture was very heavy and chewy, and I had to pour some milk over it (provided with the tea) to make it go down. But the odd thing was that it tasted quite rancid, as though the oats had been sitting around for a couple of years. I can still taste the ‘off’ feeling in my mind. Hmmm.
I had English Breakfast tea. As you can see, it was fairly strong. It was leaf tea and came in a coffee cup, but one that had been thoroughly heated. Not sure if that was deliberate, or the dishes had just been done, but I appreciated the tea not going cold within moments of pouring. The pot was the Zing, sold by t-Leaf-T, and commonly seen in cafés. It is a good pourer. As for the taste, it was quite nice – a bit better than the ubiquitous t-Leaf-T tea.
Hillside Kitchen provides quite an attractive, almost domestic, environment. You can see the underside of the stairs that lead to the upstairs flat, there are shelves with jars of preserves and pickles, and the kitchen is open to view at the back.
I guess because Hillside doesn’t do breakfasts during the week there are no newspapers to read in the weekend. Just the young people’s literary magazine Stone Soup.
The lampshades in one of the two dining areas are quite striking. They are intended to recall kowhai flowers, and they do this well, though I didn’t make the connection before being told this.
The eatery is right on the corner of Hill St and Tinakori Rd and painted pink with a black and white awning, so is very easy to locate. For a while I kept thinking it was called the Hill St Kitchen, but I guess Hillside refers to the slopes of Te Ahumairangi opposite.
The best part about the bircher muesli here was the fresh fruit topping. I like the low key, intimate and not too busy atmosphere of this place, as well as the ethical food philosophy, so I am hesitant to be critical of the bircher, but I have to say that on the day I visited it was off. I’m willing to give it a go on another day though.
Reviewed January 2020.