Kelburn Cafe

87 Upland Rd, Kelburn, Wellington
Opens: 8am weekdays, 8.30am weekends; closes 4pm
Muesli $10.80; L’affare coffee, Tea Total teas

Kelburn Cafe is a very small place on the main road through Kelburn. It is easy to miss because of the visual clutter all round it – from the beauty salon awning over half the upper building frontage to the truly awful real estate look-alike signage of the Village Pub next door. It is operated by a very self-effacing, middle-aged Asian couple, making it a Ma and Pa kind of eatery.

Kelburn Cafe - coffee and muesli

The muesli didn’t look terribly promising on the menu, which is one reason I’ve been holding back on reviewing this place. A price of just $10.80 reinforced my feeling that there wasn’t going to be anything special here. So I was quite taken aback with the attractive presentation. It features the unusual touch of grated apple next to a delicious looking berry compote of giant whole berries and yoghurt with honey drizzled over it. The whole disk was very lightly dusted with icing sugar.

A bit of a dig around in the muesli saw my pleasure turned to disappointment though as I realised why the price was low. We had the Highlands Muesli cheap catering pack here. It is served in a number of other eateries around Wellington and while it has its good points – lots of almonds and coconut flakes – it also suffers the wretchedness of banana chips, far too many sultanas and dried pawpaw pieces. So, overall, a very conflicted dish.

But the Americano coffee I had with the muesli was good, and I had tea here on another occasion. The latter was pretty blah: tea bag, standard catering tea pot, milk served in a cup, and a coffee cup for the tea. I had this with a coconut friand, which was good, but I must add that nothing much else in the cabinet appealed.

Despite all this, I really like Kelburn Cafe. And the reason is the ambience. It is very woody and sunny. Downstairs you have what feels like a sun room. It only has room for three tables, so is very intimate and it can feel like you are intruding if someone is already seated in here.

Kelburn Cafe - interior downstairs

Upstairs is bigger, but not by all that much. Below is how it looks on a sunny day with my camera set to real estate (panorama) mode – far bigger than it actually is. There are five tables here, seating about 12 or 13. The front also opens to a balcony though, so on a good day you could take another four people outside.

Kelburn Cafe - interior upstairs to front panorama

And here is the reverse shot, also in panorama mode:

Kelburn Cafe - interior upstairs to back panorama

Below is how it looks on a grey day with a more normal angle of view. I think I might feel a bit claustrophobic in such a small space when it is full up, especially as it is a self-enclosed room with a narrow stairway up to it.

Kelburn Cafe - interior upstairs to front grey day

And here is a shot of the main wall using a normal angle of view as well:

Kelburn Cafe - interior upstairs to back

As you can see, mirrors are used both upstairs and down to create a sense of space. The skylight upstairs helps create an airy atmosphere too. And notice the stack of newspapers and magazines in the corner. There is a week’s worth of newspapers, so if someone else is reading today’s edition you can always catch up on old news. There is a child’s high-chair squeezed into a corner too, plus some toys I think. And a glass chess set.

Kelburn Cafe - exterior sunny

Lovely, intimate environment, best experienced on a quiet day. Muesli bowl looks good but the taste experience is limited due to the cheap pre-made mixture. Coffee is good, tea less so.

Reviewed June 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.

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