12 Steyne Ave, Plimmerton, Porirua
Opens 8am daily; closes 4pm
Muesli $18.50; Bruno Rossi coffee
Kafe Oranje (pronounced or-rahn-yuh) previously had Dutch owners, hence the name. That is to say, orange is the colour of the Dutch royal family, the house of Oranje-Nassau, and has come to symbolise the Netherlands. Besides the name, orange colouring is a minor theme running through the décor within the café. However, any ‘Dutchness’ seems to stop about there. The menu is pretty much standard for your typical Kiwi café, with a couple of exceptions amongst the counter food. I will get to these, but lets start with the muesli.
The first thing I couldn’t help noticing was the price: $18.50. Most places charge anything between $12 and $16, maybe even $17. But above that one expects something beyond the usual. Like coconut yoghurt, plant milk, expensive nuts like macadamias and brazils, exotic fruit, and other uncommon ingredients. And obviously a muesli that is specially prepared in-house. I didn’t see any of these things here.
I will concede that the dish was presented with some care: a strip of muesli down the centre, fruit on one side, yoghurt and fruit compote on the other, with five dabs of yoghurt on the compote for visual effect, and the whole dusted with icing sugar.
The icing sugar did look nice on the wide brimmed plate, but it wasn’t very practical. Somehow I found it on my trousers within a short space of time and my companion later complained he got it all over his sleeves. We achieved this without any wild gesticulations or seat jiving to the background music.
Lets look at the ingredients: the fresh fruit was a pretty ordinary mix of pineapple, apple, orange and banana. As I’ve noted in other reviews, I dislike banana with muesli or porridge, as it combines two carbs that are somewhat bland (oats and banana). I’d rather have a counterpoint to the oats. The fruit compote was also fairly ordinary, but not oversweet, so passed muster. The yoghurt was tangy and highly homogenised.
The muesli itself consisted of large whole grain oats (untoasted), bran sticks, some almond slivers, coconut flakes and dried fruit such as raisins, pineapple, banana chips and pawpaw. Again, I’ve complained more than once elsewhere of the pointlessness of having dried fruit in a muesli when you add the fresh stuff on the top. I can just do without all that sugar loading.
I was most surprised that the café claims the muesli as ‘our own blend’ on the menu. I’m skeptical. Those bran twists in it are hard to get as a raw ingredient and really it looked so uninspired (and cheap) as to be a commercial bulk pack variety. I’m not sure which one yet, but I will try and track it down. Whatever the case, the muesli certainly didn’t warrant the high price.
Yep, there is free water. And the coffee is fine. It is the Italian inspired Bruno Rossi brand, one that is not common in New Zealand and which seemed quite a strong roast to me. I was given a pot of hot water to dilute my Americano to taste. There is no Dutch twist to how the coffees are served; no Dutch cold brew for example.
So there’s the counter food. I don’t know what is in a frangipani tart, but it could be interesting. Of the specifically Dutch foods, there was Dutch apple cake (none on the shelf when we were there) and tompoes, also known as tompouce, a Dutch take on the custard square. You can see these on the second shelf, in the middle (where they are labelled as tompoezen, the plural of tompoes). They are an expensive $8 a slice, but very nice indeed. The icing layer is thin and intensely chocolate. And the pastry layers top and bottom are also less substantial than the English custard square. The custard is a good stiff mix, not whipped, and simply delicious. If you want pastry, get a mille feuille somewhere. But if it’s a combo of custard and real chocolate you like, this is the one.
The café is an old wooden shop that’s been converted, and looks inviting and homely from the outside. Inside it is rather crammed, with the counter and kitchen occupying the centre space immediately as you enter, with a couple of tables squeezed in either side of it in what is effectively a corridor. Down one end is the somewhat unappealing room of my first picture with the orange chair rail. At the other end is an add-on structure, with translucent roofing and a clear plastic blind on the street side (to roll up on a good day). The abundant soft light turns something lacking any character whatsoever into a pleasant enough space to dine. Or you can sit at a table on the footpath under the verandah. There’s not much foot traffic.
Way overpriced for what you get. I don’t mind paying good money for good muesli, and while this one was nicely presented, that’s about where its specialness ended. And what irks me most of all is that this muesli is billed as house-made, implying some degree of quality above packaged varieties, when in fact the mixture looks very much exactly like it came out of a box or from a supermarket bulk bin.
On the other hand, the custard squares (tompoes / tompouce) are top of the range. They are also expensive, but in this case you do get what you pay for.
Reviewed January 2022.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.