Hippopotamus muesli close-up

QT Hotel, 90 Cable St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 6.30, finishes breakfast 10.30 weekdays; 7am to 11am weekends
Muesli $17; continental breakfast $25; full breakfast $32; L’Affare filter coffee, T-Leaf tea

Update June 2021: The muesli is now replaced with a granola titled ‘The mighty fig’, with dried figs, coconut yoghurt saffron and vanilla caramelised apple, blue agave and goji berry syrup. Sounds a bit sweet, but at $21 this must be the most expensive granola in Wellington, so I’m keen to put it to the test. Expect a review in the next couple of months.

The Hippopotamus restaurant is upstairs in the QT Hotel, formerly known as the Museum Art Hotel (for its art collection) and before that the Museum Hotel de Wheels (for the incredible engineering feat of shifting the entire building on wheels in 1993 to make way for the construction of Te Papa, now across the road). It has a reputation in its own right beyond that of the hotel and a special feature is high tea in the afternoon. Be aware that the price for this pleasure is also high.

Hippopotamus muesli and coffee

So, like a number of hotels, you can have the buffet breakfast, with options of continental or cooked, or you can select from an à la carte menu. I chose ‘Grandpa’s muesli’ from the latter. Why grandpa? I don’t know. Maybe grandpas these days would have come of age in the alternative culture of the 1960s or 70s and eaten muesli ever since?

Hippopotamus interior view to east

I had to wait about 15 mins after placing my order, though the wait staff let me know there was a delay and were very apologetic. The muesli was slightly warm, so I wonder if it had been toasted up on the spot. It was heavily oat based, and heavy, with a few raisins and even fewer pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and sparse pieces of dried pawpaw and coconut flake. It was topped with a nicely tart yoghurt, plus blueberries, diced banana, goji berries, and a sliced strawberry.

The muesli was lightly drizzled with honey and tasted rather sweet – maybe the honey had mostly soaked in with the warmth. When I sampled the left-over milk in my bowl at the end it was sickly sweet from dissolving sugar in the muesli. Actually, I couldn’t eat all the muesli as the serving was huge and very high carb.

Hippopotamus interior view to self-serve

A nice thing about hotels is that you can drink as much filter coffee as you like. And in this case there is no charge for it. The waitresses were constantly topping up my cup. I couldn’t fault the service. There were newspapers to read as well.

Hippopotamus cereal bar

I thought I’d check out the buffet offerings to see if that might be a better way to go in the future, but you can see in the picture above that the cereals were the pretty standard set. Is there someone, somewhere, prescribing cereals for hotels? Maybe staff learn at hotel school that you have to have cornflakes, wheetbix, nutrigrain, coco pops, and bulk bin style muesli. Children’s food really. There didn’t seem to be the range of fruit and so on to add to your cereal as there was at the James Cook Hotel’s Whitby’s restaurant. Though there were small glasses of bircher muesli and chia pudding, as well as berry smoothies.

Hippopotamus interior view of opulent end

The place was about a third full, with 25 people, at 7.15 am on a weekday. Nobody was sitting at the baroque end, the ideal place for high tea, probably because it is far from the food. So I took a photo with myself reflected in the mirrors.

Hippopotamus view from window

The view is not bad, with Te Papa at left and a carpark at centre, with a glimpse of the sea and a boat harbour beyond.

Hippopotamus exterior

Nice enough atmosphere, but for a highly touted restaurant in a hotel with over-the-top decor the muesli was disappointing. A commentator on the website Culture Trip claimed that ‘The dishes served are works of art in themselves, inspired by French gastronomy and beautiful in both presentation and taste.’ No doubt this was in reference to the evening meal, but I was still expecting something with a bit of colour and panache. What I got was rather ordinary. I don’t think I will bother again. Sorry Grandpa.

Reviewed November 2019.

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